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Wed 18-May-2005 12:29
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Saturday Night Fever GAA-style
Four hours of it! Could we last the pace? As ideas go, it was one of RTÉ’s and the GAA’s better ones. In previous years the tendency had been to hype the games after they were played, whetting the viewer’s appetite for no purpose other than to frustrate them. But this year has started differently. Saturday night week saw the GAA and the Championship take centre stage, seducing the public with its very best wares.
First up was a look back at last year’s hurling championship, focusing particularly on Cork, Waterford and Kilkenny. Using a technique that had been used previously for the ’03 hurling final and last year’s Six Nations, we were given an insight into what it was like for the players in the white heat of Championship battle. Good stuff, it went down well and we settled back for the next offering.
The top twenty GAA moments of the television age sounds a good concept. Great, you think to yourself, a plethora of memories. Great scores, great saves, great matches - plenty of room for controversy. The reality was somewhat different. Some of the moments were so ‘ungreat’ that it seemed that sarcasm was rife in the air. The Offaly fans’ sit-down protest was as far from great as you can get – if I plank my arse on the sacred sod will I qualify for an award? (Anyway, a point which has been made since – if they had actually won the award, who would have accepted it?!)
Barney Rock against Cork – now De Scribe, as a young fellah, always had a soft spot for Barney, saw him as the epitome of the slick, cool Dubs. But lads, how could scoring a goal when the opposition is half way down Jones’ Road catching the train home be construed as great? Farcical yes, but great?
What was left out? Let us see. Jamesie O’Connor, in the final minute of a pulsating ‘Munster’ All Ireland Final against the Old Enemy, clips over the wining point. But nah, how could that compare to Barney tapping home from three yards into an empty net in a League Quarter Final.
Where was Mikey Sheehy’s goal against Cork in the 1987 Munster Final. Two points down in injury time and the maestro somehow construes a green flag from an impossible angle – nah, Offaly fans resting their backsides on Croke Park’s lush carpet is far ‘greater’.
You want some more? Martin Daly kicks Clare footballers into a Munster Final with a last second strike that breaks Cork hearts. What about Eamon Taafe’s historic contribution to the 1995 All Ireland Final?
Perhaps the greatest injustice was
Ciaran Carey point against the All Ireland champions in 1996. De Scribe was there, on that old, sloping, stone infested terrace (now occupied by spanking new seats). The day was burning hot, not just in the crowd but on the pitch. Limerick, in the dying minutes, had chiseled away at a three point deficit and were now level. What happened next was heroic, skillful and a privilege to witness. Even Clare fans still talk about that finish with reverence. If a team was to lose to any score, that was the score to lose to. How this point was not in the list defied logic, made fools of the judges, and denied the man himself his rightful place in the competition.
To the night itself, and we were blinded by a galaxy of stars. Eddie Keher, Jack O’Shea, Mikey Sheehy, Paddy Cullen, Mick O’Dwyer, David Fitzgerald, Babs Keating – the list went on.
It was going fine, fairly lighthearted stuff, viewers being reminded from time to time that it was a bit disappointing that some of the older moments were getting left behind and sure would the older crowd not make the effort to vote. Amiable chat intermixed with some great footage (and not so great, but enough said). Then we met Kevin - as in Kevin Foley of the goal that broke Dubs hearts in the final lap of the 1991 Dublin/Meath marathon. Some boy is Kevin.
We’ve all come across them, the smart ass, too cool to be there, couldn’t give a toss merchant who tries to exude coolness and class but just comes off as a muppet/idiot/arseho*le. That was Kevin. Jimmy Magee started off fairly innocuously, we sat back waiting for Kevin to pour forth on what a great Meath team he played with and how that goal was one of the highlights of his career. But no. Kevin, sitting there, masticating to his heart’s content, spurts out some gem about this being his first time on
You’re a Star.
He proceeds to give monosyllabic answers, continuing to chew his gum like a disobedient child, scorning any form of authority. It was tough to watch, as Kevin did his best to suck all the goodness and high spirits out of the night. Jesus, if he had actually won the award God only knows what kind of speech he would have given….
To the winner, and what a winner we had… or rather hadn’t. Michael Donnellan is a good player, has produced some fine moments of Gaelic football down through the years. But how his solo effort in the ’98 Final against Kildare could rank as the top GAA moment of the television age is unbelievable. Just pipping Maurice Fitzgerald’s wonder point against Dublin in 2001 was a travesty. Cynics have suggested that it was preordained that Donnellan would win as he ‘just happened’ to be in studio. Perhaps. How this moment could usurp Seamus Darby’s killer goal against Kerry in 1982, or Offaly’s fightback against Limerick in 1994, is impossible to fathom. We said goodbye to the lads in studio, pondering the imponderable….
Following this was
, featuring Páidí and his odyssey with Westmeath last year. One couldn’t help but feel that this was a story that already had its happy ending. Páidí came across as a man torn between two lovers, Kerry and football. Denied one, he sought the other. Perhaps the title was apt in more ways than one.
‘We talk just like lions, but we sacrifice like lambs…’.
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