Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
INPHO/Ryan Byrne Kerry's Paul Galvin takes his place on the subs bench after being sent off at the weekend.
Gaelic football: 5 things we now know after the weekend action
Paul Galvin’s clothesline tackle on John Hayes was ‘dangerous, cheap and hugely cowardly’, according to Ewan MacKenna.

1. The easy way out

People make excuses for Paul Galvin. They’ve been doing it for years. He’s different. He’s misunderstood. He’s unique. He’s wound-up. He’s targeted. He brings an edge and a new dimension to the game and the good outdoes the bad and somehow that is supposed to make it all okay.

But you know what, none of that condones going for a guy’s neck as hard and as fast as you possibly can, just as he did on Saturday night. His tackle on John Hayes was dangerous and cheap and hugely cowardly.

Perhaps the Clare player has been in Galvin’s black book all these years, going back to the incident with referee Paddy Russell, but frankly who cares. That’s just another excuse.

Hayes was lucky to get up at all, never mind relatively quickly but aside from risking serious injury to an opposing player, Galvin also let down his team-mates again. The game was over, this is a group that needs every one of their key men, more so than at any other time in Galvin’s intercounty career, yet not for the first time he put himself ahead of the rest. But what was every bit as inexplicable was the refereeing decision.

Maurice Deegan is seen as being in pole position for the All-Ireland final but he shouldn’t be after such a weak call. By giving Galvin a yellow it meant he saw the incident so can’t excuse himself and if a player is clothes-lined in Deegan’s next game, does that mean it is also a yellow or was an exception made here to avoid controversy?

Neither is good enough. By carding Galvin, Deegan made sure the incident couldn’t be revisited and that’s a travesty. And at the end of it all, unpunished, Galvin now heads for a quarter-final where he could be key given his superb form, and that after one of the most dangerous and the most stupid tackle of the summer.

2. Good enough for now

There’s no doubt which of the quarter-finals is the most exciting and so much of that is down to Kerry’s return to some sort of form. Kieran Donaghy is playing his best football in an age, it’s allowed Colm Cooper more time and space and it has allowed James O’Donoghue to grow into a serious footballer. Further out the forward line there have been improvements too, as Declan O’Sullivan looks the play-maker he was in 2009 when he was the best link man in football while Paul Galvin, leaving aside his latest moment of madness referred to above, has hit levels he threatened to reach when starting the league so well. Throw in Darran O’Sullivan’s return to fitness and you can see why people are expecting them to not only take on Donegal, but perhaps take them down.

But to take that view is to miss a key point in terms of the opposition Kerry have been playing and how the dynamics of their team are forced to change when they take on better sides. The difference between the Kerry of recent weeks and the Kerry that lost to Mayo in the league and Cork in the Munster Championship isn’t purely down to form. It’s about their limitations and weaknesses being exposed by sides good enough to do just that and Donegal are one of those sides.

We’ve continually referred to the frailties in the spine of this Kerry defence, and even though Shane Enright has impressed with recent displays, the left side of the defence containing he and Killian Young and the centre of that defence containing Aidan O’Mahony and Eoin Brosnan are problematic. That results in the half-forward line having to sit deep and counter attack and that limits the openings for the inside-forward line. It’s why Kerry have looked like All Ireland contenders through the back door when, that, they are not.

3. The best, and the rest

At the start of this season we predicted that the eight quarter-finalists would be the eight teams that will be in Division One in 2013. It was part of an article about how the sides with the most resources in terms of playing numbers, tradition and finances are moving further and further ahead of the chasing pack. After an era where Limerick threatened in Munster, where Louth and Wexford and Laois and Westmeath threatened in Leinster, where Monaghan and Antrim threatened in Ulster, we were sure that those days were long gone. Since then we haven’t seen anything to disprove the theory and while it’s a pity, it’s also reality. Seven of the eight we said would reach the quarter-finals are present and correct and had Tyrone not run into Kerry, they’d be there instead of Laois. It’s a gulf that will only grow in next season’s league as the best play the best, garnering more media interest and exposure to the highest standard while the rest slip further behind. While that’s a huge negative though, there is one upside…

4. It all begins here

So one side of the All-Ireland series draw looks a little lightweight and one of the quarter-finals is a write off, but there’s so much to look forward to this weekend. Mayo don’t have the forwards and Down don’t have the backs and in terms of match-ups there’s the possibility of Dan Gordon on Andy Moran, Keith Higgins on Benny Coulter, Ambrose Rogers on Aidan O’Shea and Kalum King on Barry Moran.

Cork have the quality but they also have the lay-off and Michael Foley may drop back to play on Aidan Walsh, Emmet Bolton will hope to get Paul Kerrigan going backwards, Paudie Kissane will hope to do the same with possilbly John Doyle and Tomás O’Connor and James Kavanagh will be going up against Eoin Cadogan and Michael Shields. And that’s all before we get to the main event. If you aren’t feeling excited by that, we hate to inform you that you’ve chosen the wrong sport.

5. Haunted by the past

It was lost to the time of year and all the other sub-plots, and lost to the fact his team had become an irrelevance, but Peter Fitzpatrick resigned at the weekend from his post as Louth manager. It’s been an odd stint as he became a Fine Gael TD off the back of it, took Louth football to very near the summit and fell all the way back down with the top in sight. In truth he and his team never got over that 2010 Leinster final defeat as it’s all he has ever talked about since.

When Louth hammered Meath to stay up this league and relegate their great rivals, Fitzpatrick said the wrong had been righted and finally his team could move on. Yet when Louth beat Westmeath in the very next game in Leinster, he again brought up that match. And upon his resignation he said he was a Leinster-winning manager even if his players had never gotten the medals. It’s been an understandable obsession but after two years of it, it’s ultimately done he or his former team little good.

Fennelly: “Sometimes you can’t have crowds at training as a distraction.”

Well played: Here’s your Gaelic Football team of the week

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