NEIL GALLAGHER IS A COLOSSUS AND FINN HARPS TO MAKE HISTORY – IT’S WALSHY ON WEDNESDAY

first_imgWHEN SPORT IS RED CARDED FROM THE GAMEWell, that’s torn it. There were the rest of us believing that Sunday’s clash – a term that applies particularly to these two combatants – wasn’t a bad game at all despite the hefty challenges and attempted agitation when along comes Sean Cavanagh to forcibly declare that it just wasn’t a good advertisement for the G.A.A. Both he and Donegal’s colossus, Neil Gallagher, were red carded within minutes of one another – the latter leaving the field sporting an open plan jersey – and there were plenty of other instances of marks being overstepped and liberties taken. And once again the issue of ‘sledging’ where particularly vicious verbals are exchanged, many of a personal nature, has come to the fore. “Nasty and malicious,” Kavanagh described some of those exchanges.Those of us in the stands or watching on from T.V. land may not quite have gleaned the gist of them but it appears absolutely nothing is sacred and players’ families – parents, wives, girlfriends and, who knows, maybe even children – are unsuspecting players in the dirty war being waged on the field of play.A few years ago, Dublin footballer, Alan Brogan, insisted the practice of sledging wasn’t as widespread as people were making out and claimed it was, in any case, the way of the modern game.“I think it should be a case of what happens on the field, stays on the field,” he declared. “It’s all part and parcel of sport.” But that all depends on the personality of the player and his mental strength.For if he has been subjected to some gruesome tirades throughout a game and goes off with his mind tortured with images of his wife or family ablaze in a house fire or stricken with a terminal illness – like I say we don’t quite know the nature of these sledge hammer verbals but they may come close to these – it’s hardly the ideal frame of mind with which to approach his immediate future. “I’ve had it before, it can be very, very personal and I know there was certain players, you will probably know that play for us that have been through tough times, and they were getting a fair bit of personal abuse,” Cavanagh maintained this week.All part and parcel of sport? Surely not. Surely it’s how you play the game and how you attack and defend that should be the deal in any sporting arena.Banter, yes, and the odd mischievous exchange, no problem, but the cruel and savage taunts that don’t belong in MacCumhaill Park or any other venue cannot be labeled in the same sentence as sport. Brogan’s comments came in the wake of a league encounter between Armagh and Laois three years ago – Cavanagh’s are, of course, of a much fresher vintage and seemingly confirm that sledging hasn’t gone away you know and is not, we can be guaranteed, simply confined to the fixture involving Donegal and Tyrone.But short of hooking up every single inter-county player with a microphone – aka rugby referees – what’s the solution?That’s one for the G.A.A. to come up with but they don’t appear to be in any rush to do anything about it and apparently prefer to tot up the proceeds from their Championship matches rather than the cost of on-field venom to the game.Oh, yes, we did have a game last Sunday and, let’s give credit where it’s due, it was entertaining from start to finish with Tyrone in the hunt right to that finish with two goal opportunities that almost brought the sides level. Compare it to that tepid Donegal/Monaghan league encounter at O’Donnell Park some months ago when we would probably have welcomed a half-time bust-up on route to the dressing-rooms.This was a Championship match worthy of the name and from a home perspective, the performances of the likes of Frank McGlynn, Karl Lacey and Martin McElhinney – not to mention the ace free-kicking of Michael Murphy in the latter stages – gives cause for optimism as Armagh wait in the short grass.But I still believe there’s something missing that may prevent Rory Gallagher’s team from advancing further than the All-Ireland quarter or semi-final stages this year.LATE RETURNSIt’s a long, long way to Tipperary and much longer to the Cathedral town of Cobh but it must have, at least, appeared a good deal shorter for those on board the returning Finn Harps team bus late into the early hours of Sunday morning.A goal behind with under ten minutes to go, the First Division’s only unbeaten record looked like it was heading west until that well deserved equalizer from Josh Mailey and Raymond Foy’s 88th minute strike that helped stretch Harps lead at the top to six points. It followed the previous week’s late winner against Waterford United in Ballybofey. When Oliver’s Army shipped a half dozen goals in a pre-season friendly against Sligo Rovers, which of us, in all honesty, could have foreseen Harps about to enter their twelfth game of the season with the loss slot on the table against their name showing a bit fat zero?True, the goals against column has been getting busier in recent weeks but on the other hand, they’re back to scoring again with the midfielders – another classic from Mickey Funston at St. Colman’s Park following his goal of the season effort the previous week – beginning to add their weight in this department.That six point gap was opened courtesy of Wexford Youth’s 4-1 hammering at U.C.D. and therein lies a cautionary tale.The students will arrive in Ballybofey on Friday night in the finest of fettle and confident that they can be the team to put a stop to Harps’ unbeaten gallop.Ollie Horgan had, he pointed out this week, tipped the Belfielders from early on in the season as the team to watch and, for sure, they will have to be watched.Most U.C.D. teams bear the mark of a decent footballing side and this one is no exception.If Harps avoid defeat, it would have to be ranked as a good result but in front of a home crowd – surely the attendance figure of 774 for the last home fixture was a bit off the mark? – they can at least match the visitors on the score front.TRACKING JACK THE ENGLISH WAYOkay, should our own fair county come up against Dublin later on in this Championship season and the Dub’s left half back, Jack McCaffrey, goes on a surging run that splits the Donegal defensive cover wide open resulting in a score or two, we can (a) question the Donegal tactical know-how and/or (b) blame Mark English.Mark EnglishYes, none other than the European Indoors silver medallist from last March and former Letterkenny A.C. member.Apparently, he recently provided McCaffrey with a pair of track spikes to help him “maximise his sprinting technique” and the result could be coming to a G.A.A. venue near you.