Published Sunday, 15 July 2012
"When you don't need to worry there'll be days like this. When no one's in a hurry there'll be days like this. When you don't get betrayed by that old Judas kiss. Oh my mama told me there'll be days like this."
When you don't need to worry... Going into the game Antrim had little to worry about as all the pressure was on the tribesmen. Last year's All-Ireland U-21 champions, playing league football in division two, and a county who have won two Senior All-Irelands in the last fifteen years. Having lost their last three qualifiers games by a single point, the bookies were still prepared to offer the Saffrons at 4/1 in some places. No need to worry.
When no-one's in a hurry... Antrim got their tactics spot on. They went out with a very deliberate game-plan based on Mark Sweeney dropping back as sweeper with both wing forwards Conor Murray and James Loughrey filtering back also. In short, Antrim played with 12 men behind the ball, tackled like demons, suffocating the Galway attack. Their opponents looked a little shell shocked at the way the game was panning out and their attempt to mirror the Antrim model lacked the same intensity. This game wasn't pretty and perhaps because it was my own county involved, for the first time, I actually felt a little sad at what gaelic football has turned in to. But this is the new way and as long as you win then it is ok?
Most teams set up in similar fashion defensively, some are just better at executing it than others. After watching Saturday's match, I now know why Galway, a team who have won three All-Ireland under-21 titles in the last 10 years, have consistently failed at senior level. They cannot or will not adapt to modern tactics. They seem to be the one team in the country intent on continuing with a traditional style of play. But Antrim played the patient game. They soaked up the pressure, most of their attacks came to nothing, but they realised that if they could stay with Galway entering the last ten minutes then their chance would come.
When you don't get betrayed by that old Judas kiss... How many times have we witnessed it over the years? God knows I was involved in enough of them. Threatening to pull off the big victory and then in a split second you get hit with the sucker punch. An off colour Micheal Meehan uncharacteristically fumbled when the goal looked the easier option. Old stalwart Padraig Joyce looked to have landed the 'Judas', but with the goal at his mercy a point kept us close enough and still in with a chance.
Oh my mama told me... and then it presented itself. The two McCanns had kept us in the game with their long range point scoring, and just on the cue of full-time, Tomas came up with the equaliser. Then the most unlikely of match winners would present himself onto the big stage. I am fairly sure Deaghlan O'Hagan has never started a championship game for Antrim, or kicked a score in a competitive game.
Oh my mama told me... In 2009, Saffron spirits were raised as we reached our first Ulster final in almost 40 years.
So much promised, so little delivered since, let's hope there will be more days like this.