Cork’s year-long ‘drought’ over but Arse­nal’s looks set to con­tinue

Arse­nal may well need the sig­na­ture of an Ar­gen­tinian. Lionel? No, Fran­cis.

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports - Mary Han­ni­gan

We all have our own def­i­ni­tion of sport­ing droughts. “It’s been a while,” TG4’s Gráinne McEl­wain said to player of the match Doire­ann O’Sul­li­van after Cork had seen off the chal­lenge of Done­gal in Satur­day’s All-Ire­land semi-fi­nal at Dr Hyde Park. “Well,” she added, “it’s been a year.”

“It has,” said O’Sul­li­van, like that was a life­time and a half.

The ‘drought’ is, then, over for Cork and , they’ll be back in Croke Park for the first time since the 2016 de­cider next month where they’ll at­tempt to de­throne reign­ing cham­pi­ons Dublin and make it 12 All-Ire­land ti­tles in 14 years, the play­ers ev­i­dently rav­en­ous for suc­cess after ex­pe­ri­enc­ing such a bar­ren run.

Curse

The men of Mayo, you’d imag­ine, could only look on and weep. But if in 12 months’ time they fi­nally shake off that curse and win their first se­nior ti­tle since 1951 they will look back to that mo­ment at Knock Air­port on Sun­day when Pope Fran­cis au­to­graphed a Mayo jersey and re­gard it as an in­ter­ven­tion of the di­vinest kind. A mir­a­cle, even.

Of­faly’s drought hasn’t quite been as lengthy, dat­ing back to 1982 in foot­ball and 1998 in hurl­ing, but to the county’s faith­ful it prob­a­bly feels in­ter­minable. You need to be sen­si­tive to peo­ple en­dur­ing such pain, which is why you could only feel sorry for the man in the Of­faly train­ing top who turned up at Croke Park on Satur­day with his fam­ily to see the Pope. “As an Of­faly man, you don’t get to Croke Park of­ten,” Bláth­naid Ní Cho­faigh chuck­led and you sensed if he had vo­calised his thoughts at that mo­ment he would have had to spend a month in the con­fes­sional box. Which, in­ci­den­tally, is prob­a­bly where those for whom Satur­day’s highlight was hear­ing a fa­mil­iar voice dur­ing the pope’s ad­dress at Dublin Cas­tle should head. “It’s Manuela!”

Yes, it was Gio­vanni Tra­p­at­toni in­ter­preter Manuela Spinelli who was trans­lat­ing the Pope’s words for us, the last we’d heard her dul­cet tones when she was try­ing to ex­plain to us what Gio was on about when he was talk­ing about cats in the sack and the like. It is highly un­likely there is any­one on this planet who has a more var­ied list of clients than Manuela, although, when you think about it, Gio thought he was in­fal­li­ble on the tac­ti­cal front, even if it re­sulted in most of us los­ing the will to live when we watched his teams play.

Which, of course, is how many an Arse­nal fan has been feel­ing in re­cent times, the new Unai Emery era pretty much pick­ing up from where Arsène Wenger left off. Arsene, by the way, turned up on our telly screens last week, the BBC re­port­ing on his trip to Liberia where his for­mer Monaco player Ge­orge Weah, now the coun­try’s pres­i­dent, had de­cided to be­stow on him the ti­tle of Knight Grand Com­man­der of the Hu­mane Or­der of African Redemp­tion.

Need­less to say, there were un­pleas­ant types who felt the need to point out this ti­tle would be Wenger’s first since Arse­nal won the 2004 Premier League. Any­way, Wenger spoke about how he has filled his time since leav­ing Arse­nal,

‘‘ you could only feel sorry for the man in the of­faly train­ing top who turned up at Croke park on satur­day with his fam­ily to see the pope

part of it taken up with sit­ting for hours “con­tem­plat­ing the hori­zon”, an ex­pe­ri­ence Goon­ers might have en­joyed a lit­tle more than watch­ing the bulk of Satur­day’s first half against West Ham. “Scor­ing goals won’t be a prob­lem for Arse­nal this sea­son, but de­fen­sively they will have prob­lems,” said Alan Shearer on Match of the Day, not­ing both full-backs were so high they were nearly in In­ver­ness.

Anal­y­sis

But this anal­y­sis of Arse­nal’s de­fects is some­thing Alan Shearer has been say­ing on Match of the Day for a decade-ish at this stage, giv­ing it all a Ground­hoggy Day feel. But at least they pre­vailed on Satur­day, com­ing from be­hind to win. “No emer­gency at the Emi­rates as Emery’s em­bry­onic em­pire is em­pow­ered,” said Gary Lineker, which was, ad­mit­tedly, ab­so­lutely acutely aw­ful al­lit­er­a­tion. Still, the ti­tle drought will most likely go on.

But if Mayo win next year’s All-Ire­land, Arse­nal will know what sig­na­ture they’ll need, that of an Ar­gen­tinian. Lionel? No, Fran­cis.

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