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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 21 February, 2020
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Sideline cut: Ciaran Murphy's pitchside perspective

Murph packed it in again this weekend with an enjoyable trip to the sunny south-east followed by a journey to Carrick-on-Shannon in the rain yesterday.

Who's that fella with the brolly and skinny jeans in the background as groundsman Michael Doherty dries the bench beore the Leitrim team arrive for the team photo.
Who's that fella with the brolly and skinny jeans in the background as groundsman Michael Doherty dries the bench beore the Leitrim team arrive for the team photo.
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

BEFORE TAKING UP my sideline duties this summer, experienced heads had warned me that the GAA steward is a cantankerous animal, prone to wild mood swings, and needs to be approached with extreme caution.

I can safely say after four weeks of this championship season, nothing can be further from the truth.  I’ve come across nothing but good will, and quite a few Off the Ball fans, along the way, and the new laissez faire era of stewarding seemed to be taken to its apogee yesterday afternoon in Páirc Sean Mac Diarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon.

About mid-way through the second half of the Roscommon-Leitrim Connacht championship semi-final, a young man (fully clothed I should mention) broke the security cordon, such as it was, around the pitch, grabbed a sideline-flag and ran onto the pitch.  There is little doubt that this individual was not blessed with good looks or what people in the medical profession might call ‘a brain cell to call his own’, but what he did have to his credit, was an impressive gut and a refreshing lack of self-awareness.

The stewards beside me took one look at the man’s girth and sagely decided this man would very quickly run himself out.  And so it proved.  He soon headed back to the corner of the pitch from whence he came… whereupon the steward rather graciously opened the gate, and from my vantage point, appeared to pat him on the back and let him retake his seat.

Championship day can be stressful I suppose, and perhaps this young Leitrim supporter just needed to break free of the constraints of his seat and just run his frustrations out of him.  Because there is no doubt Sunday was frustrating for Leitrim.  Having done so well against Sligo, they just never showed up for a home match against their fiercest rivals.

The west’s awake

Roscommon were good, but they didn’t have to be great to win this game, and I would still have reservations about making them favourites in the Connacht final.  One point that Donal Shine, Karol Mannion and Fergal O’Donnell all raised with me after the game was the venue for the Connacht final – regardless of their opposition, they will be playing in Hyde Park.  It was obviously a huge motivation for them, more so even than putting another win beside last year’s brilliant provincial final win over Sligo in Castlebar.

I have to say though that I couldn’t believe Mickey Moran and his Leitrim team opted not to play with the breeze in the first half.  The underdog team, with a huge home crowd, choosing not to try and build up an early lead just made no sense to me.  But his disappointment after the game was palpable and hopefully Leitrim can put this behind them, get a home draw in the qualifiers and give their brilliant supporters something to cheer about.

Brendan Howlin on the sidelines. “When did he shave off the soup-strainer?” our man tweeted.

It was a truly atrocious day in Carrick, but in Wexford Park on Saturday evening we were treated to beautiful sunshine and a magnificent crowd for a great occasion.  Unfortunately the Wexford hurlers couldn’t build on the platform given to them by their footballers in the second half of the double-bill, but the quality of the play from Jason Ryan’s footballers was again really something.

Having seen Kildare and Dublin up close, I have my doubts about whether Wexford have the physicality to match them but they are just a great team to watch.  They knitted together some magnificent scores on Sunday and must now be ranked one of the most attractive sides to watch in the country.

Murph’s view of Wexford Park on Saturday.

Wexford will meet Carlow of course in the Leinster semi-final, after their magnificent win over Louth in Portlaoise – the sort of occasion that will be a foot-note in the end-of-season summations but which meant the world I’m sure to everyone down there.  And I couldn’t get over the quality of the four scores that turned a three-point deficit into a one-point lead; a free from the next parish by Daniel St Ledger, and three mighty swipes of the boot from Brendan Murphy – all four of them good enough to win any game.

There was even an intruder on the pitch on Saturday too, but of the four-legged variety.  The stewarding down there was similarly kind, an outstretched hand, a rub under the chin… and an unceremonious disposal back behind the hoardings.  Maors of the world, I salute you.

  • This week Murph was – thankful indeed for Liam Hayes’ monstrous umbrella, which protected me from the elements in Carrick yesterday.  Suffice to say, Mick Lyons, Padraig Lyons and, at a push, David Beggy could all have sought protection under this thing.

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