The weekend’s action

Having missed the action over the last few weeks while we were away it was good to get immersed in what was going on in the championship over the weekend. I was in Croke Park with the kids yesterday to see what ultimately turned out to be an entertaining and close enough Leinster final but there was action all over the place at the weekend and the biggest stories of the championship over the last few days didn’t emanate from HQ.

The Kerry-Tyrone clash at Killarney was probably the match of the weekend – even if the hottest prospects to lift Sam this year were arguably lining out at the other end of the country yesterday – and the Kingdom’s emphatic victory in that one has definitely re-ignited their championship campaign.

It was a nasty, ill-tempered clash, one that ref David Coldrick struggled to control – providing further proof when doing so that infractions which can lead to straight red cards in the league often don’t warrant even a booking in high summer – but Kerry clearly deserved their win over what ultimately looked like a very poor Tyrone side.

The Kerry lads celebrated the laying of a particularly painful bogey in a ludicrously over-the-top manner – I thought at the time that it looked for all the world like their All-Ireland – and poor old Paul Galvin barely made it through the post-match interview on TV3 without blubbering uncontrollably in front of the nation.   When they calm down, though, they’ll surely realise that there are stiffer challenges – after their routine whipping of poor old Clare next weekend – up ahead if they’re to get close to a 38th All-Ireland title. That said, they’ll be a very tough nut for any of the provincial champions to crack at the quarter-final stage, ourselves included.

The other qualifier matches on Saturday went pretty much to form, even if the Fourth Best Team in the Country did have to endure yet another near-death experience. Limerick had them by the throat for much of the contest and, as the lads on The Sunday Game pointed out last night, a bit more cuteness right at the end – when Kildare were allowed to saunter from one end of the field to the other before Bolton rattled over the equaliser – would have seen the Shannonsiders home.

Instead, the Lillies march on to Round 4 where they face what could well be their Waterloo in the shape of Sligo. If Kevin Walsh has managed to get the Yeatmen’s heads sorted out following their narrow Connacht final defeat to our lads, then they have to have a great chance of taking down Kieran McGeeney’s muscular but ultimately quite limited Kildare.

It’d be great to see two Connacht teams in the last eight – the most recent time that happened was, I think, as far back as 2005 when ourselves and Galway both bowed out at the quarter-final stage – and with Leitrim’s heroic run coming to an end on Saturday night as well, it’s only the two of us left from the province now. Leitrim gave Laois a right good rattle up in Carrick but eventually got overhauled as the winning post came into view. They’ll take some heart from their backdoor run, however, which showed that there’s more to them than the lashing they suffered from us would perhaps suggest.

I didn’t see all of yesterday’s Ulster final but I saw enough of it to conclude that Donegal are now the form team in the country and are quite possibly the team to beat in this year’s championship. Yesterday’s emphatic win over Down sees them retain the Anglo-Celt Cup for the first ever time and their march to the Ulster title this year has seen them post a series of impressive tallies on the scoreboard. It was only in the semi-final slugfest against Tyrone that they managed a more modest return but in their other three matches they blitzed the opposition scoring a combined total of 5-47.

That’s some going for what last year was the most ultra-negative county team most of us had ever seen but it’s clear that Jimmy McGuinness has now added a potent attacking ability to their defensive armoury. The combination means that Donegal are now an incredibly difficult outfit to break down and you have to wonder who’ll be up to the task.

While the Kerry lads were euphoric at finally downing Tyrone’s colours on Saturday night, they surely won’t fancy jousting with the team that now appears to have taken up the Red Hand’s mantle. Such a contest would only, I reckon, go the one way and so the summer’s most shuddering contest looks like it could be one that’s likely to occur between Donegal and Cork at the semi-final stage. Whoever emerges from that one will be very short odds to lift Sam dish ear.

