Tuesday, 19 June 2018

TOP of the agenda this week has to be the suspensions handed out after the brawl at the end of the Armagh v Tyrone U20 game. There were 17 suspensions arising from a row, which is unprecedented, I've never heard of it before and I feel that it's unbelievably harsh.
Obviously it's the Ulster Council's way of sending out a message but I feel that these two teams have been made a complete example of ‚ there's been umpteen rows between sides down through the years and they haven't been punished like this.
Whilst we want this type of stuff stamped out in the game, I think the measures go too far. I don't want my kids to see this type of stuff in the game, but it is a harsh reality of sport that it does tip over the edge sometimes. Yes, we need to punish this, but in this case I don't think the punishment fits the crime. It is just to send out a message and Armagh and Tyrone have been unfortunate in that regard but, when I say Armagh and Tyrone, really I mean Armagh because a lot of those Tyrone boys won't see U20 football again.
It makes the final against Derry a complete non-event with Armagh missing 10 players. They'd already lost two of their better players after they got sent off in the game itself, so for them to be down 10 players makes it farcical- they would need at least five or six of those boys back in order to make the final anyway competitive, so that's the most disappointing thing.
It sullies the fact that Armagh have done so well to get to the Final as it's all for nothing now. There has to definitely be some sort of punishment, but I think a fine for both counties would've be more appropriate, because it wasn't just the players on the field; it was subs and management also. So, all things considered, a fine is proportionate, because if you fine a county board dramatically the message trickles down from the top that this is not acceptable, so I think that's one thing that the Ulster Council could have did.
Another thing that the Ulster Council could do is come out and say that part of this was due to the rules and part of it was due to the referee, because I think that they're all complicit in the fact that this ended up where it ended up. I think when they're reviewing it they need to review every single part of what went on that night. It's very easy to review what went on in the fight, but what led to the fight?
One of the reasons is that towards the end of the game it seems it's now acceptable to pull your opponent to the ground, to kick the ball off the tee when the goalkeeper's kicking it out and this went unpunished in the All-Ireland Final last year, so, young lads are watching this and they think that that's alright to do and that's the way they're reacting.
Looking ahead to the Senior games at the weekend for both Armagh and Down, with Armagh against Sligo, you'd have to say that it's a game you'd genuinely expect them to win, they beat Sligo convincingly in the league and it's fair to say that Sligo weren't even that competitive on the day, so I fully expect Armagh to win.
That would be two wins in the Qualifiers and see them have a bit of momentum on their side. From Down's perspective, Cavan's a really tough game because, whilst they're are no world beaters, they're a really well-drilled side who are going up to Division One so, with Down getting relegated to Division Three, there's a bit of a contrast with how both teams' respective season's went.
Having said that, there's not a lot between them in terms of quality and Down have, to their advantage, a forward unit that can, on their day, cause most teams a lot of trouble provided they get the service.
It's a massive game for both sides and what Cavan have to their advantage is that, with the win against Wicklow, they'll have exorcised a lot of the psychological demons from the Donegal game unlike Down. I'd like to say commiserations to Armagh Ladies after their defeat against Donegal Ladies, who really are a well-oiled machine. Armagh Ladies have another opportunity in the Qualifiers so I'd like to wish them all the best for that.



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