Your GAA championship weekend review

Everything you need to know about an incredible few days of action.

Mayo's Donal Vaughan celebrates scoring a goal.
Mayo's Donal Vaughan celebrates scoring a goal.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

AND THEN THERE were four.  For the purists, this weekend is often the best couple of days in the Gaelic football year.

The All-Ireland final is an event circled on the nation’s calendar, but the August bank holiday invariably produces intriguing match-ups over the space of 48 incident-filled hours.

This year did not disappoint.

Hat-trick hero

Cillian O’Connor caught the headlines with a treble against Donegal. Which is exactly what he did last time out against London as well. Some going for a guy who has battled shoulder injuries all year.

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Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor scores his third goal as Donegal’s Declan Walsh and Ryan McHugh look on dejected. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Winning margin

Reigning All-Ireland champions Donegal got hammered by 16 points on Sunday. But it’s not the record winning defeat that Sam Maguire holders have suffered; that was in 1978 when Kerry defeated Dublin by 5-11 to 0-9. That must have hurt.

A coalition

Enda Kenny shows he can reach out across the aisle. An Taoiseach was a happy man as Mayo marched on in Drumcondra, but the Castlebar native took time out to high-five this young Donegal supporter at GAA HQ.

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Pic: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Jimmy’s losing matches

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Donegal selector Rory Gallagher and manager Jim McGuinness. INPHO/Cathal Noonan

So Donegal become the third All-Ireland champion team on the trot to be knocked out by Mayo.  Jim McGuinness has done an incredible job of creating a system — for better or worse — that helped forge a winning mentality in the hills of Donegal. And backed it up with results.

Yesterday however that masterplan was shredded by the rampant Connacht kingpins. After a season in which the drive for a third Ulster title and a second All-Ireland in a row were derailed, will Jim McGuinness be on the sideline next season? The Celtic staffer insists he’ll take his time before making any decision.

“It was a particularly tough day, especially for the supporters,” he added. “The second half was the longest 35 minutes I’ve ever been in, in my life. To be honest with you, the boys don’t owe anybody anything. They’ve given Donegal supporters a huge sense of pride over the last three years. It was just unfortunate that the wheels came off today in the way they did come off.”

Tweet of the week

We’ve had the Rachel from Friends, the Ian Madigan and now hairdressers around the country will be asked for the Aidan ‘Big Unit’ O’Shea look. If an impressed Brian O’Driscoll is anything to go by:

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Check out more here.

Red tide

Peter Canavan labelled Tyrone v Monaghan, the tie of the round in the build-up to the weekend on radio. And it surely gave us one of the most memorable moments of the summer. But it was off the pitch.

After a decade of defending his provincial neighbours Tyrone on the RTÉ set against criticism from Pat Spillane and others, Brolly — to paraphrase Eamon Dunphy — jumped the fence baby. The Derry man launched into a truly stunning tirade against the Red Hand and their cynical tactics. Sean Cavanagh got both barrells:

YouTube: Pádraig Ó Dubhaigh

This is the Super Rugby takedown that finally sent Brolly over the edge:

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Gif: Balls

Mirror, mirror on the wall

On Sunday, Liam Hayes weighed in on the debate. Speaking before TV3′s live coverage of Kerry’s All-Ireland quarter-final with Cavan, Hayes — a member of the street-smart Meath team of yore —  defended Cavanagh for his foul on goal-bound Conor McManus, above, but had a pop at Mickey Harte’s policy on player discipline.

“Every year, people pick on one team and [this year] they are picking on Tyrone,” Hayes said “It was a rugby tackle but those tackles happen. Sean Cavanagh did what he had to do. Mickey Harte has been talking for years about people buying mirrors and looking at themselves. He needs to buy a big, long mirror himself and take a look at himself and his team.”

Fellow TV3 pundits Darragh Ó Sé and Sean Connell refused to condemn Cavanagh for his foul on McManus despite host Matt Cooper’s prodding. On the pitch of course, both teams ended the contest with just 14 men. Martin Penrose got the line after emerging for the second half, because of this first-period incident:

YouTube: dirttrackersPodcast

Case for defence

Mickey Harte was asked by reporters in Croke Park about Brolly’s incredible comments. He hadn’t yet seen the footage of course but had this to say:

“I wouldn’t be surprised, that is par for the course. I’ve heard that before. Is that logical observations that we are getting there? A complete tirade is all that I’ve ever heard from certain individuals.

