I thought I was being nice and clever before yesterday’s county final, thinking I’d park up the town and casually sneak into Cusack Park through the lower gate, especially when I knew most of the crowd would be coming in from the east side of the town.
I was wrong. The gate was closed. As I made my way up to the main entrance, the queues were nearly back to the Friary. It was no surprise when the announcement came over the loudspeaker. ‘Match delayed 15 minutes.’
As I made my over to the North stand, I noticed the referee Johnny Healy out on the pitch going through a series of sprints. About 20 minutes later, Johnny was still going through his routine. I was afraid he’d get a cramp and they’d have to call on the standby ref.
It was all wrong. Did the county board not think there was going to be a large crowd, especially when the weather was so good? Why didn’t they open at least one of the other three areas of entry?
You’d think in the current environment that the last thing any organisation would want is to have everyone congregating around the same place, and trying to get in the one entry point?
Whatever about supporters, it’s infuriating for players and management teams, who plan these days down to the last second. Inagh/Kilnamona stayed out on the pitch while Ballyea came back up into the far end of the North Stand. Don’t ask me why the dressingrooms aren’t being used — you can have thousands inside in a stand but you can’t have 30 lads in a dressingroom. It makes no sense.
I just felt it was no way for players to be treated before the biggest day of the club year. That extra 15 minutes is a long time when you’ve already gone through your warm-up routine. Inagh/Kilnamona won’t use that as an excuse but I’m sure they were asking themselves yesterday evening if it contributed to such a poor showing in the first quarter.
Nobody knows which approach was right but Ballyea retreating to the stand and just taking a time out probably showed their greater county final experience, especially when the weather was so unnaturally warm for mid-November; it was 16 degrees when I got out of the car; it was hard to see the far side of the pitch at times from the sun.
It wasn’t a great game but it was reflective of what was at stake, especially for Inagh/Kilnamona as they chased a first title. Ballyea just had that greater know-how, especially from Gary Brennan who had a massive game. They had that extra bit of pace too around the pitch.
Ballyea are just warriors. They know how to win the dirt