League has been good to Donegal
Published 17/07/2011 | 05:00
The All-Ireland football championship may be in full flow but down here in Kerry we haven't forgotten about the club championship. This year it's been as competitive as ever and already it's thrown up some great battles.
However, there is always a bit of controversy in the Kerry championship, and last week's sending-off of Declan O'Sullivan in the South Kerry-Dr Crokes tie probably covered that element for this year. I'm sure Crokes had identified O'Sullivan as being the main man for South Kerry, played a blanket defence and frustrated him. That happens regularly in club games.
Back when I was playing, there was always great rivalry in county championship football and there were some memorable tussles between some of the greats. Castleisland Desmonds and Austin Stacks come to mind -- Mikie O'Connor from Castleisland and John O'Keeffe of Stacks were always worth watching when their two teams met.
Johnno would have been the number one midfielder in the county but for some reason or other Mikie always put it up to him. Jack O'Shea never had it all his own way either, Vincent O'Connor of Dingle dished out buckets to him over the years.
And I had my own battles, Johnny Mulvihill from North Kerry used to always put it up to me. Any time we met I knew I had a big challenge on my hands to try and get the better of him.
In more recent times, the best bit of matching up I've seen was in Tralee last year. Dr Crokes took on West Kerry with Marc ó Sé marking Gooch Cooper. It was super stuff, great football to watch. Two of the best footballers in the country, who usually play for each other, going at it like their lives depended on it.
It reminded me of a Railway Cup game I saw a number of years back, I was the manager and Seamus Moynihan was on Peter Canavan. Again they were the best at what they did at that time. Both had huge roles to play for their respective teams and watching them trying to neutralise each other was spectacular. It was possibly the best man-to-man confrontation I ever saw.
I'm not sure there will be anything of that calibre on display today but the Ulster and Connacht finals should still make for good games. I made the point coming up to the Munster final that both Cork and Kerry got great value out of their league; they both won and lost matches and learned valuable lessons from it.
Donegal are in a similar position going into today's Ulster final. They had a very good league campaign and probably used it to better effect than any other county. During the league Jim McGuinness developed a strategy to beat teams, blooded the young players and built a relationship with his side. Although the football they played wasn't overly attractive, they still managed to get the job done well. Since the opening round of the championship, they have gained confidence.
Derry's league wasn't bad either; they finished third in Division Two but at the end of it they were minus Paddy Bradley. And now a few months on they are without his brother Eoin Bradley. The latter is probably their most critical scorer up front and he is going to be a big loss today.
But, at the same time, there is something about Derry. They have a great physical presence and they have some very good natural forwards too. I have no doubt that Mark Lynch and Enda Muldoon will step up to the plate. They are both flourishing under John Brennan and won't let him down today.
Donegal have had so many ups and downs since their last Ulster final win in 1992, and there is a good buzz up there about this team. Taking it all into account, I'd have to fancy them to win as they are a better equipped side.
The Connacht final meeting of Mayo and Roscommon isn't going to be as straightforward. It will hinge on what Mayo team turns up on the day.
They got a bad fright against London and they carried their legs home with them. Then they beat a very bad Galway side who didn't perform at all. Roscommon, on the other hand, beat New York and Leitrim easily but they haven't really been tested.
I think that if Mayo can get it together, they will win but if they are to progress they will need more than Andy Moran performing on the day.
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