“Look at the game in its entirety and tell me how did the balance of fouling add up. Give me the statistics of the whole game and then I will talk about the individual instances. It’s a worry that there is so much focus on little things that happened in the game and I’d like to think if you really forensically examine the whole game you might find other things of the same nature that you speak about.

“So I wish you would talk about the good game that we had there and stop delving into the negativity.”

What did you make of the controversy?

Model performance

Phew! Wexford kept their four-in-a-row hopes alive with a hard-fought 1-11 to 1-10 Liberty Insurance All-Ireland senior camogie quarter-final victory over Offaly at Portlaoise. They will now play old rivals Galway, who had a much easier time of it in recording a 2-19 to 0-9 victory over Tipperary in the third game of the O’Moore Park triple-header.

With no seeding in the semi-final draw, that leaves Cork and Kilkenny, who both progressed to the last four directly by virtue of their 100 per cent runs through the group stages, on the other side.

Rebel farewell

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Cork manager, Conor Counihan on the line on Saturday night. Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Conor Counihan stepped down on Saturday as Cork boss after six years. He won plenty silverware as well and 2013 was the only year that he did not claim a trophy of some description. The Rebels came up short against an in-form Dublin side that may well now go on to claim a second Sam Maguire win in three years.

“When I came back I had a two-year term but the reality is that it’s challenging to keep there. I would have reflected, for some time, that now was the time to get a change of voice,” a clearly emotional Counihan said afterwards. “Obviously family would have been the only people aware of that but it was clear to me that this would be the last year.

“After six years you have to challenge yourself and ask if you’re getting enough out of people. The important thing is that I step down and a fresh voice takes over, and that Cork football reaches the pinnacle again. I still think we’re in a good place,” the Aghada native added.

Blue tide

On the other dressing-room on Saturday evening was Jim Gavin, a manager on the other end of his managerial arc. The Dubs boss is in the first year of his tenure — and he’s making this whole coaching thing look pretty easy. His side looked really strong as they took care of business in front of the very happy-looking Hill 16, epitomised by this Jack McCaffrey goal:

YouTube: Caomhán O’Bolghuídhír

Kingdom come

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Cavan’s Rory Dunne and Kieran Donaghy of Kerry. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

They haven’t gone away, you know? While the attention was probably more focused elsewhere, Kerry did what they do best: winning football matches at Croke Park. The game’s aristocrats once again booked a spot in the last four thanks to a 0-15 to 0-9 win over Cavan in Sunday’s curtain-raiser. And in truth it was straightforward. The Kingdom cruised to a nine-point lead in the first half but took the foot off the gas after the interval and allowed Cavan to narrow the deficit.

In the first championship since the sad passing of legendary manager Kevin Heffernan, ‘Heffo’s Army’ will be back through the turnstiles for a Kerry v Dublin showdown.

Comeback kid

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Kerry’s David Moran and Martin Reilly of Cavan. Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

After two cruciate ligament injuries and a serious eye injury, David Moran was back in championship action yesterday for Kerry. The son of Kerry legend Denis ‘Ogie’ Moran impressed as well as he scored a point from midfield.

Onwards

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A Dublin fan near the end of the game. Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

So what’s next? The focus switches to hurling for the next two weekends with Dublin and Cork meeting in the first of All-Ireland SHC semi-finals on Sunday at HQ.

After Saturday’s defeat in the football, the Rebels will be extra keen to level the unique dual-code two-week series. The following week Limerick and Clare face off for the right to complete the Liam MacCarthy decider match-up.

In the meantime, Jim McGuinness will no doubt give his future as Donegal boss some serious consideration. His side will not now defend the title they won last September. Instead, Tyrone face Mayo and Dublin take on Kerry in two mouth-watering last-four games. We’re not done yet.

Here are the latest odds:

  • Mayo 5/4
  • Dublin 6/4
  • Kerry 5/1
  • Tyrone 9/1

Who do you fancy now?

Liam Hayes: ‘Mickey Harte needs to buy a big mirror and take a look at himself’

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