The Red Hands are battle-hardened, writes Paul Keane.
Tyrone won’t arrived in Croker untested
Winning All-Irelands with at least one replay along the way was Tyrone’s forte throughout the 2000s. In fact, in 2005, they won the Sam Maguire having encountered three replays, but will their marathon efforts to reclaim the Ulster title this year count against them in the All-Ireland series?
Tyrone have had to go to the coalface twice in their last three provincial games, the drawn game against Cavan and yesterday’s Ulster final, to keep their remarkable unbeaten run since last year’s All-Ireland semi-finals intact.
Mickey Harte will argue that momentum and the good vibes generated from provincial success will far outweigh any heavy legs. Dublin, who could meet Tyrone in the All-Ireland final, find themselves in the exact opposite scenario. They’re entirely untested this summer and still don’t know if the absence of Jack McCaffrey and Rory O’Carroll is going to scupper their All-Ireland hopes. Then again, unlike Tyrone, they can claim to have vital freshness on their side going into the business end of the Championship.
Top-flight status no protection come summer
There are 52 Galway men who clearly didn’t see this coming. Galway will contest an All-Ireland quarter-final for just the second time since 2008 and they will do so as Connacht champions. Oh to be a fly on the wall in the homes of any of the 52 players who, according to manager Kevin Walsh, knocked him back in the last 18 months or so when he invited them to be part of the panel. Some, of course, probably wouldn’t have made it near his first team but a handful were first team regulars and must feel a little shortchanged at this stage.
Losing to Cavan in an effective promotion play-off in Division 2 back in spring appeared to confirm the suspicion that Galway were going nowhere fast. But it’s been some turnaround since and whatever happens in the coming weeks, the players who stuck around have enjoyed two career highs already this summer; beating Mayo and now Roscommon.
Yesterday’s win also proved that Division 1 teams are there to be picked off with Monaghan and Down knocked out of the Championship by Longford, Cork taken down by Tipperary in Munster and Division 2 winners Tyrone beating Donegal.
Leinster is in rag order
Former Dublin midfielder Paul Bealin stated ahead of the Leinster final that the province has been in a ‘dire state’ for the last five years.
As a former Westmeath, Carlow and Wexford manager, the All-Ireland medallist is well qualified to talk and his argument stacked up well in the context of yesterday’s supposed showpiece.
Westmeath have emerged as the second best team in the province based on Championship results in the last two seasons though were beaten by 15 points — it could have been plenty worse too — and they will compete in Division 4 of the Allianz league next season.
In all, Dublin have won their three provincial games this summer with 36 points to spare. That’s partly down to Dublin themselves, and Stephen Cluxton notably mentioned in his victory speech that they paid Westmeath the ultimate respect by going as hard as they could against them. But the Sky Blues’ utter dominance of all provincial opposition continues to be an indictment on their neighbours.
Derry remain back door specialists
They’ve had their qualifier yips over the years — the losses to Longford in 2006, 2012, and 2014, spring to mind — but few counties have embraced the back door concept quite like Derry. It is a remarkable statistic that of the first 13 qualifier games played by Derry, between 2001 and 2005, they lost just two.
Their recent form is headed in a similar direction, with the northeastern triangle of counties, Cavan, Meath and Louth, all knocked out of the Championship in recent weeks.
In all, Derry have played 36 qualifier games and won 24, a record that puts them in the top six of all counties.
With momentum on their side now they can fancy their chances of a rare All-Ireland quarter-final appearance just weeks after a double-digit Ulster championship defeat to Tyrone.
As for Cavan, who lost to Derry on Saturday, their qualifier form is in perfect contrast. Since their strong 2013 campaign, they have consistently spoken about making a breakthrough in Ulster but failing to do so has clearly sapped their enthusiasm. Wins over Westmeath, London and Carlow is all they have to show for their last three seasons in the qualifiers.
Aidan O’Shea’s conscience is clear
Aidan O’Shea took a roasting in the media all last week for his apparent dive in the qualifier win over Fermanagh.
Nobody seemed too bothered to make a defence for the big Mayo man, aside from the usual conjecture that he is the offended moreso than the offender these days. O’Shea himself, when he finally appeared in front of a microphone on Saturday evening after Mayo’s win over Kildare, had an entirely different take on it though. “The disappointing part was that we had one camera angle on the thing, the national broadcaster only brought one camera down here,” O’Shea told Sky Sports.
“It’s disappointing that there was only one camera angle to show it. Everybody only gets to see something in a flash second but my conscience is clear. I didn’t flop.”
To be clear, O’Shea insisted he didn’t dive. “I just don’t think I dived, that’s the bottom line,” he added. “Unfortunately, I see people having a cut at me and that’s alright but I can be judged or criticised fairly, I have no problem with that. I just felt it was unfair during the week.”
Dublin set to face familiar foe
They walked away with an 11th Leinster title in 12 seasons yesterday but Dublin could have an insider of sorts plotting against them next season. Andy McEntee, who led Dublin champions Ballyboden St Enda’s to the AIB All-Ireland club title last march, is believed to have already been privately sounded out about replacing Mick O’Dowd in the Meath hot seat.
Nobody will be too surprised about that as the ex-Royals minor boss is the favourite to step up, though Anthony Moyles’ refusal to rule himself out of the running during an interview with Newstalk on Saturday was an intriguing development.
The former Meath captain is in charge of Dunshaughlin, the 2011 county finalists, and former three-in-a-row champions. Moyles noted that a club needs to propose him before he could be considered a candidate though refused to rule himself out in the event that he is put forward.
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