Archive for August, 2009

Quarter Final Weekend (Where one-third of the games were worth watching)

Note – I copied this here from http://marklawrensonmustbestopped.blogspot.ie/ which I now dedicate to soccer.  All my GAA and Donegal posts now go on here.

And so we now know who is for real and who are merely pretenders. 2 of the 3 Quarter-Finals were decided last weekend in nothing short of emphatic fashion. I have plenty to say on Donegal v Cork, but I want to review the tape and will in time devote a whole column to the sorry mismatch that was Sunday’s first Quarter-Final. In the meantime, there is much to consider from the other games played at the weekend.

I predicted that Tyrone would beat Kildare easily enough and that Kildare were ‘massively overrated’. I guess Sunday proved me wrong, even if I did pick the winner. But, you couldn’t help be impressed by Tyrone’s response to a 4 point half-time deficit. The blitz of Kildare carried out in the 15-20 minutes after half-time was simply awesome to watch-every ball fiercely contested; all 15 players getting involved; snappy, intelligent passing andsome clinical shooting. Still, when all was said and done, Kildare were a kick of the ball away from winning the game-Tyrone really need to watch themselves in this regard-recall that Armagh could have won their Ulster Championship even though Tyrone were clearly the better team over 70 minutes. I get the impression that Tyrone are playing within themselves this year-they are aware that Kerry are gunning for them now more than ever before, and will need gas in the tank for that challenge, assuming they can get past Cork in an attractive semi-final. And not for one minute am I taking that as a foregone conclusion-but you would have to agree that a Tyrone/Kerry match-up would make for a most intriguing September 20th.

Kildare certainly looked the best loser of the Quarter-Finals played to date-but I can’t help think back to the fact that they couldn’t beat 14 man Dublin in the Leinster Final-what does that say about them given Dublin’s display against Kerry? Hard to know I suppose. Kildare made Tyrone beat them on Sunday-and their disappointment in defeat shows that they have set the bar pretty high-not surprising given who is manning the sidelines. As I read elsewhere, one thing that might be worrying is that their 2 best players on Sunday (and in general this year) were Dermot Earley and John Doyle-neither of whom are getting any younger. Still, you would have to believe that Kieran McGeeney thinks that there is enough talent in the county to compete in the future given his public commitment to Kildare for the next few years. Promotion from Divison 2 and a Leinster title would be a good start on providing concrete evidence that they are the real deal.

If nothing else, Dublin’s hammering by Kerry took some of the attention of Donegal’s display against Cork. However, in the greater scheme of things, that is really neither here nor there. Both teams have pretty serious fundamental issues that will need to be addressed if they are to progress beyond the Quarter Final stage. I already wrote that the same players who had failed Dublin in the past would not be good enough to take them to the next level this year. And so it came to pass-Cullen substituted, Keaney anonymous, Whelan unable to make a difference when he was introduced, and so on. You really have to question the manager’s decision-making/team selection-why on earth leave Ciaran Whelan on the bench when he is fit enough to start only to have to bring him on because your starting pair are so poor (against both Kildare and Kerry)? Not that it really matters I guess-given I don’t think the guy is good enough any more anyway, but it’s still a worrying sign. Dublin need more to introduce more new faces next year, but they also need more intensity-bullying inferior Leinster teams is no match for facing the likes of Kerry and Tyrone.

I have to admit, I was impressed with Ciaran Whelan’s interview on ‘Off The Ball‘ this evening. He gave an honest assessment of both Sunday’s game and of the problems facing Dublin football. For someone frequently portrayed as a thug on the pitch, he is quite well spoken-if this is to be his last season on the intercounty scence, perhaps we could see him on a couch somwhere next year, preferably ahead of the Cork flyweight, Tony Davis, or even Bernard Flynn (if he is still around?).

I’ll tackle the Donegal game next. I’m still looking for words for that piece.

No Quarter Given

Note – I copied this here from http://marklawrensonmustbestopped.blogspot.ie/ which I now dedicate to soccer.  All my GAA and Donegal posts now go on here.

