The word “persuasion” seems to have an important meaning in the GAA vocabulary now.
unexpectedly, it has become a cornerstone of preparing teams for major championship matches and has already played a major role in disrupting a gradebook that, let’s face it, has become too predictable.
The arrival of Derry, Armagh, Claire and Cork in next weekend’s All-Ireland Football quarter-finals has turned things around for the last eights to the point where making predictions has become a somewhat dangerous chore.
But of course, isn’t that what we want? I, for one, would agree to this at any time, instead of engaging in the rather vacuous exercise of predicting the outcome of games that say “certainty.”
It is the magnetic appeal of the last eight couples that have already attracted attention next weekend and sparked the promise that haute cuisine variety football can be offered.
A running theme in the All-Ireland series to date has been the innate confidence teams like Claire, Derry and Armagh have shown through frustration after frustration.
For too long we’ve lived with the notion that Kerry and Dublin are ahead of every other team. This is a theory that I personally disagree with.
Where is the evidence to support this assumption? Yes, Dublin has won six All-Ireland trot titles, but let’s live in the present. Tyrone stripped them of the All-Ireland crown last year, and the Red Hands’ boat has capsized ever since.
And Dublin? After their weaknesses were exposed during the League, they were subsequently relegated along with fellow Leinster Kildare – what does that tell you?
Kerry, meanwhile, had taken the League title, as we all knew, but they weren’t in great shape to win another Munster title.
Now they are up against a restructured Mayo side who are still hankering after their first All-Ireland title since 1951.
The Kerrys no longer wield the power they once had and do not always play their football with absolute conviction.
The thing is, I see one of Claire, Derry, Galway and Armagh going into the All-Ireland final. At this point in time, you can make your choice.
I believe that a number of teams are now full of hope and optimism, which would not have been 12 months ago.
From Ulster’s point of view, I believe that if Armagh or Derry were to reach the All-Ireland semi-finals, that in itself would mean significant progress.
I think the next couple of weeks will bring a lot of excitement, intrigue and a lot of drama if I’m not mistaken.
While Derry fans have been waiting 24 years to be back in the frame to quench their thirst for honors, Armagh is still waiting after 14 years to get their hands on the Ulster Championship.
Now that Oak Leaf County has brought relief to their long-suffering followers with this triumph in Ulster, they are eager to continue it with more triumph.
And if the provincial title beats Arma again in this case, they too will be fired up to deliver a strong pitch for the All-Ireland title.
Opportunity is certainly knocking at the door of the two Ulster counties and it is imperative that they make a strong push towards success.
Yes, the resistance will be tough, and the mental test, not to mention the physical examination, will be extremely demanding, but then these are obstacles that must be overcome if we are to achieve immortality.
My message to both sides of Ulster is: rise to the challenge, give it your all, gather up the last reserves of your pride, and leave Croke Park knowing you’ve done it one hundred percent.
You cannot do more than this.
Over the course of the recent Allianz League and the current league season, I have become much more aware of what I would call the dilution of the fitness of Gaelic football.
Indeed, the physical element of the sport has consistently aroused considerable interest, but of late it has been somewhat conspicuous by its absence.
I am, of course, fully aware that in some cases, when people refer to corporeality, they actually dwell on cynicism, which, as far as I understand, is quite far from corporeality.
Honest shoulder-to-shoulder attacks, dogfights for possession and tough but fair tackling seem to have given way to actions and tricks that have nothing to do with our game.
In fact, the sport seems to be stripped of much of its long-term value these days, and instead we are being fed cynical acts that show neither the outlaw nor Gaelic football in a good light.
Cynicism really seems to be a key element of our sport right now, and it shouldn’t be at all because it has so much more to offer than what is sometimes served, in particular by inter-regional teams who should know better.
Most players will get into a genuine physical form aimed at getting the ball back rather than hurting the opponent. They, like me, will see it as an integral part of the game.
On the team that won every Irish Arma game in 2002, which I was lucky enough to play for, players like Justin McNulty, Kieran McGuiny, Francie Bellew and Paul McGrain were able to throw and take big shots while staying within the rules of the game.
The restoration of what I would call the traditional physical form will be achieved only with the support of the judges.
I know they have a lot to put up with, and indeed they are often pilloried, but I feel like they could play a big role in bringing back masculinity rather than making sport a haven for cynics.
When shots are genuine and aimed solely at trying to regain possession of the ball, they should be applauded given that this is, after all, a team sport where physical contact is key.
I know from talking to people that they would welcome a healthier kind of football that emphasizes the skill factor rather than the questionable game that could very well lead to a player being sent to the hospital.
The game could very well have done without fake injuries, unnecessary stops when everything is in order, and the disgusting practice of trying to give an opponent a warning or, even worse, send him off.