It has been a strange week in GAA circles, no more so than here in Mayo. I am lost for words about the way our new management team of Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes have being appointed. Instead of being a joyous and enormously proud day for both men it has been steeped in controversy. It is embarrassing that the story has achieved national media coverage for all the wrong reasons, more on that again in the coming weeks. But first off may I wish them the best of luck with the job in hand, it is one of the biggest in the GAA.
Getting back to the action on the field, the club intermediate semi-finals did not set the world on fire last Saturday evening, tournament favourites Hollymount-Carramore failing to put away a stubborn Belmullet team despite being four points up in the second half. Jonathan Donohue, the Belmullet full forward, no doubt will get extra attention from Noel Connelly’s men for the replay after a superb exhibition of scoring. Mayo physio Martin McIntyre, playing in a very deep role, did not half get stuck in, and along with Chris Barrett and Donohue helped the Erris men claim a well deserved draw. Next Saturday will be their fourth weekend in a row playing championship and may a bit too much to take on. Ballyhaunis completely outplayed The Neale in the other semi final. The favouritism tag did not weigh well with the south Mayo team who simply did not turn up and were well beaten all over the field. Keith Higgins and Niall Prenty to the fore for Ballyhaunis now have an Intermediate final to look forward to.
No-one saw this one coming
It is remarkable, bordering on the verge of unbelievable, that Kerry are the 2014 All-Ireland football champions. Not one person, not even the staunchest Kerry supporter, could have seen this happening a few months back, they were allegedly in bonus territory from semi-final stage on. James Horan, the Mayo management, and players must be sick to the pits of their stomachs that a team they had on the ropes are now kings of Ireland again. You have to take your hat off to Kerry. I was there for Eamon Fitzmaurice’s first game in charge in February 2013 when they played Mayo in a league game in Castlebar and failed to score for the entire second half, a Kerry team failing to score had the pundits bailing for blood, the team were finished they said. What was Fitzmaurice thinking taking on the job, Kerry will be in the wilderness for years? Their minors had not won an All-Ireland in 20 years and a lot of their leading lights and go to men had simply decided to stop playing, Paul Galvin, Tomas O Sé, and combine that with Colm Cooper’s injury, and nobody gave Kerry a prayer.
Last Sunday’s final was a dire spectacle but slightly intriguing at the same time.
Eamon Fitzmaurice knew if he tried to go gung-ho against the meanest defensive machine in the game it would be a recipe for disaster. Fitzmaurice decided to fight fire with fire and did to Donegal what they have done to others. It was horrible to watch, players with an abundance of ability simply remaining anonymous for the entire game. Big scorers on both teams not as much as getting a shot off in anger unless it was from a placed ball or under the severest of pressure. James O’Donoghue the most lethal striker in the country failing to raise a single white flag for the entire game. Mr Donaghy was at his brilliant best again, he is so difficult to stop in the air. Donegal kept ace marksman O’Donoghue under wraps but forgot about the 6’5” Kerins O’Rahilly’s full forward. I had tipped a draw on 2fm’s Game On last Friday and felt right throughout it was going to be very close, I think I even mentioned it could be a dire 0-09 all spectacle, I was not far off the mark. The major turning point has been well documented by now, the strong sun blaring into Paul Durcan’s eyes for a gift of a goal for Kerry. I noticed Kerry keeper Brian Kelly had a peaked cap on for the first half whereas Durcan choose to go without for the second. I feel terrible for Paul Durcan who had the most fantastic year, and I spent a lot of waking hours last Sunday night wondering about his welfare, I am sure he was in a horrible state of mind and will badly need the rallying of his team mates and Jim McGuinness to get over this one.
You would not wish what happened to him on your worst enemy, his kick out strategy went all over the place after his vital error. I was hoping Donegal would snatch a draw, they came so close after Colm McFadden pushed the ball against the Kerry post after some Trojan work by Michael Murphy in the dying seconds of the game. The three main reasons I willed the ball to the net for an equaliser (1 ) I predicted a draw @ 15/2, (2 ) I felt so bad for Paul Durcan and knew it would be the only way his mistake wasn’t highlighted, (3 ) One of the most unsporting acts I have witnessed occurred when Barry John Keane kicked the ball off Durcan’s kicking tee to prevent him taking a quick kick out with time almost up. If Donegal had got the leveller Barry John would have received a few clips around the ear from probably the entire Donegal team. Maybe my wife being from Donegal I should have had four reasons.