It’s a gloriously warm and sunny summer’s morning here in the capital, with the only problem being that’s it’s also a Monday morning with a whole pile of work to get sorted. It’s also the longest day of the year and while a little part of me dies every time we reach this annual turning point – given that it’s now downhill all the way to those miserly short days in deepest winter – it does mean that the midgets will be finishing up school shortly and I think we’re all beginning to nurse some hopes that this particular summer may not go the way of the last three rain-sodden efforts we’ve had to endure.
We’re back in action this coming Saturday evening in the first round of the qualifiers but the weekend just gone was a quiet enough one on the football front, with the hurling – where Kilkenny’s dreary drive for five is set to be the dominant feature of that code this summer – claiming centre stage. But there was football action in Connacht, where the Rossies took advantage of the soft draw they enjoyed this year (one we were given twelve months back) to claim their first Connacht final appearance since 2004. While they won decisively enough in the end, Leitrim gave them a game of it for a good while before their lack of a cutting edge in the forwards began to tell.
A county with such limited resources as Leitrim simply could never hope to adapt sufficiently to the loss of players like Emlyn Mulligan, Derek Maxwell and Colin Regan, not to mention the tragically deceased Philly McGuinness. Before the match, Mickey Moran said that the combined blows of injuries and emigration had deprived them of ten players and, seen in that light, it’s a wonder they gave the Sheepstealers a game at all.
Roscommon’s win means that they’re now, at worst, certain of a place in Round 4 of the qualifiers but they will, of course, be hoping to fell either Galway or Sligo with an unlikely haymaker in the provincial final. On yesterday’s evidence you’d have to say that such an outcome would be a little far-fetched but if the match is played at Hyde Park (which I think it will be, regardless of whether it’s Sligo or Galway), the chances of such an outcome occurring must be at least slightly better.
Elsewhere, Meath’s win over Laois sets up a tasty Leinster semi-final with Dublin next Sunday. We were at HQ in the rain for the Dubs’ bizarre extra-time victory over Wexford and we’ll be heading there again this coming Sunday where hopefully they won’t need to turn on the floodlights to illuminate the action. Dublin’s blanket defence made heavy weather of it against Wexford’s lively forwards so I think Pat Gilroy will need to rethink his plans if they’re to keep Meath’s attack under wraps. I’d nearly fancy the Royals to win that one.
Up north, Tyrone – like Kerry down south – seem grimly determined to reach the All-Ireland series via the front door dish ear. Down were a big disappointment in Saturday night’s encounter and they lost their way completely in the second half, despite the fact that they had a stiff wind at their backs and were still well in the game at that stage. I remain unconvinced, though, by Tyrone (how long can those ould fellas keep haring about the pitch in that high-intensity manner of theirs?) and if those free-shooting Monaghan lads start to find their range against them in the Ulster final (assuming the Farneymen get past Fermanagh first, which they surely will), Mickey Harte could find himself landed, along with the Rossies, with a detour to Round 4 of the qualifiers.
At least they’re guaranteed (at worst) such an outcome – we have three rounds of the qualifiers to win before we even get to this position. But – like the economy and the banks and all that crack – we are where we are and beginning at Pearse Park this coming Saturday, we need to start digging ourselves out of this hole we’ve made for ourselves.