In praise of the county of Down…

Today is All Ireland final day, and Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh’s last post. He did his first big GAA match (a Railway Cup final between Munster and Leinster) in 1949 at the age of 19, as he filled the shoes of the late Mícheál Ó hEithir… It also the day Down get to test out their special invulnerability suits (5 finals, 5 wins).

I doubt any of them will be banking on getting a helping hand from history today, but without over egging it, the inclusion of the 22 year old Martin Clarke seems to have gelled a team that was already brimming with youth and talent.

Yet, as Peter McGrath notes in today’s Sindo, Down plays with a style all of their own:

The philosophy on how the game should be played and the kind of players that club football produces will have a Down club football has always been quite non-physical — I am not saying they are all meek — but club football generally favours players who can express themselves and it wouldn’t be overly physical or dour and is quite open and expansive. Possibly in these other counties there is more physical play and more emphasis on stopping the opposition rather than playing to your own strengths, and maybe over time that has nurtured a certain type of player in Armagh and Tyrone and a different type of player in Down.

And:

He [McGrath] lists off the minor teams that won All-Irelands in 1999 and 2005 as having been “distinctly Down” with a style of play was “very much conducive to the individual.” They were teams that did not require painstaking coaching. “If you look at Kildare (this year), they were notching up quite big scores, but I could see looking at that team that their forward play, well, you could see the coaching — a certain amount of regimentation and they were playing to a pattern. Whereas Down would be playing to natural instinct.”

And there’s this take on the Down mentality from Paddy Kielty:

There is another view worth bearing in mind. Paddy Kielty, the comedian and television personality, feels that because Down’s first three All-Ireland wins preceded the Troubles this may have contributed to a separation of the two experiences, leaving a clearer demarcation line between sport and politics.

“It’s a theory that may be right or may be wrong,” he says, “but because Down won three All-Irelands before trouble began in the north, we always felt we were part of the GAA family; we felt we belonged to the other 31 counties in a sporting context. And I think when we won again in ’91 and ’94 for us it was a continuation of a history rather than a breakthrough. We had established an identity. When Down teams go south I think they have a sense of belonging. We feel we do belong there, no more than any other county, but no less.”

No predictions from me on the result. I’m no natural Down supporter, even though it’s the only county in which I have played the game (we were in the south Antrim league, and shared our pitch with the local cricket team for a lot of that time). I was born in Antrim, but have since childhood been a resolute follower of my father’s native county, Donegal: especially when playing Down.

It will take more than Martin Clarke to play at his best today for this Down team and take Sam home for a sixth time.  Good luck to the People’s Republic of Cork, but a Down win – especially after Darren Cave’s magnificent try against Edinburgh on Friday night – would make this Holywood man a perfect sporting weekend.

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  • Alan Maskey

    Paddy Power has the Cork Culchies at odds on to win.
    People wonder why the Holy F did not come to Ireland this weekend. Could you imagine the consternation if he was at Croker in, say, the Cork colours.

  • lover not a fighter

    Down have some record in finals to preserve.

    Best of luck to Down.

  • Dewi

    Cork should have scored four times already!

  • Im proud to be able to confirm that I know absolutely nothing about this ‘game’. Huh, matter of life and death more like!

    However I will be disappointed if Cork do not beat the pants off Down…So there!

  • Mick Fealty

    Good to see the Down defence tighten up since the Kildare match…

  • Mick Fealty

    Cork missed 6 out of 8 shots… Down need to keep their composure and just rack up their chances as they come…

  • Mick Fealty

    Quick hands there from Down keeping the ball in play, just a shame about the finishing there from Clarke…

  • Mick Fealty

    One back for PROC… keeps things interesting…

  • Mick Fealty

    And two opening up the Down defence…

  • Mick Fealty

    Great point from Cork 0 5. Down 0 8

  • Mick Fealty

    Half time, three point lead. Not much in it…

  • the future’s bright, the futures orange

    hey dewi – where have all ur rugby posts gone to? Just because the welsh sides are rubbish doesn’t mean there’s nothing to report! 😉

  • Mark McGregor

    If Down don’t get drawn into giving frees they should be able to keep the nose in front here.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I have a soft spot for Down as they were more often in Casement Park than Antrim in the early 1960s. And there was a convuluted “school” connexion to a player. I even agonised if Belfast City Hospital was actually in County Down….it isnt.
    But Paddy Kielty whose sporting credentials (hes a Man United supporter) are superior to his political credentials is actually right about the impact of the Down team on nationalist sentiment and confidence in the early 1960s.

    Maurice Hayes, Secretary of the Down County GAA board in 1960 has referenced it. So has President McAleese. Dammit so have I..endlessly.
    So has just about everybody. Because its pretty obvious.

  • Mick Fealty

    And Cork take it down to two… I think Mark is right…

  • Mick Fealty

    Coulter seems jugged up front.. and Cork’s asserting its strength in midfield… And now there is only one between them… Down needs to find their rhythm again…

  • Mick Fealty

    Cork 0 11 Down 0 11

  • Mick Fealty

    Cork up 0 12 to 0 11…

  • Garibaldy
  • Mick Fealty

    Cracking 45… Cork 3 up now… Down is absolutely nowhere in the midfield…

  • Mick Fealty

    Great counterattack from Benny Coulter from deep, but they need more of that kind of turnover to nick this one at the end…

  • Mick Fealty

    Cork 0 16 Down 0 14… Brave move from Coulter.. to take a point now into injury time…

  • Mick Fealty

    Feck!!!

