Brave Rathkenny undone by cruelty of the modern world

There was something strangely apt about Ireland putting in another abomination of a performance against The Netherlands just hours after Meath’s Rathkenny exited the Leinster Club IFC at the penultimate hurdle via penalty shootout as Scoill Ui Chonaill of Dublin advanced. Now read on…

During his 1994 show ‘Live At The Olympia’ the late, great Dermot Morgan included a gag pertaining to Lansdowne Road. Specifically, the fact that the IRFU and FAI shared the stadium and the difference between the demographic of society which followed each sport. He began the sketch thus:

“Lansdowne Road, the main sports stadium in the country after the headquarters of Gaelic football and hurling at Croke Park – very interesting place, because, well, the two sets of supporters wouldn’t exactly be cut from the same cloth, would they? Of course, the fundamental difference between the two, the soccer team tend to actually win the games”!

The last part of the monologue hasn’t aged well at all. In fact, the complete opposite is now the case. Which makes it amusing to recall that at the time of Italia ’90, there were genuine fears within upper echelons of the GAA that the relative success of Jack Charlton’s army would have a detrimental effect on the future of Gaelic Games.

Not only did that never come to pass, quite a few useful bits from the ground based game have been successfully inculcated into our games. From the electronic number boards for substitutions, to red and yellow cards and introducing HawkEye as some sort of parralell to VAR or the TMO in rugby. Though the first pair are far more error prone than the latter.

However, in adopting the penalty shootout as a means of deciding level games, the Brains Trust have gone too far. Yes, I was initially in favour of using the method.

But, just as Andy McEntee said upon taking the Antrim job weeks after saying he was taking a break from football after managing Meath for six years – I reserve the right to change my mind!

Yes, spot kicks absolutely add to the drama and excitement at the end of a game. Genoa enshrined that reality in history. But it’s the reasoning behind the deployment of the methodology which has put me off it. That being the insane obsession with having matches completed on the day. In other words, doing away with replays.

Talk about biting the hand that once fed you. Above all else, it’s decidedly cruel. Right, it’s equally unpalatable to see a team come up short in a similar fashion in one of the other codes, but at least they are guaranteed financial remuneration regardless of what way the result goes for them. On the other hand, Donal Curtis’s side were left to ponder what might have been, reflect on what was – to their immense credit – a very successful year for the black and red and, with quite a degree of justification, feel a bit hard done by.

Donal Keogan lifts the Mattie McDonnell Cup

Reason for the latter observation being that, for the life of me, where referee Enda Kelly got the free at the end of normal time to send this enthralling wintry encounter to an extra 20 minutes is as big a mystery as who put the Figs in the Fig Rolls. That said, there is also merit in the counter argument that the Meath kingpins had ample opportunity to have business taken care of before it ever went near the lottery of a dead ball situation.

Still, they were highly impressive winners of the Mattie McDonnell Cup and should be more than capable of holding their own back at the top table.

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