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TOP SCORES It is frustrating that Nphet ignored the brilliant work of the GAA and other sports organisations

Club series has been true revelation but we can't wait for All-Ireland


Dean Rock hit 1-8 in the final for Ballymun and always shows well on the big occasion

Dean Rock hit 1-8 in the final for Ballymun and always shows well on the big occasion


Dean Rock hit 1-8 in the final for Ballymun and always shows well on the big occasion

Are we there yet? Every parent will remember those long-distance road trips with their kids when this was the ever-present refrain from the back seats.

The GAA world is awash with similar sentiments as we anxiously await the commencement of the 2020 All-Ireland football and hurling championships.

Now don't get me wrong, the club championships - now almost completed in most counties - have been a tremendous success on so many fronts.

The clubs, players, officers and members displayed great responsibility and leadership by demonstrating how sport could be played in these difficult times.

They road-tested the template which hopefully will also ensure the completion of the All-Ireland series.

It is frustrating that NPHET ignored the brilliant work of the GAA and other sports organisations in showing how events can be run off without those attending picking up the virus.

I say that because NPHET hasn't produced a shred of evidence to suggest otherwise. Surely being outdoors watching a sports event in a regulated environment is one of the safest places to be on this Earth right now.

Scheduling an uninterrupted block of time for club fixtures and training was always an easy decision. But it worked better than anybody had anticipated.

The return to the grass roots of a previously endangered species - and I don't mean the corncrake - was the game changer. I'm referring, of course, to the inter-county player.

Normally the top players straggle back to their clubs after the All-Ireland series after being flogged to near exhaustion and probably carrying an injury. They are often unable to contribute in any meaningful way on the field of play to the club cause.


Having county players is a double-edged sword for clubs. They are great for profile - but due to the demands of the inter-county game their clubs rarely get the best out of them.

Newly-crowned Dublin champions Ballymun Kickhams are a classic example. They had six players on the Dublin squad, yet at club level they have underachieved.

This year they had their county contingent with them all during the summer and they reaped the ultimate benefit by winning their first county title since 2013.

One cannot understate the benefits of having inter-county players at club training. They drive the sessions, bringing the high standards they experience at county level back to their club.

There were other positives as well. The 'winner on the day' rule adopted by most counties brought real cut and thrust to this year's competitions.

Though I'm on record as being against the idea of a county final being decided on a penalty shoot-out, I acknowledge that the penalties added to the entertainment levels.

The spirit of Charles Kickham's famous book Knocknagow was very evident on every pitch in Ireland as players burst a gut for 'the honour of the little village.'

There were so many heart-warming stories. Dungannon Thomas Clarkes won their first county title in 64 years on penalties in Tyrone. There was Kiladangan's triumph in the Tipperary hurling final and Easkey winning their first Sligo hurling title in 57 years.

A first ever win for Naomh Máirtín's footballers in Louth - giving former county star JP Rooney a county championship medal at the age of 41, while in Fermanagh another veteran Marty McGrath inspired Ederney St Josephs to their first county title in 52 years.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, St Barnabas won their first New York championship with a team comprising exclusively of American-born footballers.

Let's not forget that sport is where we can still dare to dream, because occasionally David can slay Goliath.

Corofin's 49-match unbeaten run in the Galway championship was ended by Mountbellew-Moylough who now meet Moycullen in today's county decider.


And, as I alluded to earlier, Derrygonnelly Harps' bid for six titles in a row in Fermanagh was halted by underdogs Ederney.

Who knows, maybe all these heroic deeds will convince a county, other than Kerry, to really believe they can take the Dubs down in their drive for six?

By the way I'm delighted to see that an increasing number of GAA people are backing my call for the provincial and All-Ireland club championships to be played in January and February.

We will have a much-changed calendar next year and the newly-crowned county champions deserve a tilt at provincial and All-Ireland glory.

What a pity then that last weekend's two football finals in Dublin and Kerry were so disappointing.

Kerry's result was anticipated in fairness. East Kerry is now a real powerhouse in championship football in the county and nobody expected them to be beaten.

In their four championship games they conceded one goal and the average score against them was 0-9. They won this year's title without hitting top gear.

This merely reinforces my argument that the standard of the Kerry championship was, at best, average. But the final will still be remembered for one reason: David Clifford.


What more can I say about him? The definition of genius is exceptional intelligence or possessing exceptional skill. What makes David so different is that he ticks both boxes in terms of football intelligence and skill.

Though I might be accused of wearing my Kerry colours, I believe he is the best GAA player right now, by a country mile.

As I pointed out a few weeks ago he can be 'got at' - but I think he has learned lessons from his dismissal against St Kieran's in the Kerry quarter-final.

He doesn't have that explosive burst of pace that many other top-class footballers have. But as former West German World Cup-winning skipper Franz Beckenbauer once remarked, 'I may not be the fastest going from A to B, but the difference is that I don't start at A.'

Clifford is of similar ilk - he operates at a different level. His wonder goal in the Kerry final demonstrated what he can do.

With defenders converging on him and with little time or space on the ball, and a tiny target to aim at, he still nailed it with his so-called weaker right foot.

He scored similar types of goals in last year's county final and again in the quarter-final victory over St Kieran's. It is worth looking at his latest effort again on YouTube, just to observe how many skills David executed in milliseconds.

Look out for his movement off the ball and the speed at which he executes the shot - but watch in particularly his kicking technique.

Despite having little backlift, he still generated huge power in his shot. It was a wow moment.

As for the Dublin final, it was even poorer than the Kerry one.

Ballyboden St Enda's, the defending Dublin and Leinster champions, simply didn't turn up and the game was over as a contest before half-time.


Their forward play was even worse than Mid-Kerry's the previous night. They hit 0-5 from play, failed to score for 36 minutes and had a conversion rate of one scoring chance in five.

Credit Ballymun - they are a physically powerful team. Aside from their county players I was impressed by the contribution of two of their younger defenders, Darragh Conlon and Leon Young. Dessie Farrell might be interested in giving them a call.

I must also mention Dean Rock, who hit 1-8 in Ballymun's win.

He doesn't have the same high profile of other Dublin players, yet all Deano does is deliver consistently on the big occasion.

A couple of months ago I was texted by several people, criticising his decision to offer his services as a free-taking coach for a fee.

I'm sure the messages were designed to prod the bear and set me off on a rant against Rock. Sorry to disappoint my text fans.

The GAA is full of hypocrites who engage in sham amateurism. Fair play to Dean - he was honest and open about it, and I hope he makes a fortune.

Though the club championships were enjoyable, let's not over-egg the omelette. In terms of fitness, skill, quality and capturing the nation's attention, the All-Ireland series is still miles ahead of the club game.

The series is the GAA shop-window competition which generates the revenue needed to drive the other cogs in the wheel of the organisation. It must always have top priority and I can't wait for the 2020 versions to start.

Are we there yet? Nearly!