Newtown Blues' Cormac Reynolds and Peter Brennan of St. Joseph's will meet in the Louth Senior Football Championship quarter-finals. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
You've heard the story before. A team goes in at half-time in a first round championship match trailing by a mile. The manager does his best with his pep-talk, and after about 10 minutes tells his players to go back out and give it their best shot. They all get up to except one guy, the team veteran. He sits on smoking a cigarette. “What’s wrong,” asks the manager, “are you not going out?”.
“Well, the way it is, the longer I stay here smoking this cigarette the longer we stay in the championship.”
Why that came to mind when I heard that quarter-finals in Louth’s main football championship had been pushed back well into next month I don’t honestly know. Maybe it was because I was thinking the further the programmes go back the longer the least fancied - or any of them for that matter - keep their interest alive.
The original plan, around which a number of players, I’m sure, would have arranged holidays, was to play last-eight matches in junior, intermediate and senior over two successive weekends, the first of them beginning on Friday next. But now the senior matches are not to be played until the weekend of September 15, with all dates for finals changed accordingly.
Some, maybe most, managers can rightly ask how they are expected to keep their panels ticking over with only one competitive league tie in seven weeks - last weekend’s. But there are others who probably welcomed the delay, allowing their players to overcome injury, and in some cases serve out a suspension. Word has it one-time senior kingpins, St. Patrick’s, could be drawing them in from all over the globe, and not that they would appear to need strengthening having blazed a trail in the league this season, title-holders, Newtown Blues, might also be extending a failte abhaile to a few travellers.
From a followers’ viewpoint, it doesn’t make sense that some of the summer's most suitable dates are allowed to go unused, with the possibility of finals being played in less favourable weather than we’ve enjoyed in recent times. In contrast to the situation in this county, the All-Ireland senior football championship has had quite a cluttered run-up to the final. Though it was planned, in this the first year of the Super-8s, to play last weekend’s semi-finals within seven days - less in the case of Dublin - of the last round of the new series, a fair strain was put on the four qualifiers, not to mention supporters’ pockets.
The guess is that if there’s to be a tweak to this new innovation, it will involve giving more time leading up to the semis.