And so to yesterday’s Leinster final at Croke Park, the first Leinster decider between Dublin and Meath since back in 2001. It should, after those two injury time goals in the first half, have been been a canter for the All-Ireland champions but they dozed off at the point in the second half where they should have been sinking the knife in. Credit to Meath for making a contest of it but they never really looked capable of pulling it out of the fire.

With Laois up next for them this coming weekend, Meath are more than capable of turning things around – the six-day turnaround notwithstanding – and booking their place in the last eight. They could prove sticky enough customers at that stage too, as 2009 taught us to our cost.

Dublin, meanwhile, don’t look at all settled at the minute and the question about whether or not they really have the required appetite to defend their All-Ireland title remains an open one. Kerry would be the nightmare draw for them in the quarters, just as it would be the dream one for Jack O’Connor, but, if they avoid the Green and Gold and instead get the luxury of using the quarters to tune the engine a bit better, the champions will surely have a big shout in the destination of this year’s title. Sure, we might even run into them ourselves at the penultimate stage if all goes to plan.

The biggest talking point from Croke Park yesterday was, of course, Eoghan O’Gara’s disputed second half point, which was initially called as a wide before the decision was overturned by ref Marty Duffy following consultation with linesman Maurice Deegan. When contacted by The Sunday Game last night, the GAA apparently tried to claim that video evidence had nothing to do with the decision to allow the score but that’s obviously bullshit.

O’Gara’s shot was close to the right-hand upright but, in fairness to the umpire, he was perfectly placed behind the goal and must have seen that it was a point. Faced with a furious barracking from the Meath backs, however, he hesitated and then appeared to be instructed by Marty Duffy (who I thought handled the match well overall) to call it wide, which he duly did.

All hell broke loose then, however, as the incident was repeated in slo-mo on the big screen, the replay proving conclusively that it was a point. Pat Gilroy was going ape to Maurice Deegan on the sideline and HQ was filled with a cacophony of booing Dubs, which, in truth, sounded just like the din you hear when the opposition are about to take a free against them at Croke Park.

Joe Duffy must have thought that all his Christmases had come together but his raw material for a month’s Liveline disappeared in an instant when Maurice suddenly remembered that he had seen the ball go over the bar and Marty – despite the fact that he had apparently seen it go wide – instructed the umpire to raise the flag. Who needs Hawk-Eye, eh?

29 thoughts on “The weekend’s action

  1. A fine, entertaining piece as always WJ.

    Donegal looked fearsome yesterday alright – once it became clear in the second half that they had the legs on Down, they were utterly and impressively merciless. No-one will look forward to facing them.

    I’m secretly hoping that Kerry and themselves will be drawn together in the Q-F – that would mean Cork, Kerry and Donegal would all be on the opposite side of the draw to ourselves.

    On the subject of the Q-F draw WJ – I saw it rumoured that it was being made tomorrow in Castlebar – any truth in this? If so, we will have to be kept away from Kildare, as they’re playing Sligo – correct?

  2. Thanks, Davy. I think I saw that rumour floating about too but I can’t see how it could be true because it would place so many constraints on who is able to play whom. I’d say it could be as late as next Sunday, given what they’ve done in previous years.

  3. Good analysis WJ. I agree with most of it but I think after next week-end there wont be as much imbalance as we might have thought.

    I do not believe Donegal are that awesome. They struggled against Tyrone and Down were woeful in truth. I further think KIldare’s race is run. THey could actually find it hard enough to progress this week-end and that might be a shock to some people.

    I think Meath are no great shakes but what would cause concern from a Mayo point of view is that the Kerry sleeping dog has been roused in time for Croke Park and with possibly a match against Cork to further add flames to the fire ( I know the mixed metaphors abound!) we could all end up with a very familiar look to the FInal – Kerry v Dublin?

    I thought the tackling and cynicism of both Kerry and Tyrone shocking. Ryan McMenamin was shocking in his tactics as was Gormley but Kerry were no shrinking violets either.

    That is not legal or allowable football and it has to stop. The same people who lament loss of skill seem to see nothing wrong with dangerous and reckless challenges.

