At least the GAA have done something right for us Mayo fans when combining the Junior All-Ireland final with our Senior quarter-final on August 8. It will be a long sitting in Croke Park however, for Mayo fans with the junior game throwing in at 2pm and the senior game expected to throw in at 6pm. It is a great opportunity for the juniors and I am glad they are getting a run out on the hallowed turf. It may be a first and last experience for some of them as players so I am sure they will cherish it.
I find it slightly unbelievable that one week out Mayo don't know who they'll be playing in the senior quarter final. How do you prepare for a big game like that on one weeks notice! Here's what could happen after this weekends qualifier games. If Donegal and Sligo win, Mayo will play Donegal. If Donegal and Tyrone win Mayo will play Donegal. If Galway and Sligo win, Mayo will play Galway and finally if Galway and Tyrone win, Mayo will play Tyrone. Got that? Not that straight-forward is it? That's three very different teams you've to be prepared for.
First time back in Semple in twenty years
Cork became the first big casualty of the football championship after comprehensively losing to outsiders Kildare last Saturday in Thurles. What a nightmare weekend it was for Cork GAA as their hurlers suffered the same fate at the hands of Galway the following day in the same venue. I was on co-commentary for the football game with Radio One and when I arrived in Semple Stadium it brought back indifferent memories. I had not stepped foot in the place since we lost the All-Ireland u21 final replay in 1995 against Kerry. Where have those 20 years gone? Semple Stadium is a fine venue, a big surface area that suits hurling or very athletic footballers. I know 20 years on, my limbs would not cover the ground I did in 1995, that is for sure.
You have to give credit to Kildare, I cannot think of anyone that fancied them apart from our columnist Ray Silke. They were expected to lose this game by at least five points as their confidence was in tatters from their humiliating 19 point defeat at the hands of Dublin. The Kildare team scraped through a first round qualifier against Offaly, and had their own 19 point victory over Longford, but this was their first game since that Dublin game against one of the big teams and they were not given a chance. Kildare have suffered two relegations in successive years, finishing bottom of division 2 last April so you cannot but be impressed with their turnaround. The romance and importance of the qualifiers is alive upon such results.
It was obvious from the get go that Cork had problems, some of their players were down on all fours panting heavily after 10 minutes. Immediately I wondered was it the curse of the six day turnaround, but these guys are fine-tuned athletes and playing two games in seven days is not a big ask. If they were lacking in confidence or suffering from mental fatigue it does not stop the body getting around the field. It became more clear at half time when a commentator from Cork radio informed me that the players had overindulged after their defeat to Kerry and broke Brian Cuthbert’s strict disciplinary request. Hence the reason some big names were left out. After putting in a gruelling preseason, it amazes me that a team would jeopardise their championship credentials by breaking discipline rules so late in the year.
The moral of the story, if your body and mind are not right you will be chewed up and spat out. Brian Cuthbert is out of a job as a result. You have to give full credit to Kildare who were full value for their win, and had a top performer in Niall Kelly who scored 1-4 from play. I have no doubt a certain Shane Enright will be closely monitoring him next weekend when they play Kerry. Kildare have a superb midfield in Tommy Moolick and Paul Cribben, two very big, strong, and athletic players. Cribben is brilliant going forward while Moolick sits to hold the middle. Already I am looking forward to their battle with David Moran and Anthony Maher. Another team that need to do a bit of soul searching is Westmeath. After their marvellous comeback against Meath things have gone horribly wrong. Only scoring six points in the Leinster final against Dublin, coupled with getting a hiding from Fermanagh last weekend, has well and truly devalued their epic win over Meath.