Republican News · Thursday 13 April 2000

[An Phoblacht]

The Kingdom and a horse


Dry mouth, thumping headache, glazed eyes and general feeling of bewilderment? Yes, it's the Monday after the Ard Fheis and this boy's seen better mornings. When the general haze begins to clear, the realisation that I haven't a notion of what happened on the sporting front for the past few days becomes apparent. This is of course not surprising after spending the weekend alternating between being locked in serious political debate or just plain old locked.

Kerry were beaten by Galway on the last day of the National League but had already qualified for the semi finals, where they will face Meath
As I scan the sports sections of the morning papers I find out just how much I missed. True, Martin Ferris did give a run down of the National Football League results before closing the Ard Fheis on Sunday evening, but it wasn't a lot to be getting on with. As I turned each page, the overall picture of the lost sporting weekend began to form.

The biggest news came from Augusta and Aintree, where the results of the Masters and Grand National were both well received. Over in Augusta, Georgia, Vijay Singh had emerged from a field of the world's best to claim the Green Jacket for the first time. This was a result which didn't seem to be on the radar of most pundits leading up to the tournament. The conventional wisdom was that Tiger Woods would come through again. Some had given Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and David Duval reasonable chances and Colin Montgomerie had been flagged as Europe's leading contender. As it happens, Woods, Mickelson, Els and Duval were all there or thereabouts at the finish. Montgomerie was joint 19th with our own Padraig Harrington, who made an excellent debut.

The whole town of Kill, County Kildare, came out to welcome home a horse
And then there was Ruby Walsh on the Ted Walsh-trained Papillon in Aintree. The popular win by the father and son combination has created another Irish equine superstar. Just like Istabraq after Cheltenham, Papillon was given the full `Olé, Olé' treatment on his return. Indeed the townspeople of Kill, Co. Kildare, turned out in their droves to welcome their newest sporting hero. In case any of our overseas readers feel they have misunderstood the last sentence, you probably haven't. Yes, the whole town came out to welcome a horse (Don't ask!!).

There was a full fixture list for the last day of the GAA National Football League. The remaining three semi-final placings were decided, Kerry having already qualified.

The aforementioned Kingdom were beaten by Galway on the last day in a meaningless game. Meath qualified to meet Kerry in their semi-final albeit in tight circumstances. Although they beat Kildare by seven points, they were relying on Clare to beat Sligo in Ennis. Clare duly beat Mickey Moran's improving team but Meath only qualified by way of the margin between theirs and Sligo's scoring averages 1.021 to 1.012, respectively.

It was really an opportunity lost for Sligo, who haven't got to the semi-final stage of the National League for 25 years, but I feel they can pick it up again and mount a serious challenge in Connaught this year. As for Meath, they're always there or thereabouts and have qualified for the latter stages of this competition with little fuss and without stretching themselves. They bear all the hallmarks of a great team for whom winning holds no fear. I'm sure the rest of Leinster are awaiting this year's Championship with some trepidation.

There was no need for calculators for the other semi finalists. Roscommon continued their current revival by beating Donegal in the latter stages of their encounter. They now face perennial league specialists Derry, who qualified after a convincing win over Fermanagh. The Dubs had a credible win over Cork in Parnell Park with Ciarán Whelan and Ian Robertson showing some encouraging form, but as stated in previous weeks, I will make no predictions about this Dublin team. They are improving and may even be heading towards being realistic challengers to Meath's Leinster crown, but that's only a maybe. Dublin teams are legendary for being defeated by their own publicity, so there will be no false dawns emanating from these pages.

Finally, this column welcomes any criticisms or comments levelled by our readership. To this end, I received some stinging criticism at our weekend's Ard Fheis. This column didn't escape unscathed in the backlash after the failure of delegates to elect any women to the nine directly elected Ard Chomhairle positions and was soundly thrashed by a couple of comrades over its lack of balance regarding coverage of women's sports. So, suitably chastised, I will now endeavour to cover women's sporting events whenever I can. In my humble defence, may I point out that the majority of major sporting events are predominantly male occasions, but I will make special efforts to correct this imbalance in this column. Tá an brón orm!

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