Much has been made of skirmishes which occurred in recent matches and triggered the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth.
way from the playing arena, these incidents also created seemingly endless debate, more than a modicum of uncertainty in relation to player bans and indeed frustration among followers.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a bit of needle and an element of controversy. I believe this adds to the overall spice of a game and it helps to sustain the interest of spectators.
Indeed, a match which holds out the prospect of a ration of needle will also mean more bums on seats than a game in which the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Take last weekend, for example. The pre-match atmosphere at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey immediately prior to the Donegal v Armagh game was electric to say the least while the pre-match build-up at Corrigan Park ahead of Antrim v Cavan was akin to a sedate tea party.
I was at both matches and I could scarcely believe the contrast.
While the Ballybofey game as a spectacle did not come up to expectations, it was still a very open contest with the sides deadlocked at 0-5 each shortly before the interval and everyone gripped.
Ultimately, the tie swung on a couple of incidents in a game which was fiercely contested. And I never heard a murmur of complaint about the intensity.
After all, Gaelic football is a tough, demanding contact sport. It makes huge physical demands on its players and it is parochial, tribal and passionate. And there’s nothing in the slightest wrong with all of that.
For the most part at the weekend I witnessed good-hearted football with four teams doing their utmost to deliver.
Obviously teams are always fired up for matches, but not to the extent that players want to see one of their number carted off to hospital.
Players train hard and play hard but it is important that their endeavours do not trigger the unseemly incidents which have blighted our great sport of late and indeed held the GAA up to ridicule in some quarters.
I welcome wholehearted commitment, players giving everything to the cause and referees showing a level of tolerance instead of being whistle-happy.
Championship football is accompanied by a keener edge than League football because the expectations are higher and the prizes on offer much greater but I don’t think anyone would want it any other way when all is said and done.
The Championship season is beginning to hot up and I’m sure that today’s Ulster Quarter-Final between Tyrone and Derry in particular will throw up many talking points, but sure where would we be without them? Life indeed would be hard to endure without the elixir of Championship football
Now, where did I put those knitting needles?
I have no problem with the All-Ireland Football Qualifiers. In fact, I welcome this particular element of the Championship because it can often provide what we would deem to be novel pairings that invariably create considerable interest.
But I have one reservation in relation to the Qualifiers — why do teams which have been knocked out of their provincial Championships have to wait for upwards on six weeks before they see further action?
While I am fully aware that provincial Championships have to be completed within a certain time frame, I think that the delay from the time certain teams exit the Championship until they see action in the Qualifiers is much too long.
I believe that this will impose its own pressures on managers and teams as they exercise patience in their bid to make their play for Championship honours.
I think managers will have a difficult task in keeping the minds of players focused on the job that is looming ahead and fans will also be deprived of seeing action at first hand.
Already teams such as Armagh and Mayo have been consigned to the Qualifiers and while the six-week period between now and when they next see action will afford Mayo in particular the opportunity to get some of their walking wounded back on board, Armagh are left to rue the fact that they were unable to build on their promising opening against Donegal.
I knew that there were always going to be teething problems with the current condensed Championship but it is only now when this is about to become a reality that we can appreciate the difficulties.
Armagh may almost feel they are out of the Championship but the fact that they will indeed get another bite at the cherry has to be of some degree of comfort to them.
Of course, it will be a source of frustration for Kieran McGeeney and the players to have to bide their time.
We had games coming on top of each other in the League and suddenly we are confronted by big gaps between matches at a time when fans are craving action.
From Armagh’s viewpoint, they will want to get back out and relish an opportunity to rectify the faults that ultimately led to their defeat by Donegal.
The team is capable of achieving a much higher level of performance and there is the possibility they can flourish in the Qualifiers.
I think the same can be said about Mayo. After all, they have been round a few corners and will not be entirely discomfited by that defeat to Galway last weekend.