When the blue-circled date on the calendar showed 22/02/2020 a double header involving the Dubs was always on the cards. Especially red, yellow and black ones.
‘Tús maith leath na hoibre’ (‘A good start is half the job’) was significantly proved or disproved last Saturday, depending on your disputed point of view. Whereas the Dublin hurlers started well, they only half finished the job. The footballers did the polar opposite, in cold conditions.
Thus, even the most random of finicky Football Snobs will hardly quibble if one takes both games in tandem. Actually, substitute ‘especially’ for ‘even’ as the curtain-raiser in Croker with the small ball proved to be the inferior spectacle.
Put it this way: whereas the football game was fluent and free flowing the hurling game was fitful and frees-flowing. The ref in the Dublin v Wexford contest proved to be so fond of his effin’ mouth organ that he came across as Whistling Phil McHugh dressed up as Colonel Bogey. It might be argued that at least he was as fussy with the Middle Easterners as he was with the Sunny South Easterners.
A sure sign of that even-mouthyness was the lay-in on the sideline where the two managers laid in to each other with the furious verbals which were a deal wilder than anything ever uttered by Oscar. This clash of the Dalcassian and the Galwegian (Baile Átha Cliath-born bainisteoirí do not do bull-like bellowing). They made a Weigh-in at Las Vegas look like the Way-in to an effete Girls’ Finishing School in Lausanne, Switzerland.
For those who were excused the Blip-reading class in school a typical exchange went as follows:
Deontay Fitzgerald: +%&@£^£?@ !!!!
Tyson M. Kenny: *%77?:$% ?& !!!!!!
Unfortunately, this even-blow for the go-slow marginally affected Dublin the more (biased? moi?) for they were the team who were patently up for the game, even though it was Wexford who had to come up for the game.
In the end the 13-man winning team with Zurich on their heather purple and ragwort yellow ganseys finished up like it was their gnome game: defeating the 14-man Dubs by two points up although they themselves were two men down.
Oddly, both teams finished square in one respect: their captains and supreme stick men, Danny Sutcliffe and Lee Chin, both departed the scene early in the second half. One suspects neither was fully recovered from their respective injury niggles.
Despite their narrow loss, the Dublin wielders of the hurl (not hurley) showed themselves to be slick, combative and athletic in all six lines of the team. Things bode well for the future with the hardy likes of James Madden of Ballyboden St. Enda’s not far from enjoying the prolonged esteem of the Dublin crowd in the near future. One is optimistic the hurlers will take a leaf out of the footballers’ Triumphant playbook.
The unfair showing of the red card by the rules-ridden Réiteoir to the Fighting Prince of Whitehall Gaels, Eoghan O’ Donnell, reminded one of the latter’s namesake. Red Hugh O Donnell to this day still remains the only prisoner (along with the two O’Neill ball-boys from the Red Hand County of Tyrone) to escape from captivity in that HQ of Fussy Officialdom, Dublin Castle, during the memorable Championship of 1592.
Donegal and Dublin are linked and not just by their Capital D’s: Harry Dalton, that jewel of a dual player, lived on Errigal Road, D 12. Heffo actually called up to Harry’s house in the 70’s to plead with him to declare for the big ball team but the magical hitter of the sliotar wasn’t for turning.
A necromantic hurling point from the wing and a player called Eamonn Dillon down at the Canal End was echoed by Colm Basquel managing to break free from the clutches of a bunch of Tyrconnells to score Le Crunch of a football point which wasn’t there for the asking, down at the Railway End. And enables one to segue seamlessly into the Main Event.
Once again a sluggish start by the Five in a Rows against the Fort of the Foreigners, this time, augmented by some thuggish gansey tugging.
Ballymun Kickhams too, won one, lost one: Evan Comerford thrice showed himself a Big Bopper of a shot stopper, thrillingly deflecting goal-bound balls away by their Chantilly laces. He tipped them away in a manner which his namesake, Evan Comerford, the Tipp goalie, would have approved. (Monaghan is not the only county with Clones).
Drock, on the other foot, uncharacteristically patented the Sexton hex twice with kicks of dreck. But then, once the moon hit his eye like a big pizza pie Deano soon got into his groove as the Hill approved:
-That’s a Scor-e!
One can only assume that Deano was, for some unfathomable reason, listening on his earphones in the teambus to that no-go area for music aficionados: Bono.
One owns up to not knowing the feast day of St. Ciaran but Kilkenny, the main man for the Dubs, uair amháin eile, showed himself to Donegal to be a moveable beast. A real Manx cat who leaves his markers holding his tail.
Funny enough the Dublin Duracell Bunny’s alleged marker, Ryan McHugh, who whistle-stop tours like his namesake Phil (see above) still had many memorable moments, going forward: both these superb players are ball obsessives rather than gansey tuggers.
Meanwhile, the ABC of the Alphabet soup of super ‘new faces’ are: Aaron Byrne, Cormac Costello and Colm Basquel, though not necessarily in that order. (Bugler is a given).
Patton, the Donegal goalie, who had proved an on-line general for the Tyrconnells with his Cluxton-like kick outs, conceded a late bundled goal by Paul Mannion on the spot. (There was no call for a square ball as bundles are a contrary animal when it comes to characterising their geometric shape). But Patton will be back.
It is almost superfluous by now to mention the late, late creamy point pulled after closing time by the most moral and uncollarable of all Dubs, Davy Byrne.
Bainisteoir Faz, in a post match drawl, indicated that he would have to do both a breakdown of and a trawl through the reasons for the team’s recent slack starts. Especially its tardiness in getting to the gain line and to the pitch, if not the paddock, of the game. Hopefully, ‘the slacks won’t be back’. He also promised to re-introduce some more established players in the coming games. Goody.
Finally, there was something truly unsavoury about the sight of Michael Murphy being red carded three minutes into extra time rather than being (possibly) r.c.’d three minutes into ordinary time. In the second instance he was the serial victim of gansey tuggery. This is not a small (small s) transgression and the perpetrator rather than the retaliator ought to be the only one to walk. We Melancholy Jacques should know, having worn that T (for tug) Shirt and suffered at the sight of DC being given no lee-way at the hands of the Limpet Keegan by a different Mutt and Jeff of a ref.
The build up to the Double Header was sidelined, incidentally, by the Oirish media’s concentration on a delightful nine year old Donegal schoolboy from the same village as The Magnificent Murphy. When he wrote a scolding letter to der Telly Junkie called Jurgen Klip Klop of The Kop who insists on wearing ill-fitting equine dentures and National Health glasses while continuing to confuse his VWs.
The only way to right this umbilical imbalance of a cringeworthy pre-coverage will be:
-Go, Atletico Glenswilly!