These are strange times in the sporting world. We have GAA Championships being played at a ludicrous time of the year, new fangled pundits giving it a No Country For Old Men feel, telling us the most basic and best way of playing Gaelic football is wrong, and old men taking on jobs when they should be out to grass.
One thing that hasn’t changed, though is that team which scores the most wins. The adendum to that, naturally, also being the side who concede the least.
Judging by those parametres, the best and worst of Ulster champions Derry was on show in Brewster Park on Saturday evening. The first half of that being fairly self explanatory.
A forward line absolutely buzzing, with Paul Cassidy, Ethan Doherty and Shane McGuigan playing ducks and drakes with the Fermanagh defence. Then, factor in that, of all the teams trying it, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Rory Gallagher’s charges have cracked the art of the fly keeper better than most with Odhran Lynch.
As well as doing the rudimentary custodian duties (do we include free taking in that now?) Lynch also kicked a score from play and had an assist for another in the second half.
With Cassidy and McGuigan both having brilliantly filled the Erne County onion bag, the Anglo Celt Cup holders led by 2-09 to to 0-05 when Joe McQuillan gave the two of them a break.
Job done you’d think. If not before half time, then certainly when McGuigan buried an extremely softly awarded penalty early in the second half.
Presumably, it was that very thought process which prompted Fermanagh-native Gallagher to withdraw 2022 All Stars, Crissy McKaigue and Conor Glass, relatively early in the second half. And in many ways, it was a move well justified, though the Oak Leaf County soon got a rather sharp reminder that it was a case of a lot done, more to do.
Now, for any team, the loss of a marquee forward on a given day can have a shuddering effect. For all Dublin’s riches in the player department, it would be fairly universally accepted that the loss of Con O’Callaghan probably cost them victory against Kerry in last year’s All Ireland semi final.
So, in that context, it would be nigh on impossible to calculate how much Kieran Donnelly’s charges missed the input of the enigmatic – to put it mildly – Sean Quigley. By way of trying to offset his loss – and having no option only throw caution to the wind – the home side threw put their faith in playing the ‘wrong’ type of football.
Transferring full back Che Cullen upfield and thereafter raining high balls towards the Derry goal. A move which, it can be assumed, would have left the obsessive Mr Gallagher apoplectic with rage given the consternation the tactic caused his defencive unit.
Amid the chaos (once a very useful racehorse) Cullen drilled two brilliant goals beyond the walls of Derry defenders. So basically, from a neutral perspective, Derry look a very similar proposition to the template which brought them success last year and promtion so far this.
That is to say, potentially lethal going forward but equally as liable to be shaky at the back. A lot done, more to do!