WELL we now know the make-up of the league final, which will be played this weekend between Dublin and Tyrone.
From what I saw in the semi-finals one would have to fancy Dublin. They looked quite good against Mayo, while on the other side of the draw Tyrone showed too much football for Kildare. Mayo will look back at their game and wonder what they have to do to get a big result and after a bright start they fell in to the same old trap as they got hit for two suckerpunch goals. One would have to say that these were well taken goals, but, nonetheless, they were poorly conceded.
Dublin have found a few extra forwards this year and, in Paul Mannion, they have a forward, who can finish and with the early season form shown by Brogan, Connolly and a few other Dublin forwards they will be many people's favourites for the All Ireland this year.
Mayo seem to me to fall in to the same mistakes every time they hit Croke Park. Their backs get a rush of blood to the head and are mad to go forward and leave big holes down the middle of there defence. Have a look back at the game if you like – the goals came from moves breaking down and backs failing to get back, leaving the middle wide open and these Dublin forwards can and did punish them for it.
Remember those two poorly concede goals were all that stood between them at the finish. Mayo did themselves had the opportunity to stick a few in the Dublin net, but lack of composure by the Mayo forwards, as well as good goalkeeping by Stephen Cluxton, ensured the Dubs will be at headquarters on Sunday for what will be an informative game ahead of the Championship in a few weeks time.
One thing that will not be lost on Tyrone and, indeed, should be borne in mind by any team that will play Dublin this year, is the mixture of the Dubs game. If they continue the way they've been going they might just save football as they mix the hand pass and the direct long kick as much as any team I have seen play the game lately. In fact one could say that Dublin have adopted a game they saw when our own Kerry side took them to the cleaners in an All Ireland quarter-final a few seasons ago.
I honestly believe that Kerry and Mayo have a similar enough problem as they face in to the new season. They both must consolidate their half-back line. Let me put it this way readers: if we could get our six backs playing as a unit, just as we expect our forwards to play, we just might have a right go at the championship this year. What I'd give to see the Kerry half-back line play a disciplined game of defence like Moynihan, Flaherty and Breen used to do! This to me is key. All players on the team playing for the team and no individual playing for himself.
It will be interesting if James Horan or Eamonn Fitzmaurice can come up with such units of defence .
On the other side of what we have seen from Tyrone one would be foolish to write them off this year, even if they have to open with a game away to Donegal in Ulster. No doubt we will learn a bit more about them on Sunday, but after the way Stephen O'Neill played against Kildare one would go to watch a player of that calibre any day. I was under the illusion he might be past his best, but against Kildare he kicked some of the best scores I ever saw kicked in Croke Park. With both him and Sean Cavanagh back to their best, Tyrone will fear nobody.
What now for Kildare and Kieran McGeeney? McGeeney must be fit to tear his hair out looking at these Kildare forwards. I watched their Under 21s at weekend and they had the physique of any senior team you ever saw, but just couldn't score. If I was a Kildare supporter I would be questioning what is going on in the coaching of teams up there as they kicked nineteen wides against Galway, who had, to be fair, the nicer footballers, but were much smaller and lighter then the Lilywhites.
It's when you study every Kildare forward taking that extra solo and hop before having a go at kicking a point or the kicking from ridiculous angles you'd have to question the coaching. I have no doubt that some of these fellows will go on to have good Gaelic football careers. I wonder if the Kildare County board should be investing in a kicking coach? This has been their problem for a while. Fitness is one thing, but if you are going to spend your time hand passing at training then your kicking will suffer on the field of play.
Cork just got the better of Cavan so will line out against Galway in what could be a good game if their coaches would let them kick the ball. Nowadays you usually get handpass and every one behind the ball, even the County Minor teams are at it and sad to report I have seen it at club level too. Managers now see justification for their season in not losing games and I guess that's what its all about. Managers now talk about systems of play. They don't talk any more about a player being a good defender or forward or a fielder or kicker.
So we will have to endure it till the powers that be get the handpass examined.