Tailteann Cup games serve up a welcome contrast to boring tactics

Our man Frank on the refreshing Tailteann Cup; How Galway hurlers have a mountain to climb; In defence of turf-cutting…and urging us all to watch a Netflix favourite…

On Sunday I spent a good while watching the Tailteann Cup semi-finals. While the two favoured teams, Westmeath and Cavan, beat Offaly and Sligo respectively, I have to say I really enjoyed both games.

Sligo in particular should be very proud of their performance; they could very easily have beaten a Cavan team who were red-hot favourites (and Ulster champions only a couple of years ago). In truth, it was big-game experience that got Cavan over the line, but the men from the north-west gave them a hell of a fright!

The second game was a bit more straightforward, with Westmeath always looking to be the likely winners. But the young Offaly team never gave up, and scored some brilliant points in the process.

After the game, I got a message from my friend Dermot (one of Offaly’s greatest supporters), who lives out in Cabo Roig in Spain. He was very proud of the young Offaly team and predicted a bright future for the Midlanders. He said he’d like to see John Maughan stay on as manager, but I suppose that stuff has to be sorted out with the county board and Maughan himself. However, I agree with Dermot that there are some good footballers coming through down in Offaly.

The great thing about the Tailteann Cup is that most of the teams really took it to heart. I won’t be surprised if the final turns out to be a really good game.

Talking of good games… you know by now what I think of the modern, negative-style football, with players being instructed to keep possession at all costs and more or less being told to play to a system. It gets rid of spontaneity and individuality, and in the process bores the pants off me!

And so it was a real treat to go to Oran on Saturday evening to watch a challenge match between Oran’s second string and our lads’ second team. It was just like old times; there was no passing backwards or sideways, everyone went forward, and there were loads of good scores and lots of misses.

It reminded myself, Padraig Whyte and my first cousin Peter Brandon of how football should be played. In the modern game, no one takes a shot unless it’s almost a guaranteed score, and so we see never-ending sequences of passing until someone is in a position from which they can hardly miss.

I’ve told you before that Sean Young, the great Boyle-based coach, used to always say that if you were a county forward you should be able to put the ball over the bar from forty or fifty yards – but obviously current county managers/coaches don’t agree.

However, no one told the Creggs and Oran junior Bs’ that they should never have a shot – and the game was all the better for it.


Joe calls it straight on Galway hurlers

I didn’t intend to write about sport when I got out the pen and paper, but as a Galway man I have to praise the hurlers for managing to beat Cork and qualify for a semi-final tilt with Limerick.

However, the win doesn’t paper over the many problems this Galway team has. Joe Canning, in his role as a TV pundit, was very honest when he said that Cork were the better team and that they will always wonder how they managed to get beaten.

There can be no doubt that the fantastic Limerick team will be unbackable favourites for the semi-final clash, but I suppose that is exactly as Henry Shefflin and Galway would want it.

Anyway, they have got this far, and as in all sports, nothing is ever guaranteed. We can hold out hope yet for a hurling miracle!


Why we must win the turf wars

It’s now a beautiful sunny Monday morning and I am getting ready to pay my first visit of the year to the bog.

As someone who really loves an open fire, I am wondering how we would manage if burning turf really was banned. Now we all appreciate the need to look after the environment and all that type of stuff, but at this point in time, with the cost of home heating oil having trebled over the last year or so, surely people’s comfort and welfare must take precedence over all other considerations.

As old-age pensioners, who, like everyone else, are struggling with the extraordinary rise in the cost of living, one of the most important things (apart from actually eating) is staying warm – and I don’t know what we would do without turf. Oil, timber, coal and briquettes are all different alternatives, but there are question marks against all of those, and for us, it has to be the turf.

And so I have to stop writing now, grab my homemade turf-marking tool, head for the bog, and pray that the powers-that-be see sense and stop talking about banning turf cutting!

Thank God for Fitz (Michael Fitzmaurice) and the others who are standing up for the rights of rural dwellers to cut and burn their own turf – without them we would be in trouble.


And finally…

A couple of months ago, I told you about a series on Netflix called ‘Heartland’. I recommended that you watch it as it was shaping up to be one of the best things we’d ever watched on the telly.

Now I know most of you won’t have paid any attention to me (that’s if you even read my column), but at least one reader took my advice. She told me she got completely hooked on the series, sometimes watching three or four episodes a night and often staying up until the early hours!

Anyway, I was right to praise it, for since then, Carol and I have watched all fifteen series’ (totalling 200 episodes), and I can honestly say we never enjoyed anything as much. Sadly, last week we reached the end of the 15th series, and now we are sort of suffering from Heartland withdrawal symptoms. The good news is that there will be a 16th series, but it may be a good while before it gets on to our TV screens.

So for now, we will have to put up with the ‘loss’ of our favourite programme. In the meantime, you can do yourself a favour and use this time to start watching Heartland from the very start. If you begin right away you should have all the episodes seen by the time the next series starts. I know you don’t believe me, but this time take my word for it and go for it – you will be forever glad you did!