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Dublin: 5 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019
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Murph's Sideline Cut: We're back, baby!

Long drives on a Sunday, dinner before noon and Ciaran Murphy chasing managers. It’s summer alright.

Sometimes the intrepid reporter just wants a hug.
Sometimes the intrepid reporter just wants a hug.
Image: Twitter

I’M IN THE Newstalk jeep with our commentator Dave McIntyre when my mobile phone rings – it’s my brother.

“Sorry I missed your call earlier.  I was eating the dinner.”  It’s 11.58am by the clock in the car.

He was on his way to Roscommon. It’s back.

Only one thing can inspire a pre-noon dinner in a man not currently living in a nursing home and that is surely the start of the GAA championships.

Newstalk were in Longford for the home side’s long-awaited win against Laois in the preliminary round of the Leinster championship but of course the rest of the Murphy clan were only 20 minutes up the road in Roscommon, for Galway’s massively impressive Connacht championship victory.

I had the DV-r set for Galway-Ros, but really you couldn’t have asked for a better start to our coverage than Longford-Laois. Pearse Park is a cracking little ground – tight, atmospheric, and cosy.  And the home fans were, for a change, expectant.  Two successive promotions under Glenn Ryan is probably the biggest turnaround in fortunes we’ve seen from a county in years, given they finished 3rd last (behind only London and Kilkenny) in Division 4 in 2010.

Bullied

Talking to Longford people beforehand about this new-found expectation, the reaction was classically downbeat – ‘they’ve made us believe in them… the bastards.  Now it’s REALLY gonna hurt when they get beaten’.

And the first half of the game seemed to be grist to the mill for the pessimists.  Laois were pedestrian enough at times, but they were just so much more physically powerful than Longford.  They bullied their way to a 9-3 half-time lead, and all looked lost for the home side.

But we reckoned without Michael Quinn, the young man who returned from a 2 year stint in the AFL and who is fast becoming one of the best players in the country.  He was immense in the second half, driving on his team from everywhere, and inspiring a brilliant comeback that saw them nick a one-point win, 1-10 to 0-12.  He kicked the score that finally got them level, but even before then he was instrumental in setting up the goal for Paul Barden.

Paul Barden celebrates. / ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

The switch of David Barden to midfield was vital too, but really it was a sea-change in attitude that won it for them and the celebrations at the end hinted at how important this win was for Longford.  Glenn Ryan may have said to the newspapers that it was their worst performance of the season, but you wouldn’t have thought it to see him at the end of the game.

This season again it is my responsibility to get in there and see if I can grab a word with the victorious manager, and I risked life and limb to get up close with Glenn and, given he was hugging and kissing players and county board officials right through my first question, I thought I might have my first ever tears of joy, live on air. But Glenn Ryan is far too professional for that – he still remembered to keep the Longford public’s feet very much on the ground… even while his were floating about 6 inches off the Pearse Park turf.

During our live commentary we had Kevin Cassidy and Ray Silke updating us on Donegal-Cavan and Roscommon-Galway (doing their best Chris Kamara impersonations), and keep an ear out for more of the same throughout this summer’s coverage.  It was really fascinating to hear Kevin’s views on a team he should really still be playing for, and obviously Mr Silke was giving me nothing but good news from the Hyde.

Having watched the game back in full, and then watched the Sunday Game, the only note of caution that I would sound from a Galway point of view is the unanimous vote of approval our style of football got from the pundits.  If we really are the new-found saviours of football, it probably means we’re going to get eaten alive later in the championship.

But certainly it was an excellent start by Alan Mulholland and his team.  I think everyone’s been impressed by his attitude, and of course he’s coming from a position of strength – he’s won All-Ireland medals at minor and u-21, he was the popular choice, and he was a great player in his day too. So he knows what’s required, but his anxiety to get a bit of momentum behind the team will only be accelerated by the manner and the size of the victory on Sunday.

Get past Sligo in the semi-final, and then it looks odds-on a Galway-Mayo Connacht final in Salthill. If you wanted a buzz around this Galway team, Alan, it looks like you just might get it.

This week Murph was – roundly ridiculed for telling Glenn Ryan “thanks for coming” at the end of my post-match interview.  What I obviously meant to say was “thanks for coming over to me” but… yes, a fail.  As the kids would say, an epic fail.  I accept the criticism and we move on.  I should also mention Tommy McLoughlin, the 47 year goalkeeper on the Leitrim hurling team that played in the curtain-raiser in Pearse Park on Sunday.  According to the press-box, he used to be a midfielder but… “he started losing his pace there about 2 years ago.”

The man is a hero.

You’re picked… here’s our GAA team of the weekend

Five things we learned after that championship weekend

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