Here’s five talking points from this weekend’s Senior Football Championship.
TOP TIER TOO STRONG
NEVER mind tiering the All-Ireland SFC, is there any way the provinces can be tiered?
We’re being slightly facetious but it wouldn’t be any stretch to suggest the reverberations of Saturday’s Munster final result will echo for several years to come.
As they claimed a sixth consecutive Munster title, Kerry don’t look like losing in the province anytime soon and, unless Cork gain promotion to Division 1 prior to a semi-final win next year, attendances will dwindle, even in the event junkies’ playground of Killarney.
Connacht and Ulster are the only competitive provinces right now and the standard of the latter leaves something to be desired. Anyway, what Donegal have gone through — double the games and double the rivalry — to reach the same point as Kerry is hardly fair. It’s sad to say, but what happened in Páirc Uí Chaoimh was one of the greatest advertisements for a tiered championship.
THE qualifier route clearly suits Tyrone, who are halfway towards navigating all four rounds for the third time in six seasons. They won their last two All-Irelands, in 2005 and 2008, through the back door and have won 26 of their 31 qualifier games in total. It’s a particularly long road to an All-Ireland through the qualifiers in 2018, though, with the new Super 8s guaranteeing three extra games.
If Tyrone keep winning games they’ll play on five consecutive weekends and won’t have a down week until the end of July.
“I would love that far more than sitting down from now until January waiting to play football,” said Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. “I wouldn’t call it demanding at all, I would call it a privilege. A privilege to be in that place and I hope we are playing week-on-week for as long as this season goes on.”
MAYO MIXING THINGS UP
THE lack of depth in Mayo’s attack has rightfully come in for criticism in recent years, but Saturday’s qualifier was one of those few occasions where the supporting cast outshone the team’s marquee forwards. Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran provided one point from play between them, Moran’s point arriving in the closing stages when the visitors were very much in the ascendancy.
The pair, to be fair, won a number of frees in the opening quarter, but as Brian Fox’s influence in the sweeper role became more pronounced, the supply of ball into O’Connor and Moran dried up and it was left to others to keep Mayo in touch throughout the first half and early in the second.
Stepping forward were Kevin McLoughlin and Jason Doherty, both men raising three white flags apiece. The two O’Sheas, Lee Keegan and Paddy Durcan also chipped in, so, while their overall performance was far from satisfactory, management can at least take positives from the manner in which McLoughlin and Doherty assumed leadership roles in the scoring department.
A spread of 10 scorers is notable, given the pressure they were under for 55 minutes of this qualifier.
STILL DREAMING BIG
The skinnings suffered by Cork, Fermanagh and Laois in the weekend’s senior provincial football finals have again ushered talk of championship tiers to the surface, but Clones yesterday morning and through lunchtime was a reminder of what many are fearful of being lost, too.
Fermanagh fans colonised the town, centring on the patch of ground outside the Creighton Hotel, where they roared their team’s bus through to the stadium. For them, the idea of a first provincial title remains a dream that tantalises and taunts them.
Hats off to whoever squares that circle.
NOT SO NEGATIVE DONEGAL
Donegal’s ‘reward’ for a first Ulster title in four years is a daunting trip to Croke Park to take on Leinster and All-Ireland champions Dublin.
Roscommon, or the team that defeats them, and Cork, or whoever gets the better of them, will also form part of the group. Donegal have not appeared in an All-Ireland semi-final since their famous 3-14 to 0-17 win over Dublin in 2014.
For a team who have had a reputation for being defensive, Donegal blitzed their way through Ulster this year, with an average score of 2-19, the highest ever in the province, pipping the record set last year by Tyrone, who averaged 1-20. Declan Bonner’s team were 2-20 to 1-15 winners against Cavan in the preliminary round, overcame Derry 2-16 to 0-16 in the last eight, and then beat Down 2-21 to 1-12 last time out.
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