Monday 19 August 2019

Paul Curran: 'The talk is that Diarmuid Connolly has been flying in training - he needs to start in Omagh'

Diarmuid Connolly hasn't played for Dublin since February 2018. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Diarmuid Connolly hasn't played for Dublin since February 2018. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Paul Curran

Games in Cork, Omagh, Navan and Castlebar will see the end of the Super 8s competition for 2019 and although the games have been better this year one feels that there is still something missing.

In a perfect world the last Super 8s group game should finish with something to play for, as is the case in one group, but that’s a conversation for another day.

The other group is straightforward in terms of qualification, with the minor issue of first and second to be confirmed. Tyrone welcome Dublin to Omagh for the second year in a row but the Tyrone mentality might be a little different this time.

They do not need to win this game, although they would obviously like to get one over on the champions. But this is a game with nothing at stake and with a semi-final coming a week later, it would be criminal to waste too much energy on it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this game was the ultimate dead rubber. A lot of shadow boxing with plenty of space to play could be the order of the day. Dublin will come to win but they will know that there is a bigger game around the corner and will probably rest high-profile players like Brian Fenton, Dean Rock and Con O’Callaghan.

The quality and hunger within the squad means that four or five changes won’t have a negative effect and with players given a chance to impress at this stage of the year, it might mean increased energy in the team.

This is an ideal game to start Diarmuid Connolly. The talk is that he is flying in training but matches are harder than training games so this game would give us a definitive answer as to how he is moving. He needs to start.

Cormac Costello will probably get a start after missing the Roscommon game and we have yet to see young Eoghan Murchan this year.

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There is plenty of scope to make changes at midfield and up front but the Dublin defence is less competitive, so I don’t see to many changes. I wouldn’t mind seeing Jack McCaffrey getting a break as he is a key player.

There will be plenty of Dublin supporters making the trek to Omagh so it should be a good atmosphere and with both teams likely to rest their big players, I think the advantage is with Dublin on the basis that their squad is deeper.

In the other group, Kerry, Donegal and Mayo are all still in with a chance of making it to the semi-finals so the games could be ferocious contests.

Kerry travel to Navan to take on Meath, who are already out. Andy McEntee will still want to finish on a positive so that makes this game a  dangerous one for Kerry.

The Meath players can really have a go and attack the Kerry rearguard in front of their own supporters while Kerry know that they must get something out of this game to absolutely be certain of getting through.

Kerry looked decent in their last outing against Donegal in what was the game of the championship so far and if they get out of the blocks quickly it could be a long day for the Meath men.

Their defence is still a cause for worry but they are on an upward curve and are determined to get back to the top of the pile.

The other game in Castlebar should be a real belter. This is effectively an All-Ireland quarter-final between two exceptional teams, both with aspirations of knocking Dublin off top spot.

I would put Donegal slightly ahead of Mayo but there isn’t a more dangerous team than Mayo when they are backed into a corner.

The humiliating defeat to Kerry in the first group game in Killarney is now a distant memory and although they had to work extremely hard to get over the line against Meath, they are exactly where they would have wanted to be with one game to go.

Donegal showed how resilient they are when securing a draw against Kerry despite missing half of their first-choice defenders.

Ryan McHugh has another All Star in the bag already with some outstanding performances. The job of tracking him will probably be given to Lee Keegan and that would be worth the admission fee alone.

I think home advantage, the huge Mayo support and the fighting qualities that this Mayo team still have could be the difference, so I am tipping Mayo to make it to the last four along with Kerry as the group winners.

If it all works out like that it will be Dublin against Mayo and Kerry taking on Tyrone in the last four.

Meanwhile, the young lads still show us all how to play the game. I made the journey to Longford last Saturday to see two minor quarter-finals and an U20 semi-final and the standard of football on show was of the highest level.

No sweepers or packed defences, just honest football with all the skills on view such as long kicking, tackling (one-on-one), high fielding and clinical finishing. It was a great afternoon’s entertainment.

Congrats to the Dublin U20 players and management on winning their game against Galway and commiserations to the minors, who fought one hell of a fight but went down by a couple of points.

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