No argument about it but over the last few seasons the spark of anticipation had been sucked out of the atmosphere at the County Board meeting which dealt with the new season’s championship draws.
What had traditionally been a piece of business which generated sharp expectancy among the delegates in attendance had become little more than an item of routine.
But last Monday night it was back to vibrant old times. This time there was a genuine air of suspense in the room and I would suggest that it was primarily the debut of a revamped intermediate championship and, to a lesser extent, the welcome return of the junior which were the root causes of the change.
And it would not be an over exaggeration to claim that the draw for the intermediate overshadowed the more prestigious senior competition.
But we’ll comment first on the senior draw if only for protocol’s sake.
No overloading here with just eight teams in the starting stalls and with the exception of Derrylin the other seven contenders presumably will fancy their chances.
It was the championship the O’Connell’s, who certainly drew the short straw as they were paired with the all conquering Shamrocks.
On paper this looks something on the lines of what was a fairly regular feature of the previous format, a game between a really strong side and an opponent with only a marginal chance of creating an upset.
It was always going to be the case that second division Derrylin were going to be viewed as cannon fodder, but no doubt they will shrug off the disappointment of being handed Roslea and will come to the game with a positive approach.
The other three fixtures in this grade all have a very competitive look about them.
Yet the main interest on the evening perhaps centred on the revamped intermediate which had a starting line-up that contained some famed senior championship operators of the past.
Teemore v Lisnaskea is a particularly notable quarter final clash, two of the oldest clubs going head to head while Enniskillen v Kinawley is also a tussle to savour. The team that emerges eventually from the intermediate dog fight will be in fighting shape for the provincial series that follows.
And the evening also had an extra dimension added to it with a further tweaking of the re-introduced junior competition. Here a recommendation from the Aghadrumsee club to bring in a back door format was readily accepted giving the teams involved here an extended run.
With the play offs also in the programme for those who exit early in senior and intermediate, plus the introduction of a compressed timetable beginning late in the summer I would say a solid piece of work has been done over the past few seasons.
The more things change
Player burnout has been much in the forefront of late. A few weeks back this column had a slightly different take on the all consuming physical regimes that modern day players apparently have to endure.
Basically what was being suggested was that ‘less sweat and more thought’ might be a more profitable approach.
Not a particularly novel idea you would say and you would be quite right.
Michael Foley’s book, The Bloodied Field, which was published last year deals with Bloody Sunday in Croke Park in November 1920 and carries the following anecdote.
In the All-Ireland semi final of 1920, Dublin scored an emphatic victory over Cavan in a hastily arranged fixture played at Navan. The Ulster champions came into the game at a serious disadvantage for they were made aware of the game just two days beforehand.
And they were to be decisively beaten yet the unheard of short notice wasn’t put forward by the Anglo-Celt as the reason for the Breffni defeat.
That newspaper’s football correspondent instead railed that, “Physical training is alright but intellectual training is just as important.
It is nearly time our players in club and county football did more thinking and utilised brain as well as bone and sinew”.
Almost a century later and this columnist was singing from the same hymn sheet.
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