No shame in being defeated by the best team in the land

Sri-Lanka on honeymoon was the last time I experienced rain like we had last Saturday in Dublin during and for a few hours after the Galway and Kerry game.

It was crazy stuff. Sheets of rain belting down on you, that left you soaked to the skin in a few seconds flat. Jones Road was impassable and closed off after the game and the gridlock that followed around the stadium and down the M50 had to be seen to be believed.

It took some people more than six hours to get home to the west. If this summer – a misnomer this year - is an illustration of how global warming works, then God help us in the west of Ireland in the years to come. A canoe will be parked up by the car in the garage and an umbrella will become an essential part of our attire.

Thankfully the spectacle served up by Galway and Kerry was of such a high standard - the scores and ball handling were magnificent - that most people were prepared to take the pain that came afterwards. The score-line of 1-21 to 1-16 says a lot about the standard of fare on offer and a staggering 2-26 of that came from play which is unheard of in most games at this level.

It was a rip-roaring game, and considering the conditions in the second half, it is great credit to both teams that they served up such a humdinger. Galway put it up to the Kingdom for three quarters of the game, and then the experience and extra gears that Kerry have in their repertoire just shone through. Any team that can bring on subs like Eoin Brosnan and Tommy Griffin have a superb panel, and few teams can compete with that strength in depth.

It has been a solid and progressive season for Liam Sammon and his young team. A fair few lads have been blooded in championship action and there is a positive and vibrant mood in the camp that augurs well for 2009. The only two big defeats the team suffered were both to Kerry, and there is no shame in being defeated by the best team in the land and one that will take a lot of stopping in their quest for a three-in-a-row.

Two players really hit top form last Saturday in this tie. Michael Meehan gave an exhibition of quality forward play and his 0-10 (5fs ) was worth the entrance fee alone. Declan O’Sullivan was also in magnificent form and his four points from play and perpetual motion was a key reason why Kerry powered onto another clash with Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final. Their Achilles heel, though, is their full-back line where all three players, Marc O’Se, Tom O’Sullivan, and the substituted Padraig Reidy, found themselves in all sorts of trouble against Meehan and big Joe Bergin when he entered the fray.

It will be interesting to see what tactic Pat O’Shea drums up when they face Michael Cussen in two weeks’ time. As long as their full-back line creaks as it has done all season, their opposition will feel they have a genuine chance of snatching a few match-winning goals.

This Saturday the Dubs will take on Tyrone in a full house in the last of the All Ireland quarter-finals. Three years ago the sides played out a blinder that had to go to a replay before Tyrone marched on to annex their second title of the decade. However a lot has changed in the interim, and with guys like Peter Canavan and Stephen O’Neill having left the team and Owen Mulligan finding it difficult to get back to full fitness, the pendulum has swung strongly in Dublin’s favour.

Paul Caffrey’s men have been scoring freely and have hit an average of 1-21 in their three games to date, compared to Tyrone’s 1-14. A major cause of concern for the Dublin management team is an over-reliance on Alan Brogan for scores and he has hit 2-11 in the three games that they have won to reach this juncture. If Brogan was nullified by the likes of Conor Gormley, would Conal Keaney, Diarmuid Connolly, Jason Sherlock, or Tomás Quinn have the capacity to step into his scoring boots?

I fancy Dublin to come through this with a bit to spare, and if Shane Ryan and Ciaran Whelan maintain their form around the middle, the Tyrone defence will be under all sorts of pressure.

Dublin are evens at minus two in the bookies, and I think that is a good bet and one that I am prepared to follow in an effort to buy a state-of-the-art automatic rain sensitive umbrella for the new school year.

Of course now the children are back at school, the weather will probably pick up and it won’t be needed.


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