With four counties left standing the outcome of this year’s All-Ireland is a very open contest
(1) WHAT PRICE WILL GALWAY PAY FOR THE BRAWL?
Maybe the oddest part of the melee in Croke Park were the players David Coldrick identified through the maelstrom and sent off.
According to Des Cahill on The Sunday Game, the GAA informed RTÉ that Coldrick had selected Seán Kelly and Aidan Nugent for censure for “contributing to a melee”, a catch-all Category Three offence that carries an automatic one-match ban.
Were the CCCC of a mind now, they could cite any of 20 players for the same breach, a course of action that would hurt Galway far more than Armagh.
But other than the incident involving Damien Comer, there is no clear footage of a player striking or committing an offence that might grant the CCCC a sacrificial lamb.
Of all the players involved, Kelly – the Galway captain – seemed to be one most obviously on a peacekeeping mission. At one stage, he is clearly seen remonstrating with Tiernan Kelly which, in the circumstances, could be argued was a commendable display of restraint.
Arguably now, there is a greater chance that Kelly is cleared on appeal than further Galway players being retrospectively sanctioned.
(2) WHITHER KING CON AND CAPTAIN JAMES?
Dessie Farrell wasn’t being vague or abstruse. The Dublin manager was straight up: he didn’t want to answer questions about the specification of the injuries which kept his captain James McCarthy and vice-captain Con O’Callaghan out of Saturday night’s methodical win over Cork.
“I’d rather not say, if that’s OK,” he replied to a question as to whether the two had, as reported, missed out due to hamstring injuries. Unusually for Dublin, word of their unavailability had leaked by Thursday of last week.
Around Dublin currently, Chinese Whispers are circulating about the nature of O’Callaghan’s injury; everything from a dead leg to a hairline fracture of a foot to cracked kneecap has been rumoured. So Farrell’s unwillingness to disclose will only intensify speculation over the next two weeks.
Without him, the Dublin attack had nothing to revolve around and allied to McCarthy’s absence, the entire attacking effort lacked penetration.
Dublin scored no goals against Cork and didn’t really threaten. It’s a worry. O’Callaghan missed the entire league while McCarthy only started the last two games of the campaign and look what happened.
(3) DERRY FOR SAM?
In a column for the Sunday Independent in August of 2020, Joe Brolly wrote: “In Derry, the board is currently in serious discussions about whether to enter a senior team into next year’s championship.”
Prior to the championship, Derry were priced at 50/1 to win the All-Ireland, the same odds as Roscommon and longer than both Kildare (40/1) and Monaghan (33/1).
Now? Derry are 6/1 but if we were to exclusively take the events of this championship so far as a metric of suitability for Sam Maguire, they should arguably be favourites.
On Saturday, they demonstrated that their explosive game not only works well in Croke Park, it amplifies their qualities.
This is a season where there is no obvious All-Ireland winner. All the remaining teams, bar Derry, have demonstrated flaws so far.
Maybe they’ve yet to be exposed. Maybe they don’t have any.
(4) HOW WILL KERRY’S DEFENCE SCORE IN THE ULTIMATE TEST?
Stat: In their 13 games between the McGrath Cup, Allianz League, Munster Championship and All-Ireland quarter-final, Kerry have conceded just one goal from play.
It came in Killarney, when Darragh Canavan – of all people – caught one of Niall Morgan’s kick-outs and kicked long and straight in to Darren McCurry, who finished to the net.
Other than that, the only goal they have shipped was a harsh penalty to Monaghan in Inniskeen.
Between league and championship, their average concession per game is 12.3 points and in three games this year, they’ve kept Mayo – a team against whom they have occasionally struggled to contain in the past – to 0-14, 0-13 and 0-13.
The challenge that awaits them on Sunday week against Dublin, the one their whole season has been building to, will be something completely removed from anything they have encountered so far.
(5) WHAT NOW FOR MAYO?
Gone are the days when managers used a post-match press conference as a convenient opportunity to announce their intention to step down.
But there was something about the bonhomie of James Horan on Sunday that suggested his war might be over and the end of his second term was subsequently confirmed in a statement released by the Mayo county board yesterday evening.
There were strong rumours in Mayo that Horan had sounded out the possibility of taking on another two-year term, but there was a definite end-of-days feeling about the loss on Sunday.
It shouldn’t be lost that in two of the four seasons of Horan’s latest stint, Mayo have been in All-Ireland finals, even if the manner of last year’s loss to Tyrone still stings.
But Mayo were bereft up front on Sunday and the unfortunate losses through injury of both Ryan O’Donoghue and Tommy Conroy were only part of the problem.
A new direction was inevitable. Choosing the right person to chart that path is essential.
(6) IF NOT PENALTIES, THEN WHAT?
“Penalties are for soccer,” was Pádraic Joyce’s take on it and while his contention that they are a cruel determinant for big championship matches might be widely shared, worthy alternatives aren’t abundantly obvious.
Replays for games that finish level after extra-time from the All-Ireland quarter-final on might address one aspect of it: no team within sight of football’s biggest days would be denied in such a gut-wrenching way. But it doesn’t solve the issue: some other method will be required to decide who wins at an earlier stage in the championship, given the time-frame into which the competition is squeezed.