The World Cup has reached the quarter final stages, Wimbledon has almost reached its climax, yet the Provincial finals in the GAA championships have yet to yield their winners despite starting two months ago. When you think how fast these other tournaments are run off it makes you feel for the inter county players with the long drawn out season with gaps of up to six weeks between games. None of the big hitters has been eliminated in the football championship, and before you say what about Derry, they were never going to win the All-Ireland. One team I felt may be able to put it up to Dublin, physically anyway, was Monaghan. They are lucky to be still in the Ulster championship and they have no greater incentive to win their replay with Armagh than avoiding a replay against Tyrone in the qualifiers. Monaghan more than likely felt great about themselves after beating Tyrone, and clearly took their eye off the ball playing against Armagh, while probably looking ahead to an Ulster final repeat against Donegal without actually having qualified for it. They got the wake up call necessary and I am sure they will win the replay.
Our two old friends in Leinster, Meath and Dublin, were both very impressive in their respective wins, and although Meath fell asleep for 15 minutes of the second half, their opponents Kildare were woeful at times. If Dublin had scored half the chances they created early on against Wexford they would have won by 30 points, thankfully from a Wexford point of view Paul Mannion was rusty early on and scoffed a few gilt edged goal chances. Dublin have a panel most managers would only dream of. I got asked by a Dub over the weekend who I thought was the second best team in the country (behind Dublin of course ), and before I could argue my opinion with him he boldly told me it was the Dublin B team.
Although I do not agree with him he has a point. Dublin’s second string would beat 70 or 80 per cent of all the teams in Ireland; no matter what player they have missing it does not bother them. Bernard Brogan missing last weekend did not upset the apple cart, and when a player like Cian Costello can come in for 35 minutes and end up scoring 1-5 against Wexford, the cocky Dub I met may have a case in point. Wexford were pummelled by Dublin as many teams would be, which leads to the burning question; should there be a two tier All-Ireland? The hidings dished out by Down to Leitrim and Tyrone to Louth would make for a very strong argument. It must be soul destroying for Leitrim’s players, management, and supporters. I am sure there was a handful who made the long journey to Down to witness the one sided affair. I really struggle to see how they keep going year after year with never an end product. Although Mayo have not reached the holy grail since 1951, at least we are competitive against every team we play and ask someone from Leitrim or Louth or any other team that has shipped a hiding in the last few years, and they would bite their hands off to be in the position that we are in, competitive at the highest level. It is not possible for a team outside division one or division two to win the All-Ireland, and subject to being wrong we were probably the closest playing from division three in 1996. However the argument against a two tier All-Ireland was justified when Longford went to Celtic Park to take Derry’s scalp.
Major win for minors
What can you say about the Mayo minors? There is a lot of work to be done by Enda Gilvarry and co before they take on Roscommon in the Connacht final, as their win in Tuam against the old enemy was glorified robbery, but you have to admire their resilience. They were completely outplayed by a Galway side that was hotly tipped to win more than just Connacht. No back door for a losing minor team unless you are beaten in a provincial final so I am sure to Enda Gilvarry’s relief he will not have to come up against them again. You still have to give the Mayo guys serious credit for turning this one around. The biggest turning point was the dismissal of Galway powerhouse Michael Daly for a second yellow. Mayo got renewed confidence after he left the pitch to scrape home by the slimmest of margins. A major improvement will be needed against the Rossies to retain the title. Some of the qualifier games are likely to be very tight affairs this weekend but home advantage should count. A €10 accumulator on Limerick, Wicklow, and Tipperary would get you back €66.50. I’m staying away from the Munster football final as anything can happen when Cork play Kerry.