THE SPORTING DIARY: Water break having a huge influence on games

SHOULD MAY0'S EOGHAN MCLAUGHLIN HAVE SEEN RED?

THE SPORTING DIARY: Water break having a huge influence on games

Has the introduction of the water break for the post lockdown games been the biggest game-changer Gaelic games has seen in recent times?
Once upon a time the half-time break used to come too soon for one team and not soon enough for the other. The half-time break allowed teams to re-organise and take stock.
Now with the water break, they get the chance to make adjustments much earlier. The water breaks are just one more opportunity for managements and it seems to have been a game-changer in quite a few matches.
For their two games to date, Donegal have used the water break well, especially in the opening championship game against Tyrone when they were 0-5 to 0-1 down.
On Saturday last they were 0-5 to 0-2 up against Armagh and once they got going in the second quarter they blitzed Armagh in a short 10 minute period.
The contest showed that if you drop your guard then a game can be over in that 10 minute period. Armagh were a shambles at that stage and would have welcomed a second water break around 28 minutes.
As a result of that blistering spell, Donegal are overwhelming favourites against Cavan on Sunday next in the final. They deserve to carry that favourites' tag and should be proud to do so. As a team they have been allowed to express themselves and that freedom has been rewarded to the benefit of the team.
But they also have to be mindful that games are not normally won over a 10 minute period. I'm confident that they have the mentality. After watching Saturday's game a couple of times the striking image is of Michael Murphy's reaction when Donegal gave the ball away in the dying minutes. Murphy wasn't pleased. Standards have been set and those standards must be maintained until the final whistle is blown.
It reminded me of what former Donegal player Martin Carney had said of Murphy in an interview just after the Tyrone game. He talked about the culture that has been developed by Murphy which will last into the future.
Make no mistake about it, Donegal will have to perform to the same levels as Saturday last if they are to take home the Anglo Celt for a third time in three years - which would be a remarkable feat for Declan Bonner and the squad.
Then apart from the prize of the Ulster title, there is an All-Ireland semi-final place up for grabs, something that Donegal have not experienced since 2014. Let's not speculate on who the opposition would be for that game, just keep the eye on Sunday's prize first.
We are being told that a new pitch is being laid at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh and watching last Sunday's semi-final on TV, the goalmouths at least will need that. Will the new pitch be safe for players at this time of year? The forecast is for a cold, dry day at this stage, which may help.
But it does beg the question, why was the game taken out of Clones this year? I presume it is connected to live TV with Clones having no floodlights. But surely the Ulster final could have been the first game on Sunday at 1 pm and no floodlights would be needed.

BIG DAY FOR DONEGAL
It will be a big day for Donegal GAA followers with the hurlers in Croke Park for the Nickey Rackard Cup final at 1.30. The game is live on TG4 Sport YouTube. And then at 4 pm supporters will be able to watch the Ulster final on RTE.

FOOTNOTE: The hurling 'heads' don't like people tinkering with the rules for the caman game, and have been especially defensive around the introduction of the 'black card'. But there have been a couple of incidents in recent weeks which should make them see sense. The first involved a player tripping a forward in full flight to goal with his hurl and then on Saturday last, Kilkenny's Huw Lawlor just holding on to the hurl of Galway full-forward Niall Burke and not allowing him get a strike at goal. A free and a yellow card is not sufficient punishment.
And the black card in football needs to be re-visited. The intervention of Mayo's Eoghan McLaughlin to 'take out' Sean Kelly of Galway as he was about to pull the trigger in the dying seconds of the Connacht final should be put forward as evidence. The comparison between that act and some of the minor offences that see a player black carded is mind boggling. McLaughlin's 'tackle' was reckless yet his punishment consisted of probably 90 seconds off the field before the final whistle went. At the very least he should miss the next game. And there needs to be a greater punishment against his team.

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