    I still have hope for Mayo but the sign in KIldare’s dressing room ‘ What can you do for your team? Shoot,Shoot,Shoot’ definitely would be relevant to us too.

  4. Cork and Donegal have probably looked the two most impressive sides so far, so glad they’re on the other side of the draw. That would be some match if they were to meet in the semi.
    Although I’d like to see how Donegal would fare against a side that could match them physically and fitness wise, a Cork or a Dublin.
    But we shouldn’t be overly concerned with other teams, just concentrate on ourselves. We’re there on merit, so let’s tear into whoever it is we meet.

    So is it the same situation as last year then, teams who met in a provincial final can’t meet in the QF? You’d think if that’s the case then they’d keep the draw to next Monday.

  5. What is happening in the Sportlann, Castlebar tomorrow at12.30 is the official GAA All-Ireland Series Football Launch for 2012. This usually takes place in Croke Park, but, following a visit and an inspection of the facilities in An Sportlann, it has been decided that the launch will take place there. It will start with an address by GAA President, Liam O’Neill. County players from all the provinces will be there, together with the media.

    What puzzles me is the timing of the launch – after 20 teams have already departed the championship

  6. Maybe Gráinne it is because the All Ireland series begins AFTER the Provincial championship ends. Thanks for the info btw.Agree thoroughly with Dan.

  7. What happened yesterday with the “video ref” giving the point was absolutely abominable. It should never happen again.

    What was clear from all the weekend matches were that goals change matches, and conceding them at bad times kills off your challenge. Tyrone conceded a goal at a very bad time, Down one right before half time when they were doing well, and Meath conceded 2 in the space of a minute! Conversely, if you get a goal it gives your own chances such a boost.

  8. Kerry should be out of this years championship, Westmeath were robbed rotten. Yet in all, they produced 70mins of football that I dont think any team in the country could live with. Can’t understand why McGuigan was sent off and the Kerry lad only got yellow for bursting an honest Cavanagh. Very impressed with Donegal, scoring 2-16 in 40 mins is impressive, they will be difficult to beat. As for Mayo the curse the Roscommon priest put on them in ’51 is still alive and well, did any of the lads on this blog hear about that one?

  9. Don’t see anything wrong with ref correcting injustice. Should happen a lot more in my view.
    As regards the curse the most benign thing I can say to that is watch out for the magpie too and ladders and definitely stay away from red haired ladies!

    The fault lies not within our stars but in ourselves!

  10. Agree thoroughly with Digits. Goals are the difference in huge championship battles.
    Although we were unsuccessful in our pursuit of them against Sligo and lost some easy points in the process I thought it was obvious from our efforts that James Horan appreciates this as well. It takes an almighty effort to get 3 points without reply in championship football to cancel out a goal. That is why they are such uplifters for the scoring team & such sickeners for the conceding team. I would go as far as saying that it is almost impossible to win in Croke Park unless you at least match the number of goals scored by your opposition.
    Here’s to us netting a few in the next month or two !

  11. Auld hat re the priests curse,James.That kinda shit
    should be left to Eamonn Kelly.(If hes not dead!!)

  12. On the subject of goals. Getting a goal and going for goal are two completely different events. Shouldn’t mix them up. Goals should be attempted really in a one-on-one situation or when there is space with a lack of defenders in and around the big square.

    Kerry would never have scored on Saturday if Tyrone had more defenders back. One of them would simply have blocked Donaghys run. Similarly Donegal’s two goals were one-on-ones with the keeper. Same with Brogans yesterday. They were all taken well mind you.

    Contrast those with our efforts against Sligo. None of our chances that fell under the brackets above (bar Andy’s disallowed goal). So taking the point (and score) should have been the proper choice. Unfortunately our lads failed to see this in the Connacht Final.

    I hope they get it remedied prior to Croker.

