Hurler is a lifelong fan of the 1970 war comedy Kelly’s Heroes, starring Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland. The standout dialogue in the film comes from Donald Sutherland’s character Oddball, a spaced-out hippie fed up with the gloomy outlook of one of his army buddies, Moriarty. “Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves?” groans Oddball, “Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”
“Crap!” retorts a singularly unimpressed Moriarty.
Hurler has felt a bit like Oddball ever since Saturday’s brace of All-Ireland quarter finals which saw Donegal scrape past Armagh followed by Dublin tearing a new hole for Monaghan in the most one-sided All-Ireland quarter final since Mayo’s demolition of our good selves last August. A combination of Donegal’s oh so narrow win on Saturday and Dublin’s seemingly effortless annihilation of Monaghan has combined to instil a mixture of doom and gloom among many Donegal supporters in advance of our clash with the Dubs on August 31. A large number of Donegal folk seem to have bought into the notion that we’ll be lucky to keep the ball kicked out to Dublin.
“Crap!” as Moriarty would say. Hurler would concur and saw nothing in Dublin at the weekend to burst his bubble. To quote Oddball once again: “What’s with all them negative waves?”
Let’s start with Donegal’s one point win over Armagh. Hurler was hugely impressed with the spirit and tenacity shown by Donegal against a well-drilled Armagh team operating in bonus territory and with absolutely nothing to lose. Kieran McGeeney’s stamp is already all over his native county – the former Armagh captain spent six frustrating years with Kildare but the Lilywhites never had the balls to implement McGeeney’s characteristic hard-as-nails take-no-prisoners approach to Gaelic football. That’s a problem he won’t encounter in Armagh – as was already evident on Saturday. Armagh posed questions but Donegal matched them and won the tactical battle without ever slipping into top gear. In addition, our massed defence – when it was called for – was vastly more effective than Armagh’s. That augurs very well.
Let’s not blithely dismiss tradition either. In ten championship encounters since 1999, Armagh handed Donegal their asses on eight separate occasions. Indeed, Armagh enjoy a 73% success rate over Donegal in previous championship encounters dating back to 1927. There are those who argue that previous meetings, in generations past, count for nothing. But, as they’d tell you down in Kerry, tradition counts for a whole lot boy.
To read more from ‘Hurler on the Ditch’ click here.