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Kevin McStay: Fasten your safety belts as tempo to pick up for the final flourish


Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea in action against Ross Donavan (left) and Daniel Maye of Sligo during the Connacht SFC final at Dr Hyde Park

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea in action against Ross Donavan (left) and Daniel Maye of Sligo during the Connacht SFC final at Dr Hyde Park

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea in action against Ross Donavan (left) and Daniel Maye of Sligo during the Connacht SFC final at Dr Hyde Park

The easiest way to figure it out is to learn the rule.

The quarter-finals cannot feature the provincial finalists and will, if at all possible, avoid repeat pairings from earlier rounds. Keeping that in mind, we are unable to state at this juncture the various pairings but all things being equal, we can have a good crack at the semi-finals.

Right now it looks very much like Dublin against Mayo and Kerry against Monaghan. I base this prediction on the likely pairings for the quarter-finals and while there are various permutations involved there (too many to explore in detail), the likely scenario points to the emergence of a final four as stated above.

Two of those teams, Mayo and Dublin, have sailed through their respective provincial championships and the statisticians in each squad have any number of records and averages to underline the excellence of those journeys.

But they have been completely untested to date and yet that may not be a major problem because they are 'seeded' to meet each other at the semi-final stage. And so, two untested sides will face off at the penultimate fence. The winner here will be well ready for any opposition in the final.

Of course Kerry and Monaghan had to face the possibility of defeat already and both came through in great style even if a little luck was attached. Monaghan, deserving winners over Donegal, will forever wonder how their opposition kicked so many (11 wides in total) poor efforts in the second half.

In all they shot 17 wides and that led to their downfall. But Monaghan displayed enough courage, hunger and ability to be sure they will not wilt in Croke Park in 2015. Kerry, the current All-Ireland champions, can hardly be looking forward to facing them.

Kerry negotiated the replay with relative ease, with Cork unable to repeat the exuberance of the drawn encounter. As we had predicted, this was down to a much better team selection by éamonn Fitzmaurice and his selectors, better match-ups and a big focus on the Cork midfield. It is reasonable to suggest that Kerry have, in David Moran and Anthony Maher, the best midfield of any team left in the championship.

Right now, I see Kerry getting to the final at a decent canter with the winners of Mayo and Dublin providing serious opposition. Kerry will know that whoever wins that semi-final will have serious reason to avenge recent defeats and so the final is building up nicely to be the game of the year. As a final should be. Roll on September.


Two-tier system still presents brightest future

THE standards demanded by the leading six or seven counties are now so much higher than the remaining counties that it is unlikely, due generally but not exclusively to population and resources, to be reached.

     And when you look down into the lower divisions, say the teams ranked around 20 all the way out to 32, the chances of any of those being competitive when facing a Dublin, Kerry, Mayo, etc … are remote. In fact they are nil.

Because we are slow to tinker with the provincial formats (for instance, seeding is really only a feature of Munster and to a lesser extent Leinster) we can end up  with provincial finals involving these powerhouses and teams from Division 3 and such like.

This year Sligo and Westmeath made it through to their respective finals and good luck and well done to both.

But the hammerings they received and the lack of competitive spectacle produced must surely have those charged with running these competitions wondering about proper structures.

I remain convinced, that while all counties should be allowed compete for their provincial crown, there must be a ranked/seeded approach so that these mismatches are avoided. I suggested such a format a few months back and nothing in the interim has happened to change those suggestions.

The All-Ireland championship series must have two tiers and the sooner the better. Otherwise, we’ll have more of these non-events which do nothing for either county in the final.


Double standards in the Kingdom is no Kerry joke

My Kerry friends took to Twitter in big numbers as soon as they heard a negative word spoken by me in relation to one of their own. The piece of analysis I used on The Sunday Game last weekend showed the superb Paul Geaney (left) sledging Michael Shields after he had scored the decisive goal.

Of course, Tyrone and Ulster folk in general are quickly criticised by Kerry folk when they indulge in the Dark Arts and sledging is one of their favourites it appears. But double standards are quickly employed when it is their own that indulge.

I read a piece by Michael Moynihan in The Examiner earlier this week where he writes about an odd contradiction wherein a county (Kerry), though priding itself in its native cunning (cute Kerry feckers, etc ...), get a little unsettled when any of us refer to this cuteness. It is well known they have a very strong voice in the media and are not slow to tog out their great stars of yesteryear when a narrative or lobby needs presenting.

Kerry can’t have it both ways – if they are the guardians of the beautiful game, the aristocrats and the stylists then fine; but double standards eventually lead to no standards at all. I am reminded of course, that the only criticism that really truly hurts us is that which we deserve.

They will know, as any of us who bother to inform ourselves know, that sledging is a black card offence and Paul Geaney was guilty of such just after scoring his excellent decider. Once again, we were let down by referees and umpires who failed to take any action. As the referee had also failed to issue a yellow card in the first half when he knew perfectly well that Michael Shields had dived. Consistency indeed.