And so we are nearly at the ‘business’ end of the Championship. I say ‘nearly’ because I’m not really convinced that provincial runners-up or indeed winners from the Qualifiers belong at the business end of the Championship. Maybe I’ll leave my assessment of the structures in football and hurling for another day, eh?
Tyrone v Kildare (Croke Park, Sunday)

Tyrone are firm favourites with the bookies and likewise with myself. Other than allowing a fading Armagh team to get within a score of them in the 1st round, I have seen nothing from Tyrone and little evidence from any other teams that would shake my faith in Tyrone retaining their title. The loss of John Devine shouldn’t affect them greatly and the break since the Ulster Final should allow Brian Dooher and Enda McGinley time to recover further.

I feel Kildare are being massively overrated, based largely on their televised Leinster final display against Dublin. Let’s see, Dublin were a man down for much of the game and still won comfortably enough in the end-of Kildare were largely on top for long periods of the 1st half, Dublin blitzed them in the 2nd half and never really looked in danger of losing. Their full back line was simply awful, but at least ‘Geezer’ acted decisively in taking off one of his corner backs after the 1st quarter-a good quality in a manager-but then again, it begs the question-why did he start in the first place? Looking at their wins outside of the Leinster Final, we see that they have faced Offaly, Laois and Wicklow-all Leinster teams, and none of whom I would rate highly. Just because Wicklow managed to dispose of 3 poor Ulster teams on their home patch doesn’t make beating them any great achievement in my view, and Kildare made heavy enough going of doing so last weekend.

Tyrone should win comfortably-the bookies say 4 points, and it’s a bet I might just take.

Dublin v Kerry (Croke Park, Monday)
If Dublin are to finally win against one of the top teams, this is the time to do it-Kerry are carrying injuries to key players and have been wholly unconvincing at all times in this year’s Championship, save for maybe the final 20 minutes against Antrim. Dublin meanwhile have done all that has been asked of them-a mediocre enough display against Meath was followed up with a hammering of Westmeath and a 14 man win against Kildare. In Bernard Brogan, they may finally have found a forward that they can rely on to perform week in week out-his brother has frequently let the Dubs down in big games, and Colin Keaney is not consistent enough. That has often been Dublin’s downfall in recent years, we will see if they have finally addressed this on Monday. Dublin’s porous defence will offer Kerry plenty of opportunities though-whether the Gooch is in the frame of mind to take them remains to be seen.

One thing would worry me (if I was a Dublin fan) was that when the going got tough against Kildare, they turned to the likes of Brian Cullen, CiaranWhelan and Shane Ryan. These are all players who have failed on the big stage in the past (Cullen is not a good enough defender to play centre back; Whelan disappears in big games; Ryan is not a good enough footballer at the highest level), and the the other sub they introduced was awful.

Kerry still have the class to beat Dublin-whether they have the motivation and cohesion is debatable. Dublin are favoured by a point-if it’s that close, I don’t think they’ll win it. Kerry to sneak through.

Mayo v Meath (Croke Park, Sunday 9 August)

Well after just finishing Meath fall over the line against Limerick, Mayo should have nothing to fear. Ok the 2nd Limerick goal was a tad fortunate, and Meath did lose a man due to reasons unknown (As an aside, isn’t it great that RTE cameramen can pan to the stands to look at Sean Boylan sitting quitely and a fat guy in a 1990 Meath jersey every 5 minutes, but miss a key moment of the game? Well played lads.) Meath have got to this stage by much the same route as Kildare-defeat to Dublin in a game that was there for the taking, and a series of victories over mediocre opposition-and will be missing their captain Stephen Bray after his straight red card this evening.

But, if history (and the Connacht Final) have taught us anything, it is that Mayo will always make life interesting/heartbreaking for their long-suffering supporters. They were by far the better team in their encounter with Galway, yet at the death, it was a level game, and better concentration from Galway would have ensured a replay. Meath will have to reach another level to upset Mayo and I doubt they will be capable of same. Mayo to win with relative ease.

Cork v Donegal (Croke Park, Sunday)
I’ve said enough about this game elsewhere. Both sides have named their teams-Anthony Lynch must pass a fitness test on gameday to play-his presence could be key to Cork’s chances-while Donegal are unchanged-I’m surprised Leo McLoone starts again.

Cork to win by a few-I just can’t see us overturning the odds for a third weekend running.