Longford Leader columnist Mattie Fox: Mullinalaghta should enjoy their three-in-a-row

Mattie Fox

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Mattie Fox

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Co Final

Peter Hanley Motors Longford SFC Final replay referee Fergal Kelly (Ballymahon) pictured centre with linesman Ger Egan (St Mary's Granard, on left) and John Hughes (Killoe Emmet Óg, right).

County Final day, again, in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park.

The replay between Abbeylara and Mullinalaghta.

Somehow the warm up gave it all away.

Mullinalaghta were deliberate, going through the same focused routine as last week, with no air of fuss at all.

Methodical, measured, and exceedingly calm.

Abbeylara, on the other hand, looked somewhat uptight. Several of their players seemed very hyped up, jumping around, waving their arms, and I felt it wasn’t a good omen.

And so it turned out.

There was one loud message to be taken from this game, and that is, that county finals are important and serious games, and having a good and experienced referee is vital.

Fergal Kelly was referee, on Sunday last, with two good linesmen and active umpires.

What a change from the drawn game, when umpires saw nothing.

Early on Fergal made it clear who was boss, and punished players who were acting up, efficiently, firmly, and without too much talk.

He played a very even hand, without any panic, and without ever giving the impression that he was in any doubt.

He was very consistent, from the start right through to the very end. How refreshing. In the course of the game he issued several yellow cards. That’s what it took to control this game.

There’s a time for blooding referees, and it’s not the county final.

That should never be allowed happen.

Too often we see county finals being officiated by someone “whose turn it is”. That of course is utter rubbish.

The fact is, not every referee in the county is county final standard, through no fault of theirs. Just the same as every referee cannot officiate in Croke Park, so any referee who isn’t sufficiently proficient should not be given the task of county final day.

It’s unfair to the teams, who’ve toiled, year long, for this one day.

It was wonderful to see the pipe band featuring, and giving to the day a fitting element of pageantry.
On a positive note, the seats in the stands had been given a rough clean, for this game. It seems ungracious to say that they got a very haphazard clean, but plenty were still covered in grime.

Why can the county board not hire a few people to wash the seats properly? What would it cost - €200?.....€300....whatever it took, it should be done as well as possible. A bucket, soap and water.

Robbie Smyth - a really great forward with immense talent - was far too focused on trying to upset the opposition.

For him to score just one point in the entire game, illustrates everything that was wrong with Abbeylara’s approach.

By contrast, Paddy Berry played the game with all his heart and one would pity him for being on the losing side.

Similarly, we were sorry to see Conor Berry going off injured.

A powerful presence, and a fine footballer, it was sad to see him being stretchered off.

As the game wore on, it became more and more a case of asking how much would Mullinalaghta win by.

When Mullinalaghta won possession they used the full width of the field, particularly in the second half, and moved the ball very quickly, no player delaying on the ball for longer than it took to move it fast to another moving player.

They played some mesmerising patches of football, and again we had to admire how much they’ve achieved from such a small parish.

David McGivney was a deserving man of the match, he was imperious throughout.

One has to give mention to the terrible twins, Matthews and Brady; they were impossible to defend against once they spread the play over the width of pitch.

Mullinalaghta should enjoy their three-in-a-row. It gets harder as the number of titles starts ratcheting up.