Off the Air

Charlie Collins

Tyrone still the team to watch; Eoin Bradley critics over the top

Rory Kavanagh
TYRONE’S conveyor belt remains alive and well. When it seems as if other counties bring on one or two players each year, Tyrone are capable of taking in six or seven – and Mickey Harte has done it again this year. They’re back in the McKenna Cup final again.

It is no surprise to see Cavan and Tyrone contesting a final – they are two teams with youthful experience who have been powerful at minor and under-21 level in recent years.

Tyrone enjoyed a great start against Derry in last week’s semi-final but, as the game went on, the experience of Derry started to show. Derry took a number of experienced men, like James Kielt off the bench and Brian McIver felt that his side should have won the game. They had their chances, but didn’t take them and Tyrone made the hay.

Their attack is quite formidable now with Ronan O’Neill, Conor McAliskey and Matthew Donnelly, all good players who have emerged as option for the Red Hands. Mickey has again done  a good job in getting these boys moulded for the rigours of inter-county football fairly quickly.

It’s hard to know what to make of Derry. Eoin Bradley is a massive loss to their forward line. He’s banging in the goals for Coleraine in the Irish League. Has Eoin played his last game for Derry? I suspect so. He’s one of the most talented and prolific forwards in Ulster.

The slating he has been getting from GAA people has bordered on the downright disgraceful, though.

In my playing days I managed to play a bit of soccer for Finn Harps as well as playing for Donegal. It was a different era, principally because we used to play some of the National League before Christmas, we’d have a six-week winter break and then we’d resume with four matches. Now, teams are in doing gym work, doing strength and conditioning work – basically they don’t get time off.

Derry can’t really afford to lose Eoin Bradley, but you can’t blame the lad. He’s a young lad who has already said that he’s building a new house. Sure, it’s not ideal that he’s decided that he’s better off getting a few quid playing for Coleraine than by togging out for the Derry senior team – but that shouldn’t mean a public pillorying.

In time there could well be more Eoin Bradleys.

It’s sad for Derry, but those slating them really should walk a few steps in Eoin Bradley’s shoes to see what they’d do.

There was another interesting story with a soccer-GAA slant on it this week with the re-emergence of Joe Coll. He played over at Manchester United, but came back and was on Derry City’s books last year. He’s playing a bit of soccer now with Glenea United and is training with the Donegal Under-21s. His is a fantastic story.

He is back now doing his Leaving Cert and you wonder about his timeline. I met him a couple of weeks ago, though, and he was telling me that he was one of four goalkeepers at his level in United and the team maybe only had a dozen games per season.

Out of the blue last weekend he got player of the tournament with the PFAI players in Norway – and he’s back on the radar.

He could be a big addition to Maxi Curran and the Under-21s. I remember him playing midfield for Cloughaneely, but Maxi has him in as a goalkeeper.

Duffy’s cut

PARAIC Duffy had a right old cut at Donegal in his annual report, released on Tuesday. While I think he was both over the top and unfair with some of the comments, his general sentiment was probably right – it was just the way he went about it that stuck out.

Particularly with his comments in relation to the biting incident involving Patrick McBrearty, he misses the point that here we had a nineteen-year old player who was effectively like the rabbit caught in headlights. Patrick shouldn’t have had to go to Croke Park simply just to hang another player out to dry.

Duffy was right when he says that clubs must take a large portion of blame in relation to the fixture scheduling – but he was wrong just to single out Donegal.

Is Donegal the only county to wait until their senior team is out of the Championship before starting its SFC? No. Plainly there are several other high-profile counties who do this, but perhaps the problem in Donegal was that it caught the national headlines and went so public.

Paraic’s general sentiment is about protecting the clubs – and he’s right on that end of it.

That said, it wasn’t fair that he chose to pinpoint Donegal.

A royalty good deal

O’Neills have a great tradition of supporting the GAA. Since the day dot, it seems, the talk is of young players ‘getting an O’Neills’ in their hand in reference to the footballs. They’re a great GAA company and it’s great for Donegal to be back involved with such a professional bunch of people.

O’Neills are branching out into the rugby world, getting involved with Harlequins and London Irish are going on board, too. That is a fair illustration of the quality of their merchandise.

Something that struck me on Monday was the announcement by Kieran Kennedy, the O’Neill’s Managing Director, that they employ 130 people in their plant in Strabane – so it’s fantastic that Donegal GAA is in a deal with a company that is providing jobs to the people of this county.

They’re a company that is going from strength-to-strength and it’s interesting to note that they manufacture the jerseys for thirty of the thirty-two counties. I got talking to Kieran at what was a very professional launch on Tuesday evening and we’re all looking forward to a successful partnership.

Fair play, too, to the Donegal County Board for negotiating a deal that means they earn royalties from EVERY single item of O’Neill’s-branded Donegal gear sold from now on.

Big meeting

THERE is a big meeting of Donegal’s clubs on Monday night with around fifty-odd motions relating to regulations up for discussion, most of them relating I think to the make-up of the All-County Football League.

There’ll be nothing decided on Monday, but it’s really to garner thoughts ahead of the county committee meeting the following week.

The county lads are putting in massive effort and there’ll be minimal game time for the county players in the All-County League.

There is a proposal in for a sixteen-team Division 1 league that would have fifteen matches, alternating home and away fixtures from year to year. That would be a cut down of three games for clubs.

There is a suggestion within the proposals that the League final should return, but I don’t agree with that. I think it’s simple: If you’re top of a League over a timespan of 18 games then you deserve to get the silverware. To state otherwise would plainly be unfair to the team that does so.

There are a massive amount of managerial changes among the senior clubs for 2014 and some of them may see the League as a key chance of a trophy. There are well over half of the senior clubs in the county who will be under new management teams for the coming season.

Have you a comment to make on any of the above, or would you like Declan to raise an issue in the column? If so, you can get in touch by emailing d.bonner@donegalnews.com