On the one hand there was relief that no violence on the pitch marred the occasion but on the other most were disappointed with the quality of the spectacle. That was until Footballer of the Year, Bernard Brogan set the stadium alight with a brilliant goal with a few minutes left on the clock. That strike ignited his team and for the remaining few minutes we had a thrilling battle. Now we have every reason to look forward to a good second test at Croke Park on Saturday.
Both sides seemed so anxious not to engage in anything that could remotely resemble dirty play that there was barely a tackle over the 72 minutes. This lack of engagement was interpreted by many as a lack of commitment and passion. Not so I suspect. I also think the new rule of having to kick the ball after four hand-passes troubled the players. The concept is largely a game of possession and passing. In previous encounters we had some sweeping length of the field movements involving fast hand-passing, brilliant combination play and hard running. Because of this many players opted to kick the ball rather than hand-pass which would have been a better option. Consequently, much of the kicking was poor and misdirected and militated against a free-flowing skilful game.
Admittedly, much of the kicking wasn’t of the highest quality and Ireland, in particular, didn’t show the accuracy in scoring points (overs) that we witnessed in the championship. I expect a huge improvement on Saturday.
There were a huge number of debutants on the Irish side and the novelty of it all may have hindered many of them from giving full expression to their talents. I expect all those cobwebs to be well blown away by Saturday night and I will be amazed if Ireland don’t up their game considerably.
Having said that, Ireland sorely missed the services of Kieran Donaghy and Paul Galvin. Their passion and presence would have been huge assets to Ireland and it’s a pity that they are not involved. It’s hard to believe that Donaghy wasn’t playing because of club commitments. Didn’t Leighton Glynn play three matches over the weekend and other players, like Brendan Murphy played with their club on Sunday?
Incidentally, Murphy is a fine talent that I am looking forward to seeing much more of.
Still, the second test is nicely set-up and I have a feeling that it will be far more competitive than last Saturday night. I expect a few big tackles, some goals and far more accuracy from the Irish. Hopefully, it will be a splendid occasion and a great advertisement for the compromise code. It’s needed.