  13. Roger,

    That is a bit rough. Could have said it is bunkum. (which it is) Thats awful language

  14. i agree with that JPM , we were all taught the old adage by our trainers that you take your points and the goals will come , this is about taking a goal chance as it appears and not trying to manufacture one and thus over committing , losing the ball and coming out with no score at all. Andys disallowed goal was a classic case of a goal chance taken and the various attempts later were classic cases of taking too much out of the ball and coming away with nothing, in my humble opinion

  15. We scored 12 points against Sligo and when you contrast that with the big scores racked up by Kerry,Donegal & Dublin over the weekend I think we are going to need more than points to advance. Nobody is suggesting that we go goal mad but why are we not creating more one on ones or engineering simple finishes of the Sheehan to Donaghy variety at the weekend ?
    I hope I am proved wrong but I do not believe we can go toe to toe on points alone with many of the teams left. If we are not as good at doing certain things then we ought to be thinking of doing other things that we might be better at. There is more than one way to skin a cat !
    We do not have forwards of the quality of the Gooch, the Brogans, McFadden,etc.
    The boys on Hoganstand think we dont even have forwards of the quality of 37 year old Mac, Kilcoyne or dare I say it the Mort.
    A high work rate, a mean defense, a possession winning midfield will get us so far but I do believe we are going to have to think outside the box upfront.

  16. Looking at the weekends football, I couldn’t help but wonder if we have progressed at all really this year much compared to Donegal. Are we a better team than 12 months ago, when we came in under the radar and took a cork side that didn’t see us coming? I’d love to think now with Sligo behind us we are on route for the same again. Preferably against Down, and then Dublin and then Kerry in the Final.

    Rogermilla has a way with words, can’t say I disagree with his take on the “curse” though.

  17. As for Mayo the curse the Roscommon priest put on them in ’51 is still alive and well, did any of the lads on this blog hear about that one?

    Heard about the priest curse didn’t know it was a Roscommon priest.

  18. I don’t think it would be possible to do the draw till qualifiers were finished , too many perms..ie Sligo cant play Mayo/Dublin cant play meath/Donegal can’t play Down…would it not prove impossible to do the draw without knowing the outcome of the qualifiers?

  19. Draw next monday.

    Yea Roscommon priest responsible for Mayos woes.he led Mort astray too

  20. Monday’s leaving it awful late to let those involved teams know who they’ll be facing the following weekend. What’s to stop them doing the draw on Saturday night once the Round 4 qualifier matches have been played?

  21. The only curse on the mayo team down the years ,Was the county board dictating to the various managers who to play and where to play .one manager who has sadly passed away said he never seing such inteference in a team talk prior tp a connacht final against galway in castlebar in the early 70s think it was one where mayo were 14pts down at half time and lost by 2 or 3 it went on before that and it went on after that for years .not to mention the proffesion of the players , after all you couldnt have a guard a solicitor and a trveller man in the same foward line s who was dropped for the semifinal against kerry?

  22. I agree willie joe re the draw and it’s a right headache for people trying to book flights not knowing so late if we’re playing on the sat/sun or even monday.

  23. I heard the draw will be made after the Kerry-Clare match on Saturday. Not sure if it’s on tv or the radio. I’d imagine it’s on the radio as the Kerry game isn’t televised.
    You’d hope they’d do the draw as soon as all the qualifiers are over, especially for those of us who need to look at flights/accomodation etc.

    Is there anything confirmed about the order of games? Is it definitely a double header on the Saturday and Sunday, or could the Dubs have a standalone match on the bank holiday Monday (I’d imagine it would be if they met Kerry)?

  24. Even if the draw was on Saturday night the dates (Sat,Sun or Monday) won’t be decided until Monday. A chance the minors may play in Croke park also especially if Mayo get drawn v Tipp or Kerry.

  25. confusion regarding the draw is that the draw is taking place in sportlann tonight @ 9, but it is for our own county club quarter finals in senior and intermediate c.ship also relegation play off will be drawn. this is where the rumour comes from.

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