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.
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.
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.
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.