Mayo v Cork…
Back in 2010, we were two points down with Kildare in the All-Ireland semi-final against Down. We won a late free, I got the ball and asked Pat McEnaney did we have one more attack after the free.. He said we didn’t. We had to go for it so I threw the ball to Rob Kelly. He smashed it off the bar and the final whistle was blown. We were out.
I was looking at Colm O’Neill in Croke Park yesterday and I knew what situation he was in. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t take a shot on for goal. He must have thought there was another attack after talking to the referee. No one in their right mind wouldn’t have gone for it.
The whole incident opens the debate about taking timekeeping out of the referee’s hands. It’s a very frustrating situation for Cork. There’s been huge time, money and effort invested in Cork and now their year is over. There’s no argument if there’s a clock there, the players know exactly what the situation is. It was the same for Cillian O’Connor in last year’s All-Ireland final. The current situation isn’t fair on players.
Mayo won the game and it was the third quarter of the match that they did it. That’s a vital phase in most games when teams really put down their marker. They got some brilliant scores with Alan Dillon and O’Connor stepping up. Aidan O’Shea was immense. His brother Seamus was brilliant throughout. That period of dominance helped Mayo get the victory.
Cork produced a big response since the Munster final. I’ve played Cork enough times over the last few years to know that you don’t doubt these players character. The Kerry game wasn’t a true reflection of them and the criticism they got after was crazy that the GPA felt they’d to step in.
The Cork players were disappointed but they recovered to push Mayo really hard. They lost the game but the signs are good for them. They’ve lost a lot of really influential players but there’s some promising lads coming through.
The day ended with James Horan in the spotlight with his comments about the Cork management. Personally I don’t think these type of comments matter a huge amount. Every team is looking for an edge these days and trying to find something to motivate them.
I remember we played Tyrone one year and there was talk about the referee Gerry Kinnevey’s brother living in Kildare, and how that could be a factor in the game. We saw it elsewhere last week as well with the Armagh media ban and Jason Ryan talking about Conor McManus. All of this is just part and parcel of inter-county football.
Kerry v Galway…
Kerry got the job done yesterday. When you analyse it, they weren’t brilliant but they’re now into the last four of the All-Ireland. They have a great opportunity now to make the final and they’re a different animal when they play in September.
James O’Donoghue is responsible for a lot of their positivity. He’s in the top level of forwards now in the country, up there with Bernard Brogan, Cillian O’Connor and Conor McManus.
Galway would have done a lot of homework on O’Donoghue and felt if they stopped him, they’d go a long way towards winning. Finian Hanley is a tough, decent defender but he just couldn’t get a handle on O’Donoghue.
He was superb yesterday. Kerry played to his strengths though as he didn’t have to battle to win the ball and the passes were popped in to his chest. He did the rest showing why he’s a super finisher off either foot and has a great eye for goal. He’s lighting up the summer.
I don’t think Galway played with the necessary inner belief yesterday. They looked like a team who were going to give a good account of themselves but didn’t really feel they could win. I saw them gaining in confidence as the game went on. Shane Walsh and Michael Lundy were excellent in attack and Thomas Flynn scored as good a goal that I’ve seen in Croke Park.
Looking in from the outside, they could benefit from continuity if Alan Mulholland stayed on. He knows the players, knows the team and has done a good bit of work with Galway.
Monaghan v Kildare…
Saturday night was another hard defeat for Kildare football to take. We’ve been involved in some epic recent battles at Croke Park – 2009 against Dublin, 2010 against Down and 2011 against Donegal. But defeat was the end game on each occasion and Saturday continued that trend.
Emmet Bolton was a massive loss when he got a black card. He’s scored a phenomenal amount of goals for Kildare through the brilliant runs that he makes. Monaghan couldn’t handle him but when he went off, Kildare didn’t penetrate the defence as much. The late free in normal time awarded to Conor McManus was a big call and looked a bit harsh. But you get those marginal calls going for and against you during a game.
Monaghan’s older heads got them over the line in extra-time. Dessie Mone, Vinny Corey and Darren Hughes drove them on. They were more composed and direct, whereas I thought Kildare were more tentative.
I met a few Kildare people after the match who reckoned Kildare could have been better off losing as they’d avoid a potential mauling against Dublin the next day. Maybe there’s a little bit of merit in that as the team is a year or two off in their development from matching Dublin. But from a player point of view, they’d have loved a crack off Dublin. No better way to test yourself than coming up against the best.
Armagh v Meath…
The first game in Croke Park on Saturday was a strange game. You knew scores were going to be hard to come by as the conditions were so tough. Armagh bossed the first-half and then Meath came with a rally before the break. But I never felt Armagh were going to lose.
Their tackling was excellent and they kept turning Meath over. I worked with Paul Grimley in Kildare and he was really big on tackling drills. You could see that in Armagh’s play on Saturday. I was also very impressed with the Kernan brothers, they got some quality scores.
Armagh coped without Ciaran McKeever and never let his absence get them down. They’re in a good place now. Armagh used to thrive on battles before and they’ve got that look about them again.