Five things we learned from today's All-Ireland quarter final wins for Kerry and Dublin
With Dublin and Kerry safely into the All-Ireland semi-finals, here is what we learned from today's quarter finals at Croke Park.
Kerry could struggle without O'Donoghue
Kerry probably have the deepest forward line in the country after Dublin but the injury to James O’Donoghue could seriously impact the Kingdom’s ability to retain the All-Ireland championship. Last season’s Footballer of the Year fell awkwardly on his arm late in the first half and the fear is that he may have aggravated the shoulder injury that kept him out of the league.
Even in the limited time he spent on the field today he showed why he is so devastating. His ability to shrug off a corner back with a little bit of physicality and pop over a close-range point is an easy source of scores for Kerry and he easily wriggled past the Kildare defenders to manufacture chances.
The return of the King
It turned into a complete rout, but Eamonn Fitzmaurice will be delighted that the game-time decision to throw Colm Cooper into the team – due to an injury to Kieran Donaghy – paid off so handsomely.
Cooper actually did his best Donaghy impression in the second half, fielding the ball majestically in front of goal and burying the ball in the top corner of the net.
That was Gooch’s second goal of the game after palming the ball to the net earlier in the contest. This was the ideal time to test out Cooper’s match fitness from the start before Kerry are handed some of the championship’s tougher assignments and it will be very tough for Fitzmaurice to pick his six forwards for the All-Ireland semi-final.
Lopsided qualifier draw
Kildare should not have been in an All-Ireland quarter-final. While Jason Ryan’s men impressed against Cork, they were fortunate to be drawn in the ‘A’ side of the qualifier draw, which was considerably weaker than the ‘B’ side.
The Lillywhites beat Offaly and Longford to make it to round four of the qualifiers while Galway had to beat Armagh and Derry to reach the same stage.
The current system means that teams are given an extra week of rest before some of their games but the result is that it can create a top-heavy qualifier system that pits some of the country’s best teams against each other while weaker teams like Kildare and Fermanagh are given relatively kind draws to reach an advanced stage of the championship.
The top managers prove their shrewdness
Both Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Jim Gavin made big decisions before the throw-in that paid off big time for their teams. The Dublin boss decided to omit Michael Dara MacAuley and Kevin McManamon just before the start but few could argue with that call as the 2013 champions opened up a 10-point lead by half time.
While Donaghy’s injury forced Fitzmaurice’s hand, the decision to start Cooper over some of his other options proved critical to Kerry’s big win. Also, bringing Stephen O’Brien into the team worked a treat as he contributed 1-4 to Kerry’s effort.
This is the age of the manager, with the most successful ones getting a large amount of credit when their team performs well. Gavin and Fitzmaurice showed today why all that praise is justified.
Umpires need to do better
It didn't ultimately matter, but the umpires made a big error in letting Fermanagh's first goal against Dublin stand. Stephen Cluxton was clearly pushed over the line by Sean Quigley as he fielded the ball, and it is inexplicable that two umpires standing inches away from the incident could fail to spot something so blatant.
It once again raises the question of whether the umpires for big games should be actual referees rather than people chosen specifically by that day's match official.