How many of you recall the old layout of O’Connor Park in Tullamore? An admission straight away: there was a time when the Offaly venue was despised in this seat. Solely because of the disabled viewing facilities – or to be more accurate – what was a complete dearth of same. Which was all the more galling given that one of their own, Matt Connor, rightly ranks among the greatest to play Gaelic football.
At this juncture, an acknowledgement is required that the Brains Trust in the Faithful County implemented commendable improvements in that regard when renovating their home some years ago. However, at the moment, thoughts revolve around the Leinster venue in its former incarnation.
On the occasions of my first few visits to the midlands venue, youthful curiosity made me wonder from where did the players emerge before coming up what seemed to be an underground tunnel. Of course, eventually it was copped that the dressing rooms were in fact adjacent to the large terrace.
Which in turn meant that patrons entering – or more pertinently – exiting the ground could get quite close to the players and management. That in itself recalls a memorable tale. Namely, wisecracks sticking their heads in the door after Meath had been rightly tanked by Laois in 1985 and opining that those who were on duty on the day resembled ‘A bunch of auld women’!
Now, whether those observations led to the following cannot be verified, but, the back end of that season was one of only three times Sean Boylan’s stewardship of affairs was challenged spanning nearly a quarter century. What transpired thereafter – the most glorious period in the county’s sporting history – should be evidence enough that trigger happy tendencies generally don’t end well.
Incidentally, the next time somebody ran against my neighbour was at the end of the 1995 season, after that defeat to Dublin. The following year, Sam Maguire wintered b y the Boyne. Lesson? Panic-laden actions are sometimes best avoided. It could also be said that eaten bread is very soon forgotten.
Well, it certainly is in the fickle world of the Premier League. Defenestrating Claudio Ranieri will be enshrined as one of the scandalous decisions every made. Especially as the improvement in Leicester’s form since the affable Italian was cut adrift amply demonstrates where the problem really lay.
Equally as bizarre, mind you, is the growing clamour for Arsene Wenger to abdicate from Arsenal. Simply because, the feeling is that (a) there may be an unrealistic level of expectations among some followers of the London side and (b) that they are not where some might like them to be is more down to the shortcomings of highly vaunted playing staff – Alexis Sanchez aside – than anything Wenger has or hasn’t done.
Continuous qualification for European competition would be enough to keep many happy. Even if such possibilities are looking far more tenuous this term than in previous. That, though, has as much to do with the incremental improvements elicited from Manchester United by Jose Mourinho as it has with any drop off in efficiency by the French manager’s charges.
Rumblings seeking the boss’s departure, or, more callous, removal, make one wonder who the faithful think will improve their plight – if you were to title it thus – any better. Elsewhere in football, you wonder has Luis Enrique jumped the gun a bit by announcing his impending exit from the Nou Camp.
The difference between the cases relevant here being, whoever assumes control in Spain will still have the nucleus of a very good team with which to work, anybody incoming at the Emirates Stadium won’t exactly know what they are facing into. Particularly if, as is being mooted, Sanchez and/or Theo Walcott agitate for exits in the off season.