Personal Pride

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Personal Pride

Postby Silken Thomas » Wed Aug 20, 2008 1:12 pm

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory will swell when again touched as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature."

It’s one of the great ironies of Irish life. The fact that the very players who are brought together by the county colours are only too glad to battle each other in their club shirts. Friends, schoolmates and even blood relatives park all sentiment for the sixty minutes of a colloquial championship encounter. Familiarity breeds contempt. Local rivalries define the G.A.A. and nowhere is this more prevalent than the senior championship. Be it Croghan and Rhode or Shannonbridge and Doon fixtures can overload with hate and bile but most importantly the utter fear of losing. These emotions will be more than evident in the mouth watering quarter final involving the two stand out town teams of Tullamore and Clara. If last years feisty encounter is anything to go by expect fireworks. Likewise no love will be lost at the Ballycumber vs. Tubber derby. Underage bedfellows of the past will fight tooth and nail for local bragging rights. Finally the last local barndance is the relegation dogfight between St. Rynaghs and Ferbane. The Cloghan outfit, the poor relations of the west, will only salivate at the notion of putting their once heavyweight neighbours down to the intermediate ranks.

That Tullamore are even contemplating such a fixture is a testament to themselves and their competent young manager. Edged out in their first two games the blues had it all to do in their final group game against a hungry but youthful Shannonbridge selection. The reigning champions answered their critics in style though blowing away a limited but game bridge team. In so doing Tullamore showed their impressive hand. With Cathal Daly manning the square fantastically and James Keane finally showing the passion and verve of former years Tullamore looked impressive in defence. In midfield Niall Stack brought some much needed aggression and presence. Whilst up front Shane Dooley and Gearóid O’ Grady showed well scoring at will and winning the hard ball which is a hallmark of a superior player. With Paul McConway and John Kenny( hamstring tweak?) to reappear at some stage the reigning champions seem to be gearing up well for the challenges that lie ahead.

Lying in wait will be the exciting presence of the much hyped but highly dangerous Clara crew who arguably produce the most stylish brand of football in the county. Blessed with the artillery of perennial challengers an abrasive midfield and a recently improved defence the magpies will never be too short of confidence or cockiness. With the gifted Matt Mitchell pulling the strings from centre back anything is possible. With pacy man markers like Gary Collins in tow who in addition to the excellent Joe Quinn and the likes of Kieran O’ Meara not even being called upon the black and whites will not lack in defence. In midfield the brave Brady brothers( three at last count!) will endeavour to supply the triple threat of O’Hara, Reynolds and Deehan. With the experience to win a title and the renewed hunger to achieve it this photogenic outfit( both in appearances and football style!) have all the credentials necessary to overcome continued half forward problems and end a five year drought.

A team hoping to prolong this drought and in many peoples eyes the darkest of horses is that which hails from the sleepy village of Ballycumber. Viciously unlucky in recent years the westerners will quietly fancy their chances of at least a county final appearance. With Karl Daly(?), Nigel Grennan and the teak tough ‘Bosco’ Guinan in defence this proud club will rightly dream of ’68. In midfield Colm Quinn still pulls the strings with his customary panache while upfront the temperamental Rory Guinan will be ably supported by a cast that includes the talented Fergal Daly and ex Offaly junior Ciarán Grennan among others. With the pain of a trilogy of minor ‘A’ championship final defeats driving them on and last years refereeing debacle only accentuating the hurt expect the village side to have a loud say in the destination of the Dowling cup.

Their underage support cast and former teammates will be no doubt attempting to demolish let alone rock the apple cart. In the last 18 months the Westmeath border outfit have continued to surprise most club observers with spirited wins over much vaunted opposition like Ferbane and Edenderry and match genuine championship contenders in Shamrocks and Clara. Solidified by the less heralded McManus at full back Tubbers strength lies in their impressive half back line where mercurial Joe Higgins will steal most of the limelight. The evergreen Ciarán McManus will win most midfield battles and he will be complemented by the tigerish Kavanagh twins who will scrap for the least favourable of balls. Up front, Tubber will be led by the succinct finisher that is Brian Kelly. Alas, Tubbers toothless inside line will prove to be their Achilles heel and even taking into account the monumental effort which I expect them to bring to the likely Clara venue expect them to come up short in a hard hitting encounter.

Finally for the sadists out there all roads lead to the west. With an intense hatred bordering on manic the saints will endeavour to defeat their much vaunted rivals in a dour physical battle. And dour it will be with both teams failing to kick more than nine points in any of their group games. As ever St. Rynaghs defence will be laden will physicality. With Paudie Mulhare, Diarmuid Horan and James Rafferty potentially manning the central positions the green and whites won’t be short on nous. In midfield county captain Ger Rafferty will battle gamely for possession. However up front Donal Flaherty and Gary Mahon are the leading lights in an intermediate standard attack. With rumours of single digit numbers at training, St. Rynaghs will need to bring more than passion against their fellow relegation candidates.

Around the green fields of Ferbane things appear a little bit rosier. After their listless opening round defeat the ship has been steadied somewhat with a battling victory against Tullamore followed by being outclassed but not humiliated against Rhode. Their defensive stability hinges on the experience of Eddie Lowry and the determination of Aidan Egan. County panellist Gerry Grehan has returned to help out the defence following an uncomfortable sojurn in the attack. In midfield James Grennan is still the best out and out fielder of the ball in the county whilst offensively Aidan Keenaghan has a golden touch and is aided and abetted by the accurate Ronan Daly. Expect the theory that Ferbane are too good to go down to be tested by Cloghan but ultimately to avoid the drop.

Champions: Clara
Relegation: St. Rynaghs
Dark Horses: Ballycumber

I wrote it on Tuesday failing to take into account the looming Clara debacle and semi-final pairings. Feel free to write up your potential champions, relegation candidates and dark horses in the same circumstances the article has been written.
The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
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Silken Thomas
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