Billy Keane: 'Provincial champions bring pure football to Super 8s stage but Mayo are still part of the drama'
It was a tale of two games. We will start with the second game first for no other reason than Kerry and Donegal served up a feast of free-range football.
This was the type of football that will have small boys and girls kicking every ball when they fall asleep tonight. And us older boys, who fell out of love with the game, are head over heels again.
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This was the best game for ages, especially the last 20 minutes when we saw football from the golden age of the GAA.
The score was 1-20 each. There's hope yet for our game. There were so many skilful players out on the famous field.
For Donegal, Patrick McBrearty was, as ever, deadly accurate. Ryan McHugh ran forever from wing-back and kicked scores too.
Seán O'Shea was outstanding for Kerry. Paul Geaney was back to his best. We praise Stephen O'Brien every week because he is outstanding every week. David Clifford kicked two beauties after he missed a few before that. The Kerry backs are vastly improved.
The younger of the Spillane brothers, Cillian, kicked three classy points. His big brother Adrian ran himself into cramp. It was special to see Spillane brothers doing so well for Kerry.
Kerry will have learned much from this game. Some of our kick-outs went astray at vital times. This was as much down to lack of movement out the field as anything else. David Moran was a massive loss. There's no better endgame manager.
The equalising Donegal free should not have been awarded. Paul Geaney went in to the tackle with one hand, chest high. Geaney's hand was on and near the ball.
The Donegal player went down holding his head. There was no contact with his head. The ref bought the picture painted for him. He gave a free. In GAA speak, it was called "making a draw out of it".
Michael Murphy held his nerve and over the ball went for an equaliser.
To be fair, Donegal deserved the draw. There was one special piece of skill and know-how from Murphy. He pranced back and forth like a giant dressage horse, about 50 metres out from the Kerry goal, and then when his marker lunged in, Murphy twirled.
He swapped ballet shoes for football boots and set up a point at a vital stage.
The first game played was Meath and Mayo. And today a small band of Royals took over the Hill.
Meath played Donegal in Ballybofey last week. Navan to Ballybofey is a round trip of 360km. The cost of a terrace ticket was €25. Dublin played in Croke Park. The cost of The Hill was €20. This is no fault of Dublin the team, who are getting better with every year of the five.
But the GAA gives every possible advantage to Dublin. Let's just say only 4,000 Dublin fans show up on The Hill for every game. So that comes to €20,000-a-game subsidy from the GAA.
Good luck to The Hill and the cheap tickets but there should be equality. Dublin get to play a neutral game at home against Roscommon and the Dublin supporters are subsidised to turn up!
I just put in an exclamation mark.
It's the first one in the 17 years I've been writing for this paper. Exclamation marks are for texts and WhatsApps, but if ever a sentence deserved an exclamation mark that was it. At least Meath got in for 20 today.
Andy Moran lifted Mayo when he came on. Andy was the only player on the field who had his socks pulled up and he got more touches than the TV remote.
The referee had his socks pulled up too. I wonder is it a rule that refs have to keep their socks tied just below the knee?
There is some sort of a bye-law in golf which states one is not allowed to tuck one's pants inside one's socks when the grass is wet.
And, as we are on the subject of golf, congrats to Shane Lowry. Shane is only the second Open winner whose dad played in an All-Ireland football final. Most of those at the games yesterday spent as much time looking up The Open scoreboard as the Croke Park scoreboard.
Mayo, as ever, teed us up for another drama in Castlebar against Donegal. We did warn you.
And how about it GAA? Give a big discount to the Mayo and Donegal fans. Mayo must be nearly broke and Donegal is far away from most places.
As for Meath, they have come a long way this year. Any time you see a McEntee involved, you are sure to get plenty of fire and brains. The Royals are on the beginning of their Camino.
We saw three of the last five left standing in Croke Park yesterday.
Kerry have the most room for improvement. I loved the way this young team fought back. They were gallant and valiant when all seemed lost.