The four provincial winners have eventually been decided with Dublin and Donegal winning their respective finals in Leinster, and Ulster joining Kerry and of course Mayo. I was in a very precarious position last Sunday at 1.30pm, sitting in 30 degrees of heat by a gorgeous pool in the Algarve, do I stay or do I go to watch potential opponents for Mayo. There was only one winner, I left the swimming pool as I would have been uneasy sitting, wondering what was going on. I happened to meet former Breaffy player Robert Fahy and two of his kids who were there for the same reason as myself, we wanted to see if the Dubs were beatable as most people felt Meath were the team to do it.
Dublin have been notable slow starters but not this time around, they devoured Meath from the get go and were relentless in their pursuit of scores. Meath did not help themselves with some wayward shooting and certainly they were not helped by referee Padraic Hughes’ decision not to allow an advantage for Stephen Bray’s goal when Dublin looked like they were pulling away. Hughes had allowed the advantage to work perfectly for the Dubs all day long so it was very strange for the Armagh official to blow his whistle early when Bray was clearly in on goal. If that goal was allowed there would only have been three points between the teams and who knows what might have happened if Michael-Darragh McCauley received a red card for a retaliation on his Meath marker.
Dublin’s wealth of talent is bordering on embarrassing and it has to be extremely difficult for Jim Gavin to pick his team. Michael Fitzsimons came in for Johnny Cooper before the start and did a brilliant marking job on Stephen Bray, resulting in the Meath sharp shooter getting hauled ashore. Kevin McMenamin put his super sub tag to bed in a man of the match display scoring 1-06. Dublin won their ninth Leinster title in 10 years and right now who can see anyone stopping them retaining the All-Ireland, I can’t anyway.
Jimmy has them winning matches again
The Ulster final was a real war of attrition and not very pleasing on the eye. Jimmy McGuinness had Donegal back to their defensive best in Clones, and the Monaghan players and management simply had no answer. At times Darren Hughes was left on the edge of the square on his own and had to try to win long range passes when there were seven Donegal players around him. It must be so frustrating for an opposing forward when you get smothered by five or six opponents and then to see your marker race down the field setting up an attack. Karl Lacey, Frank McGlynn, Anthony Thompson, and Ryan McHugh never stopped running from box to box all day. Apart from the defensive tactics on display Donegal had in the first half Odhran McNiallis and then in the second Paddy McBrearty, two forwards who scored some serious points from play. This game too could have hinged on a refereeing decision when Maurice Deegan missed a lunge by Donegal netminder Paul Durkan when a Monaghan goal looked a certainty. I will still never understand Monaghan’s decision to leave players isolated on the edge of their square while trying to load them with 60 metre passes. There were a lot of good forwards on show in Clones, three of the best in the country in Darren Hughes, Conor McManus, and Michael Murphy but they barely had a shot at goal. The moral of the story, never go behind against Donegal as it is a nightmare trying to claw back scores against them. My wish for now is for the four provincial winners to get through to the semis, and the thought of Donegal trying to smother that Dublin forward line will be intriguing to say the least.
The confusion as to who Mayo are due to play in the All-Ireland quarter finals is an embarrassment on the GAA. I spoke to more people in the know in Castlebar after Mayo´s win over Galway in the Connacht final and not one of them had any idea or how to figure out the draw. It is this simple so I am told, except for a huge upset of Sligo beating Cork. It is going to be Cork. No matter what happens in the other 4a qualifier between Tipperary and Galway, if Cork win, Kerry as Munster champions cannot play the team they defeated in the final, ie, Cork so Kerry will play the winners of Tipperary and Galway and Mayo will play Cork. The only way for an open draw is if Tipperary and Sligo win. It really should not be so confusing for the ordinary pundit.