  • Mick Fealty

    Cork win!!! Great last surge from Down.. At least they have that terrible curse of never having lost at final over them…

  • Mark McGregor

    Won from the 45. Great result for Cork, Down only have themselves to blame.

  • Well done Cork. My mother would’ve been back to haunt them if they’d lost…

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, maybe. Clarke was the dog who didn’t bark. But that surely was as much to do with Cork using their physical strength keeping him under control.

    Great experience for a still young team.

  • fin

    Gutted, father, brother and sister born in Cork, 20 years since they won an all Ireland, but still so wanted that reception at Stormont just to see the DUP ministers looking uncomfortable. Down wasted chances in the 2nd half, thro gritted teeth well done Cork.

    texted my aged da at the final whistle ‘yous were lucky’ reply in 30 secs ‘better to be born lucky than rich’

  • the future’s bright, the futures orange

    very exciting 2nd half – thought down were gonna sneak a goal at the end but from a guy who knows nuthin abut the GAA, I’d say Cork well deserved it – should have had 2 goals and a clear penalty.

  • fin

    I would have settled for being born rich! and I think you are wrong about the DUP ministers. I’m pretty sure they would have been grinning from ear to ear at any win against the south. You take em where you find em, right?

  • Alan Maskey

    So Mick were you trying to do a running commentary or what?
    Down lost it in midfield. Cork obviously got the hair dryer at the break.
    But not a bad year with Kerry and Kilkenny both sent packing. The GAA must be smiling.
    That President woman McAleese should have the good grace to be therre before the Minor game and not hold up proceedings. Jack Lynch was good that way. Though he has not been beatified yet (except in Cork), he is probably smiling down giving the other saints in heaven cancer from his pipe.

  • Alan Maskey

    Excellent. Well worth a click. Some of the quotes were classic. Still, imho, O’Hehir was The Man.
    We can’t really blame Biffo for taking him off. That is what we do with commentators.

  • Erasmus

    Commiserations, Michael.
    It was nice, BTW, to make your acquaintance in Avondale.
    Beidh lá eile ag an bpaorach.

  • CW

    Well, Tyrone won the minor title, so at least one All-Ireland trophy will be coming north. With a set of young up-and-coming young players like this, it certainly bodes well for the county’s future.

  • Munsterview

    Backing Cork so good result. Nice to see some of the older crowd having all Ireland medals, they deserve it.

    Nice also residents to see Down play the game they did, there may have been more than a few missed chances on either side but both sides, Down especially played the ball rather than the man as we have come to expect from some Northern teams.

    They were there and could have done it up to the final kick. They can go home proud…. and they will be back. It is such a pity that Sam will have to go to Cork or Kerry again next year but making the finals again will be no mean achievement for Down !

  • McCarthy óg

    My heart has just about recovered. Brilliant stuff though. Not the best way to win an All Ireland considering the way we scraped our way there, but with a 20 year drought, I’m not complaining one bit about Sam coming home!

  • Alan Maskey

    I’m not complaining one bit about Sam coming home! ??????????

    They said if the Sam M Cup could talk, it would have a Kerry accent. And, like Kilkenny, they will be back next year.

  • McCarthy óg

    Not 100% serious. More referring to the birthplace of Sam Maguire himself. We’re obviously not a footballing county, and the only reason why today was so great was because of the pain of our dismal flop against Kilkenny in the hurling.

    Kerry won’t have it next year in my opinion. Neither will Cork mind. I’d put a bit of money on Kildare with the right odds to be honest.

  • CW

    Has anyone seen what former TUV candidate David Vance wrote about the match on his “Tangled Web”?

    I see the BBC in Northern Ireland chooses to lead the NATIONAL use (sic) on the result of some GAA game happening in a foreign country. I believe one team lost. How enthralling.

    So poor old Vancey’s Sunday evening TV viewing was ruined by coverage of a foreign sport played in a foreign country. Slap on the wrist, BBC NI! I eagerly await his imminent petition to the European Court of Human Rights – maybe he could get Jim Allister to represent him! 😉

  • JR

    Gutted, absolutely gutted but immensely proud of down. This year has been an unforgettable roller coaster. Fair play to cork, they were the better team by a shade on the day.

  • Alan Maskey

    Nelson McCausland was a bit more gracious before the game. He hoped “our team” would beat “their team”. Alas it was not to be, except in the Minors.
    Nelson does not watch sport on Sundays. Did Mr Vance tune in for a sneak peak of our team against their team? Is that a sin in their world? Would God approve?
    How does one measure sins in Protestanism? Or does Jesus just wipe the slate clean every so often, say like every time you watch Sunday sport?

  • Mick Fealty

    Just so JR.

    But youth is on their side. And the ghost of those successful Down teams of the past is now taken from their shoulders.

    They should take inspiration from Cork’s bounce back recent failures. Grinding out the results and the opposition down over the years is the key.

  • Mick Fealty

    Play the ball ‘Alan’, if you please.

  • Alan Maskey

    Mick F: I am PRAISING Nelson McC, not for the first time on this. I don’t think Mr Vance’s apparent pettiness helps him but he can judge that.

    However, I come here not to praise the GAA but to wonder at the meltdown of the Commonwealth games. This looks like a very bleak day for India, especially compared to China.
    The GAA, if memory serves me right, got a British firm to do Croker. Consensus says they did a good job. India is in deep stink it seems.