The Gaelic football world is, understandably, all agog today at the brouhaha yesterday following Dublin’s evisceration of Westmeath in the kick-about formerly known as the Leinster football championship. Jim Gavin’s post-match outburst was hilarious at several levels – in particular the brazenly hypocritical one, given the filthy personal campaign that Dublin GAA proxies waged against Lee Keegan ahead of the replayed All-Ireland last year – but the Dublin manager’s unexpected departure from his usual mind-numbing blather isn’t really of any concern to us now.
Of more relevance from the weekend just gone by was the fascinating Monaghan/Down match on Saturday evening, in particular the result of that game. Monaghan would rightly be regarded as a top six team at present and they went into their Ulster semi-final clash with Down, who narrowly avoided relegation to Division Three in the spring, as strong favourites.
They should have won too, having missed a number of gilt-edged scoring chances early on and they would have surely have earned at least a draw if they had a better left-footed free-taker than Jack McCarron. But they looked a bit under-cooked, played accordingly and Down gratefully seized the opportunity presented to them.
Facing Ulster opposition ourselves the next day, that result deserves to be noted. The analogy is far from a perfect one, I know, but ourselves and Monaghan are Division One teams and while we can rightly claim to have a far, far better championship record than them, our latest reversal within Connacht proves we’re not exactly invincible either.
Down and Derry, meanwhile, aren’t a million miles apart from each other in terms of form and current standing in the game. The Mourne County had, I know, a morale-boosting win over Armagh in the Ulster quarter-final but Monaghan weren’t exactly filled with self-doubt heading to the Gaelic Grounds the other evening either, having already disposed of Fermanagh and Cavan and having thumped the same opposition twelve months previously.
I don’t want to labour the point, except to make the observation that any half-assed approach to this match on our behalf could leave us in bother next Saturday evening. If we fail to stamp our authority on proceedings right from the start and if Derry get a sniff that we’re not on our game then we could be in for a very difficult evening. That’s all I’m saying.
Which brings me nicely to that report in this week’s Connaught Telegraph (here) about a “secret” meeting the players had in the wake of the recent loss to Galway. Some secret alright, seeing as Stephen Rochford, so the report confirms, knew it was taking place. At the meeting, the paper claims, the players discussed “their recent performances and how best to regroup” following their latest loss to the neighbours.
Nothing revolutionary there and, to be honest, I’d be more concerned if the players weren’t getting their heads together to talk about how to reboot their summer campaign. Given they way they performed in Salthill, they clearly had plenty to talk about. Let’s hope we see evidence of this on Saturday evening.
More worryingly, the Connaught Telegraph, in a separate piece – here, says that Ger Cafferkey, Lee Keegan and Aidan O’Shea are all doubts for Saturday. Aidan clearly isn’t fully fit right now and it doesn’t look like this groin problem is going to go away any time soon. I’d say he’ll play some part the next evening but it’s very unlikely that he’ll line out from the start. Both Ger and Lee picked up knocks in their respective club championship games the weekend before last and it’s not clear what the story is with either of them. We’ll know more, I guess, as the week goes by.
Maurice Deegan is the ref for Saturday. I could go off on one – maybe do a Jimbo rant about rights we should enjoy in this Republic of ours – but what’s the bloody point? Deegan it is and so we must – in the psycho-babble vernacular – control the controllable there.
That was all slightly down-beat, I know, so let’s finish on a high: the latest edition of the Mayo News football podcast, previewing Saturday’s crunch qualifier clash with the Oak Leaf County, will be available around lunchtime today. Stay tuned for that.