Success hinges on making most of extra chances some direction
How competitive is this year's football championship? Take the case of this year's All-Ireland semi-finalists.
Since extra-time is technically classed as a new game, all four have, to varying degrees, required not one, but second, third and fourth chances to advance.
Cork are the biggest culprits. They drew with Kerry, lost the replay after extra-time and then required more extra-time to dismiss Limerick in the qualifiers. Effectively, that's four chances. Dublin required extra-time to beat Wexford and then lost to Meath. Two chances.
Kildare lost to Louth, drew with Antrim after extra-time and then won the replay. Taking extra-time as an additional game, that's three chances. Down lost to Tyrone but not before they required extra-time to beat Donegal. Two chances.
Since the inception of the qualifiers in 2001 there have been five back-door winners, but of those who won their provinces -- Armagh in 2002, Tyrone in 2003 and Kerry in 2004 -- all required replays to keep a straight line towards Croke Park in September.
In the last 10 years, only Kerry's 2007 All-Ireland champions have enjoyed glory without a defeat, a replay or extra-time. It's a sign of the competitive times that now exist.
Life in the hot seat a young man's game
A young man's game. We're not talking about the players but the men who now patrol the sidelines.
GAA managers, particularly in football, are operating at increasingly younger ages. Of the four managers in the All-Ireland semi-finals, three are 40 years of age or younger -- Down's James McCartan, Kildare's Kieran McGeeney and Dublin's Pat Gilroy. Cork's Conor Counihan is the exception.
The trend is heading towards a younger manager to such an extent that someone in their mid to late 40s, once the peak age of the GAA inter-county manager, is now looking old.
Justin McNulty's appointment in Laois lowered the average age even more, following hot on the heels of 30-somethings Jim McGuinness in Donegal, Kevin Walsh in Sligo and Glenn Ryan in Longford. International Rules manager Anthony Tohill has yet to hit 40.
There are, of course, obvious exceptions and no doubt Mick O'Dwyer (74) will crop up somewhere in the next few weeks to rein in our argument that less is more when it comes to years. Doesn't he always?
Players taking issue with war on invasions
We're intrigued by the GPA's ringing endorsement of the GAA's measures to keep celebrating fans off the Croke Park surface.
The GPA is right to give Croke Park its backing to efforts to make presentations in a safer environment, but are they speaking on behalf of the majority of players on the issue?
On Monday in this newspaper, Sligo's Eamonn O'Hara described the move to fence Hill 16 as "foolish" (he did add that there was also logic to it). Later that day Eddie Brennan and DJ Carey, a former president of the GPA, also noted their opposition while Down's Benny Coulter was adamant that crowds should be allowed on to the field.
"I don't know what the logic is to this," said Coulter. "If I was a fan and I wanted to get on the pitch, I would. I might get a black eye but I would be happy." Makes you wonder what way players really feel.
True Blues get some direction
ONE of the benefits for Dublin fans of having a new high-tech sponsor like Vodafone is they've just launched an iphone 'app' (Luddites, ask your 10-year-olds!) that will link 'true blues' into the county board's Hill 16 website.
It also links straight into the county's club directory, bringing up detailed maps of every club pitch in the county, including bus routes.
That comes in very handy in such a huge city and especially considering that several clubs use up to four different pitches (many of them local authority facilities away from their clubhouse) to facilitate matches for their many teams.
Given some Blues' fans difficulty in finding their way to Thurles in 2001, we are tempted to suggest that they stick on Sat Nav instructions to all county grounds beyond the Pale, although in fairness to Pat Gilroy, the Dubs will not be in need of a map for the rest of this summer at least.