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Dublin: 4°C Sunday 11 April 2021

5 talking points from today's All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals

From the lack of black cards to Dublin’s dominance.

1. The reluctance to show black cards

So how exactly do you get a black card? The rule book is clear, you should be shown one if you do any of the following:

1. Deliberately pull down an opponent.
2. Deliberately trip an opponent with the hand(s), arm, leg or foot.
3. Deliberately body collide with an opponent after he has played the ball away or for the purpose of taking him out of a movement of play.
4. Threaten or to use abusive or provocative language or gestures to an opponent or a team-mate.
5. Remonstrate in an aggressive manner with a Match Official.

All of which makes a lot of sense until referees stop actually policing such fouls.

Today, Dublin had their 13th consecutive game without receiving a black card despite the fact Eoghan O’Gara, for example, was very lucky not to receive one after just four minutes, picking up a yellow instead for what looked a trip on Colin Walshe.

That’s not to single out O’Gara, or indeed referee Marty Duffy, but given the volume of cynical fouling on display over the last few weekends, and the relative lack of black cards, you have to wonder if referees have become reluctant to dish them out?

2. Monaghan’s tactics in the opening quarter

Diarmuid Connolly scores his side's first goal Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

For the opening 25 minutes of today’s second quarter-final, Monaghan were more than a match for Dublin and not just because they had 12 men behind the ball almost every time the defending champions had possession.

Instead, they suffocated the Dublin forwards. There were no gaps for Jim Gavin’s men to run into, no space to exploit. It was working perfectly as long as Monaghan’s backs didn’t need to venture forward.

However, the second Diarmuid Connolly side-footed home his side’s first goal and Monaghan were chasing the game, any chance the Farney had disappeared as Plan A was the only plan that had any chance of succeeding.

Indeed, you could feel the Monaghan belief dissipate in the stadium and Bernard Brogan’s goal moments later just further compounded how thankless a task the 2013 Ulster Champions faced for the remainder of the game.

3. Donegal ride their luck and show experience

Often, GAA referees are criticised for giving teams ‘one more chance’ to score and send a particularly close game to extra-time or replay. Today, Armagh had two scoreable free kicks in stoppage time at the end of the game and Tony Kernan missed them both.

They were difficult chances, but well within the Crossmaglen man’s range and it just goes to show how easily Donegal could have been on the losing side in today’s opening quarter-final in Croke Park.

However, when Armagh were dominating possession in the first half and the Ulster champions were in real danger of letting the match slip away, Jim McGuinness took the decision to move Michael Murphy back into the full forward line from the deeper role he started the game in.

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The move not only contributed to Odhrán MacNiallais goal but the Donegal captain won a number of crucial frees close to goal, place balls that would prove decisive in their narrow victory.

They’ll need that combination of luck and nous to beat the defending champions next time out.

4. Armagh refuse to say cheese

Armagh players pass the team bench after refusing to take part in the pre match team shot Armagh players pass the team bench without posing. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Armagh’s relationship with the media has been a talking point throughout their championship campaign and today it was the photographers’ turn to feel the cold shoulder of the Orchard County.

The photographers were lined up before the game to take the traditional pre-match team picture, only for Paul Grimley’s men to run past the bench.

The Armagh boss did, however, speak to the media after the game as the ‘ban’ seemingly only counted while his side were still in the championship.

5. Can anyone beat Dublin?

No, not in this form.

As the crowds made their way out of the stadium some Dublin supporters expressed concern their team had yet to be tested.

They have been, they just passed those tests in third gear.

Following up a 16-point Leinster final win with a 17-point one in the quarter-final – despite missing three clear goal chances in the second half – shows just how far ahead of everyone else Dublin are.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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