“I’ve actually told Jack a few times that he would have made a great 800m runner. But he doesn’t seem to believe me,” English told ‘Irish Times’ athletics correspondent, Ian O’Riordan, at the weekend.A medical student at U.C.D., the Letterkenny man shares a class with McCaffrey and both men a passion for each other’s sport.Interesting feature on our international runner during which he calls on the G.A.A. to introduce drug testing, including blood analysis, into the sport.Drug testing for any athlete from whatever sport is a must, English insists, and he’s right. If they consider themselves as elite footballers then they must endure the examinations that go with that. Or as Mark puts it so well, “prepare to fail the stupidity test.”His love of Gaelic games stemmed from playing football from an early age and, as O’Riordan pointed out, he could, in an alternative world, have been preparing for last weekend’s Ulster Championship clash at MacCumhaill Park.“Like most youngsters growing up in Letterkenny, Gaelic football was where sporting dreams began and as well as playing with his school, St. Eunan’s, English also spent a few seasons with Letterkenny Gaels (to the mild dismay of his father Joe who had helped coach rival club, St. Eunan’s to a Donegal county title),” the I.T. man revealed.Sporting dreams? Some of us would have happy just to get picked on a team. Any team.REFEREE FAILS TO GET THE POINTDidn’t make it to Portlaoise for last Saturday’s national under-14 girls blitz and, according to reports, one of the referees shouldn’t have made it either.For had she (yes, women of the world, you can get it wrong too) opted to award, correctly, a point to the Wexford team and not, incorrectly, to their Kildare opponents as she did (and this despite the fact that both teams were attempting to tell her otherwise) the Donegal girls would have made it through to the Final. Even a twenty minute sit down on the field of play by Wexford failed to persuade her to change her mind (and sure isn’t that supposed to be a woman’s prerogative?).And somehow Kildare got through to the Final despite having finished the blitz with a defeat and one less victory than their unbeaten Donegal rivals.Put that in your puzzle pipe and smoke it. Ah, if only I’d been there to hear Liam Skelly’s views on the matter!FROM THE ISLE OF DOAGH TO WEMBLEYSo who popped up on the interview slot with cross-channel Irish players on Monday night’s edition of ‘Soccer Republic’ on R.T.E.? None other than the man a few of us in the Behind the Home Dug Out at Finn Park crew hailed as the new Ronaldo when he first burst onto the League of Ireland scene (though that may have been more to do with his hair style initially). Now plying his trade in an on-loan capacity with English League Two outfit – and hoping to be League One – Southend United, Stephen McLaughlin will be stepping out at Wembley this Saturday for his club’s play-off Final with Wycombe Wanderers.McLaughlin netted in the semi-final win and, speaking to R.T.E.’s Tony O’Donoghue, from what looked like his pad over in Southend, he maintained he felt he had a point to prove after being disappointed not to have started against Stevenage in that second leg.The Isle of Doagh native was introduced by the R.T.E. correspondent as a former Finn Harps and Derry City player though the interview itself only referred to his time at the Brandywell “fondly” remembered by the midfielder where he helped the Candystripes win two trophies.And all that encouragement the Behind the Home Dug-Out crew gave him when he was flying down the wing at Finn Park or even plopped on the bench.Still, there WAS mention of his former City team-mate, Mark Farren, currently undergoing further treatment for cancer and the subject of a fund-raising drive to enable him to receive that treatment at a specialist clinic in Germany. “Top bloke,” McLaughlin described him, urging people to keep donating to the fund.Incidentally, there’s a special fund-raiser at the Brandywell this Saturday when a League of Ireland legends select take on a Derry City Legends team. Get along and support it.Meanwhile, Southend’s Inishowen connection is unsure where next season will land him seeing as he is still contracted to Nottingham Forest.Still,there might even be a place for him on the bench at Finn Park.RIPPING PERFORMANCEIn his Marksman column sitting alongside his Ulster Championship match report in Monday’s ‘Donegal People’s Press/Donegal Democrat’. sports editor, Peter Campbell (hi Peter!) sums up Neil Gallagher’s performance thus:“A massive display from the big Glenswilly man despite the second yellow card. Involved in numerous turnovers.”And one tornover….NEIL GALLAGHER IS A COLOSSUS AND FINN HARPS TO MAKE HISTORY – IT’S WALSHY ON WEDNESDAY was last modified: May 20th, 2015 by Mark ForkerShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:columnnewsPaddy WalshSportlast_img

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