Photo: Mayo Advertiser
There was plenty of championship football on yesterday and today, both of the local club variety and at inter-county level as the early season provincial and qualifier action continued apace.
Club stuff first, where, when the music stopped in the late afternoon today, the identity of those who’d made it to the quarter-finals, those eliminated and those dragged into the relegation play-offs were revealed in both the senior and intermediate championships. Mayo GAA have a handy summary of all this (here) and the Mayo Advertiser has a round-up of the weekend’s action (here).
From a county perspective, it doesn’t appear that there’s been any new injury scares arising from the weekend’s club action. David Clarke didn’t line out for Ballina, though, due to an unspecified knock picked up in midweek but Cillian O’Connor, Alan Dillon and Andy Moran all saw action off the bench for Ballintubber and Ballaghaderreen respectively.
Onto the inter-county scene where the main focus of today’s action was at Croke Park, with the Leinster football semi-final double-header drawing a crowd of over 50,000 to HQ.
We got there at half-time in the curtain-raiser, the match between Meath and Westmeath, and I was a bit hacked off to see that Meath were seemingly coasting to victory in that one at the midway point. I’d hoped that the day’s first match might at least be competitive, as there seemed precious little hope that the Dublin-Kildare one would be.
The second half between Meath and Westmeath saw the unfolding of an extraordinary comeback story, however, with the Lake County overturning an eight-point half-time deficit to win by four. The win was their first ever in the championship over the Royals and central to this achievement were two-goal hero Kieran Martin and Westmeath’s marquee man up front, John Heslin, who ended the day with 1-9 to his credit.
Some were quick to point to Westmeath’s uplifting win in support of the argument that change is not required to the structure of the football championship. I’m not so sure about this. Results like today’s are very much the exception rather than the rule and when Westmeath are torn to shreds by Dublin in the Leinster final, as they surely will be, then this historic win will rank as little more than a footnote in a provincial contest that is now utterly devoid of any competitive impetus.
Dublin proved this in pretty brutal fashion in the way they ripped though Kildare in today’s other Leinster semi-final. The Dubs were very, very good but poor Kildare were worse than awful and once they’d conceded those two early goals the match was reduced to target practice for their opponents.
The pace dropped completely after the break, with Dublin easing off for much of the second half while Kildare repeatedly lost their way and lost control of the ball every time they attempted to gain a foothold in Dublin’s half. Near the end, Dublin upped the ante once again and more goals – as well as the continual drip-feed of points – followed. The Short Grass County ended up taking a massive 19-point beating at the finish.
Dublin will inevitably seal a fifth successive Leinster title next month, their tenth in eleven seasons, where there’ll be very little fanfare when they complete this particular provincial five-in-a-row. If in Connacht the general perception is that the gap between us and the chasing pack is narrowing as we aim to close out on five successive Nestor Cup titles, in Leinster it’s abundantly clear that an already yawning chasm between Dublin and everyone is widening all the while.