THE LONG AND SHORT OF IRISH SOCCER – WALSHY ON WEDNESDAY

first_imgLONG AND THE SHORT OF ITWhile much has been said and written about the Republic’s much improved second half display against Poland, the bare fact is that we dropped two points at home whatever way you look at it.Sure it could – and was three minutes away from being so – have been worse had it not been for substitute, Shane Long, drifting into space to get on the end of Wes Hoolohan’s headed pass to secure the equalizer. by Paddy Walsh, Donegal’s Top Sports ColumnistWalshyAnd while Long and several of his team-mates raced in the direction of the corner flag to acclaim the goal, there was Jonathan Walters picking the ball out of the net in an effort to speed up the kick-off and, perhaps, push for a winning score. Not to be but at least he saw the urgency of the situation and wasn’t happy to accept a share of the spoils.With all the possession the home side enjoyed in that second period, we should have created more and been in a position to go on and win it from early on.On the plus side, Martin O’Neill’s men recovered with a few tactical changes from a below par opening half which saw the Poles dominate for long spells and go into a deserved lead midway through it. As predicted last week, Shay Given, got the nod over David Forde, and couldn’t be faulted for the goal, coming as it did through a series of defensive errors out on the right.“It would have been really interesting if we’d got it [the equalizer] five minutes earlier; we might have had a second had it not come a little bit too late but we created a lot of chances, hit the post and the crossbar and on another night we could have snatched the win,” the Lifford stopper summed it up.Fellow Donegal international, Seamus Coleman, enjoyed a much better second half and indeed could- should – have netted the equalizer when put into a more than half decent position by the generally disappointing Robbie Keane (how he was allowed stay on the field for the full ninety-five minutes is baffling seeing as he contributed so little).There was a mixed night for the other two players this county can lay half a claim to – both James McCarthy and Aidan McGeady only showing in fits and starts (and more fits at that).There were plenty of positives to take from the game but we won’t be able to take any from the game against Scotland in the summer if we repeat this result even with the best of performances. UNITED IN SOCCER? DON’T THINK SOIt’s June 25th, 1982 and forty-seven minutes into the World Cup Finals meeting of Spain and Northern Ireland, Gerry Armstrong is smashing home the goal that wins the game and shocks the footballing world. And the entire island of Ireland is on its feet in rapturous celebration. Our cross border neighbours have pulled off a big one and the soccer brethren have united in hailing a stunning victory, achieved with ten men after Mal Donaghy’s sending off.Switch forward eleven years, Windsor Park, Belfast, November 17th, 1993. And Republic of Ireland midfielder, Alan McLoughlin, has cracked home a 78th minute equalizer for Jack Charlton’s team that will propel his team to the 1994 World Cup Finals in the U.S.But this time the celebrations are divided. True, there were many football followers in the likes of Derry and Strabane who were leaping off their feet but for the vast majority sandwiched into Windsor Park that night, it was a bitter finale to a game that Northern Ireland didn’t need to win but did their very utmost to trump the Republic’s World Cup ambitions. You certainly couldn’t have argued with their determination on that night of nights – the other teams in the group would have expected nothing less – and you certainly would have admired Jimmy Quinn’s stunning volley that put Billy Bingham’s team in front.But it was the sheer bitterness and hatred that poured down off the terraces that evening that stands out. Yes, the Troubles were a factor but only part of it.I remember watching the game in the Central Bar in Letterkenny and that hostility and sheer venom fairly crackled off the T.V. screen and those brave Republic fans – and I know a few of them – who were actually present at the match will tell you that the intensity of animosity was much, much worse in close proximity.And none of it helped by the sight of host manager, Billy Bingham, heading down the touchline to his dugout after half-time and inciting the locals to more poisonous malice.It was a letter in Monday’s ‘Belfast Telegraph’ from a Donegal based correspondent that got me thinking of that particular encounter and, indeed, Northern Ireland’s adventure in Spain in 1982.A Scotsman, residing in Muff, Daithi McGonigal, hailed the “wonderful achievement” of the Irish rugby team in claiming the Six Nations title.