Another weekend gone from the summer and gone too from this year’s football championship are a further six counties, with the number still in the hunt now cut back to just fourteen. The weekend also resulted in the first county – Dublin – filling one of the eight slots in the All-Ireland series. Slowly but surely, we’re inching towards the business end of things this year.
Let’s start with the Connacht perspective and the contrasting fortunes encountered yesterday by Galway and Roscommon. I strongly fancied both to make it through and both should have but the Rossies imploded coming down the closing stretch and got caught by a game Fermanagh. Cormac Reilly’s latest refereeing blunder (his continuing inclusion in the so-called elite reffing roster surely demonstrates beyond doubt the GAA’s utter disinterest in officiating standards) gave the Erne County a lifeline. With a five-point lead and only five minutes to go, though, the Sheepstealers really have only themselves to blame for losing this one.
It’s a shocking – and too early – end to Roscommon’s football year, coming on the heels of very encouraging progress made (and all those hidden-away cups won) in the spring. Dessie Dolan, however, mentioned on The Sunday Game last night that he knew from his sources within the county that they’d done enormous work before last Christmas and so were firing on all cylinders far too early in the year. That’s great if winning the FBD, or even moving up in the League, is your target but if that’s the course they were following then the price they paid yesterday was a very heavy one for a team with ambitions of going somewhere.
Galway, by contrast, were flying yesterday up in the Athletic Grounds. It looked for a while that they were going to give Geezer’s lads a real thumping but their inability to score in the final 25 minutes meant their margin of victory was far lower than it really should have been. This morning the Tribesmen pulled a home draw against Derry (winners over Wexford on Saturday) in Round 3B and they’ll now be very confident of progressing to the final twelve.
The other Round 3B clash is a really fascinating one. Tipperary were highly incensed at the carry-on of Tyrone in this year’s U21 final some months back and there was no love lost between the two counties after that Parnell Park meeting. Now they’ve been paired together at senior level, where Tipp’s dash will be pitted against Tyrone’s dourness, the former having beaten Louth out the gate in Thurles on Saturday while the latter got the better of Meath in same afternoon up in Omagh. Home advantage, not to mention the desire to right a perceived injustice from that U21 decider, could well swing this one the Premier County’s way.
Yesterday’s Leinster final was interesting enough up to half-time but as riveting as watching the clothes drying on the line in the second half. Westmeath didn’t get the pasting that was feared, but they still lost by thirteen, and while they made a reasonable – though not wholly successful – fist of trying to erect a defensive shield, the price for that was their own woeful six-point tally over the seventy minutes.
What was, perhaps, encouraging for the rest of us mere mortals was how poor Dublin looked. Faced with Westmeath’s modest shutdown tactics, Dublin took a long time, in a performance laced by repeated unforced errors, to find a decisive way through. I thought their midfield looked very suspect – MacAuley is unfit and was pretty indisciplined to boot and Fenton, while talented, appears far too raw for when the real stuff starts – and their famed bench, with the decidedly average Paddy Andrews the first new man to be introduced in the forwards, no longer has the appearance of the cavalry’s arrival about it.
It won’t have done Dublin any good either to have sealed the Leinster title yesterday (no talk of completing the five-in-a-row there) at what was little more than walking pace. With almost certainly either or Cork or Kerry to come next for them in the quarters, they’ll need to prepare pronto for a very sharp spike in intensity compared to what they’ve experienced to date in the championship.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning the ladies who lost what sounded like a real ding-dong Connacht final to Galway yesterday. It was a cruel loss, by the minimum margin, after a battling display where once again Cora Staunton was her peerless self, racking up 1-15 of her team’s 1-17 total. Colm Gannon’s match report for the Mayo Advertiser on yesterday’s provincial decider is here.