At least one wish eventually occurred that I was hoping for as the four provincial winners are through to the semi-finals in the football championship, Mayo and Donegal by the skin of their teeth, Dublin and Kerry in a canter. It seems the day of having an All-Ireland winner that comes through the qualifiers is well and truly gone. Not since Kerry navigated their way in 09 have we had a winner through the back door. For the first time in GAA history the four provincial minor winners are also the same as the four provincial senior winners.
Dire to watch but credit where it is due
The Donegal and Armagh quarter-final was a dire spectacle but what else did we expect. Some of the antics that went on were deplorable, mostly from an Armagh point of view, and when Aaron Findon shoved the Donegal doctor to the ground while he was trying to attend to Karl Lacey he should have been shown a straight red card. I hope not many more team doctors make headlines for the rest of the year. Findon could have been sent off on three occasions, along with the shove on the Donegal medic he clattered Michael Murphy at the throw in, and with help from Aidan Forker they had a right go at Lacey. Armagh went for the siege mentality approach, no talking to the press, no team pictures; it’s us against the world, which is a bizarre approach to take as you are only going to annoy everybody. They were very fired up and when you watched their manager Paul Grimley on the sideline you could see why, it took several interventions from Kieran McGeeney to stop him having altercations with some Donegal players. At least he was gracious in defeat and hugged Jim McGuinness at the end like he was his long lost brother. I more than anyone loved trying to get under my opponent’s skin during the heat of battle and said some things to players I would not be proud of so watching Aidan Forker give Colm McFadden a piece of his mind after McFadden scoffed a shot harmlessly wide was amusing to say the least. I have no doubt McFadden reminded him of his All-Ireland medal and All-Star. That type of banter goes on all the time but as long as it stays on the pitch that is the most important thing. Players turn into different animals when they cross the white line. Donegal have to be given huge credit for winning because they looked in real trouble when the ball deflected off Paul Durkin's leg and into his own net to put them behind in the 60th minute, but the lesson here is simple, when you need a score get the ball to your shooters as Frank McGlynn firstly laid off to Michael Murphy for the leveller instead of taking the shot on himself, and for Paddy McBrearty’s winner the ball was offloaded several times until McBrearty got the space.
A dream that turned into a nightmare, for Monaghan
I had a dream last week that Monaghan beat Dublin and opened up the All-Ireland for the remaining teams but then I woke up. Dublin have scored an average of 2- 22 in their four games this year and they duly obliged with another master class last Sunday scoring, you guessed it- 2-22. They have won their four championship games this year by a combined total of 60 points, very reminiscent of Mayo last year. Who would have thought that they would score so heavily when they had only three points on the board in the 25th minute. It looked like Monaghan had their homework perfectly done and any manager coming up against the Dubs will certainly watch that first 25 minutes over and over to see how the Farney men stifled the Dubs. A few pundits attributed Monaghan’s collapse to All-Star corner back Colin Walsh getting injured, but I’m not buying that. Cream always rises to the top, and miraculously by the 32nd minute the game was over after two rapid fire goals from Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan. It was a 17 point hammering but it could have been an awful lot worse if Cian Costello and Connolly converted two gilt edged goal chances in the second half.
Dublin scored 61 per cent of their scoring chances and had a 100 per cent record from placed balls, for anyone to have a chance against them their scoring stats will have to decrease enormously. They are a measly 1/4 in the bookmakers to retain the All-Ireland, with Mayo second favourites at 7/1. It was interesting to hear Bernard Brogan’s reply to “who do you see as a potential threat this year”, his answer, “it’s all about getting the best out of ourselves and that should win us games”. Dublin’s six substitutes last Saturday would walk on to any team in Ireland, Jim Gavin’s most difficult job is picking his starting 15 and substitutes. Dublin are very self motivated and all the players know if they do not perform there is someone equally good to take their place. Will a Jim McGuinness defensive master class halt the blue army? They will need to be a whole lot better than they were against Armagh.