Monday 19 March 2018

Double upset is good for game

I have to say -- without disrespecting Kerry and Tyrone -- it was a good day overall for the game of football. The GAA needs new teams, the championship has become repetitive. It will give other counties heart, not just the ones playing in today's quarter-finals matches but for the next few years. Kerry and Tyrone are no longer the forces they were.

The start Down got ended up being the difference between the two teams. As a result, they were able to soak up the Kerry pressure and always kept an advantage of a few points. The crucial decision of the game was Kerry's disallowed goal after the Killian Young handpass. It was deemed illegal but after watching it back, it appeared perfectly legitimate to me.

It was obvious over the 70 minutes that Down were hungrier and in the end the Kerry players showed their age and mileage. The Kerry full-back line struggled all year and shoving Tommy Griffin in there in an attempt to solve the problem didn't work out. Along with Tom O'Sullivan, it was a bad year for two of the full-back line trio and the decline was emphasised in this game.

What it also showed was that Kerry couldn't do without Paul Galvin, Tomas ó Sé, Darragh ó Sé, Tommy Walsh and Tadhg Kennelly. No team could replace that many of their key men.

It was good to see Down bringing colour, arrogance and verve to the occasion and when they play like that they are a big threat to everybody. Martin Clarke made a huge difference yesterday. It's great to see him back from Australia, he gave an outstanding display. Still though, even though he was on the losing team, the Gooch is a class apart as an out-and-out forward.

Down had their homework done and the big Kerry players failed to perform. On the other hand players like Ambrose Rodgers, Benny Coulter and Paul McComiskey all impressed. James McCartan made the right decisions when he needed to -- bringing on Conor Maginn and Ronan Murtagh at the right time. The Kerry bench was lightweight in comparison to last year, when they had four or five lads on it who were as good as the lads on the field. This year the bench couldn't make an impact.

Some of Kerry's wounds have been self-inflicted but I agree with the point that Jack O'Connor made about the disciplinary committee only picking on players from bigger counties. Disciplinary breaches were made by players from other counties and highlighted on The Sunday Game but were ignored. Yet Tomás ó Sé and Galvin suffered the wrath.

The overall championship picture is good now. The monotony is broken and many teams will now feel that it is no longer a two-horse race. There is hope for half a dozen teams who will now believe they can be contenders for the All-Ireland over the next few years.

But the bigger story yesterday was Dublin, winning a game that seemed tailormade for Tyrone. Under normal circumstances, if Tyrone were level coming into the closing stages of a contest liek this they would have choked Dublin. But the Dubs got the breaks and closed out the game. Eoghan O'Gara was misfiring, but his relentless bravery was rewarded when he went for goal and it was no more than Dublin deserved.

They were very disciplined and organised, and made life very difficult for Tyrone. Even if their tactics weren't altogether perfect, they still pulled it off in the end. Right through the game they allowed Tyrone to take short kick-outs, but they did it so they could retreat into defence, tackle and launch attacks. It was a questionable practice but it worked. The end justified the means.

Tyrone disappointed with the huge amount of wides they kicked from favourable positions.

That was the difference between the two sides. When Dublin got the ball to Bernard Brogan he made them pay, and although he was held in the first half, he stood up to the test when they needed him most. Sean Cavanagh and Stephen O'Neill had a series of bad wides when Tyrone had most of the possession.

But the day belonged to Dublin. They certainly played with a more structured approach, they mastered the defence. They ran hard and they committed. It's a great victory for Pat Gilroy and his back-room team. His policy of introducing new players who are team players and not looking for glory has paid off. Especially the full-back line. Put that with the work -rate and good forwards, and Dublin are now serious contenders for Sam Maguire.

Sunday Independent

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