“Hockey, boxing and cricket are also organised on an All-Ireland basis, so why is there not an All-Ireland soccer side?,” Daithi posed the understandable question, adding: “As the late Ian Paisley once said: “United we stand, divided we fall.”Notwithstanding the fact that Northern Ireland are on the verge of qualifying for next year’s European Championship Finals following that win over Finland at the weekend, I don’t believe too many in their camp would be in favour of such a united front at this particular time (or, perhaps, any other time you can name).For some of us on this side of the border that experience from twenty-two years ago still rankles and would undoubtedly colour – it certainly does mine – any ambitions of an All-Irish team going into battle.Yes, things have changed over the past few years and the bitterness may have been eroded somewhat from that November night but I still feel it would cause more trouble than its worth.And should the North qualify for the 2016 Euro Finals, how many of us would be able to shed our disquiet and lend them our full support as we had done way back in 1982?DONEGAL TAKE HARTEMickey HarteJust like Tyrone, I didn’t make it to Ballybofey last Sunday but by all accounts Donegal were in control right from the first whistle. That impressive display in the Kingdom was seemingly matched by another cohesive performance that ensures survival in the top rank for another year.The criticism the team, both management and players, took for that abysmal display against Monaghan obviously resulted in much soul searching and the outcome of that has been a better shape to their play and a more fluid approach.Not that Rory Gallagher’s men can take all the credit. For it appears that Tyrone were a shadow of their former selves and were a well-beaten team long before the end.Even the emerge of the normally influential Sean Cavanagh at half-time failed to ignite the spark that once was Mickey Harte’s side.When they return for that Ulster Championship Preliminary found clash on May 17th, we can surely expect better things from them. But I’m not sure. And I believe we could be watching the end of an era and the final days of the Harte regime.DIRECTIONLESSBig surprise that Finn Park wasn’t teeming with a mass of screaming schoolgirls last Friday night given the invitation handed out on social media earlier in the week.Somebody asked that Zayn Malik come along to the Ballybofey venue for the match against Cobh Ramblers – even going as far as suggesting he could avail of a half-price offer from the soup stall. Now only a vegetable would turn that down.Didn’t see him there myself but that’s not to say he wasn’t smuggled in under cover of a blue and white jersey and scarf.Who he, the odd one out there might be asking? To which we can only furnish the clue that Harps are only going in the one direction this year.Though they’ll need to improve vastly from the hoof and hope game that dominated a particularly scrappy display against the league’s basement boys.But good to see French striker, Wilfried Tagbo, on the mark with a well taken opening goal and also to see Kevin McHugh net his first score of the new campaign. Hopefully, he can surpass last season’s dismal – for him – tally of four.MARTY ON THE MOVEJockey Martin HarleyThere I was trawling the television stations on Saturday afternoon when this Donegal accent caught my attention on Channel 4. And when I saw the face that went with it and it, and the rest of him, sitting aboard a horse and being interviewed at Doncaster racecourse, I guessed Marty Harley had just ridden another winner (always so sharp on these occasions, I am).Naadirr had just romped home in the 2.35. and a modest Marty was given him his mount due credit. “He’s immense”, declared the Letterkenny man.The same for which could be said of the rider who followed that up with a third place on Moonharib in the 3.45.The new flat season is upon us – look out for more winning enclosure appearances from Rathdonnell’s favourite son.WHITE ONCommunications Minister, Alex White, is ruffling a few feathers in the Irish Rugby Football Union with his determination to ensure future Six Nations matches are open to terrestrial television viewers.He is considering adding Ireland’s home games in the tournament to the list of free-to-air events and will bring a report on the issue to the Cabinet soon.Hopefully, he will win out. But the I.R.F.U. are apparently opposing such a move and will be battling hard, it seems, to send the coverage SKY wards.It appears that the rugby authorities have forgotten just how popular the sport has grown here, thanks, in very large measures, to the continued coverage by the likes of R.T.E. and TG4.PASSING GAMEThe death has been announced of Gaelic Football, formerly of Croke Park and other venues.Deceased, who had been in ailing health for some time, was well known throughout the country where he had been hugely popular for several centuries.Mr. Football, who is survived by his siblings, Hurling, Camogie and Handball, had been an energetic figure throughout his lifetime.Born in Thurles, County Tipperary in 1884 – though many say he was active long before that – he enjoyed a very large fan base and was a frequent visitor to Donegal.One associate, Mr. Joseph Brolly, spoke passionately about him this week: “He was a marvellous sight in his prime but I felt that he was losing touch with his roots in recent times.“He actually took ill in Donegal where they had to wrap him in a blanket which I don’t think helped him at all.”Acknowledged another former friend, Mr. Jarlath Burns: “I saw this coming a long way back but I’m still hopeful I can bring him back to life.”Mass (defence) at high noon. No flowers. Donations in loo alongside deceased.THE LONG AND SHORT OF IRISH SOCCER – WALSHY ON WEDNESDAY was last modified: April 1st, 2015 by StephenShare 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:Walshy on Wednesdaylast_img read more