Football things to think about...
NO CAPITAL CRACKS YET
Jim Gavin took off down the M7, heading south yesterday, buying himself a few days' R&R with his flip-flops and some thoughts to process. Not as many, mind, as the man looking to engineer the downfall of Gavin's All-Ireland champions in three weeks' time.
Donegal and a couple of sendings-off threw up some interesting road blocks for the flat-track kings on Saturday, though nothing the Dubs couldn't scrutinise, evaluate, then overcome.
Donegal were described afterwards as warriors, and their management can be justifiably proud of the players' labour and toil, but Eamonn Fitzmaurice did not see the scrutiny of the Dublin full-back line he might have hoped for. At the other end, the Kerry management know all too well the threat posed by Paul Mannion, who is fancied to start the semi-final, and the mobility of Dublin's midfield.
Man for man, Kerry will struggle to compete with Brian Fenton, whichever pairing they select. Hence, some innovative thinking is called for. A midfield sweeper? Mark Griffin perhaps? Fitzmaurice has been planning for August 28th all season and a gameplan that might force Dublin down a tactical alleyway. He'll deliver one, for sure (and don't rule out Bryan Sheehan pulling on the number one jersey to solve the keeper conundrum). But Gavin won't be fretting in his flip-flops.
SILENCING THE SLEDGERS
SOME of the Dublin and Kerry players weren't too happy to learn that referee David Coldrick was microphoned up for a documentary during last September's All-Ireland final. However, it seems the thrust of their dissatisfaction had more to do with the absence of a heads-up than anything else.
Viewers picked up a few wisecracks from the final day TV special, but nothing as juicy, I'm wagering, as the exchanges between Dublin and Donegal players, and Tyrone and Mayo players on Saturday at Croke Park. Of course, it might have been all harmless slagging, but it wouldn't take a master lipreader to decipher what a couple of defenders were up to.
Sledging seems to be a blind-eye issue for the GAA, one hard to police and prove. Nevertheless, it is punishable in rule with a yellow card, and maybe it's time GAA referees were mic'd up for more than television documentaries. Establishing as fact - and publicising same - what some defenders think of their opponents’ mothers could go a long way to sorting a growing problem.
ARE MAYO READY?
DON'T rely on any Mayo supporter's version of what happened in the final ten minutes of their quarter-final tight squeeze against Tyrone - most were peering through their fingers at the car-crash keep-ball in front of them. Watching Mayo stumble into the last four would hardly convince you that this is their sixth semi in a row - eighth if you count the pair of replays against Kerry and Dublin. So are they ready to take the final step this year?
Firstly, it would serve Stephen Rochford and his players well if the citizens reminded themselves that there is a semi-final to play. But there's no denying the sense of a released pressure valve after Saturday for the new management team. Mayo's form this season has been patchy, but twice they've bounced back from questionable performances to rally really strongly - after Cork mauled them in the League, they restricted Dublin to nine points a week later. And few expected Saturday's mature effort after the haunting display against Westmeath.
SO YOU'RE SAYING MAYO ARE IN BONUS TERRITORY NOW?
Not quite. But they've matched the 'achievement' of last year's management team, and that's important inside the county. And Tipperary are unlikely to suffocate the semi-final if their progress to this point is a reliable barometer, so they should enjoy a footballing semi. All things going with the formbook, Mayo will meet Dublin in an All-Ireland final, and they were closer than anyone last year and this to upending the champions.
Rochford and his management team were quick and decisive in their decision-making Saturday, both in terms of tactics and changes (ref Alan Dillon). With the likes of Maurice Horan and Donie Buckley in the backroom team, Rochford will be well briefed on the Tipperary threats. Unless Mayo are unforgivably sloppy, they're going to be too savvy for Tipp.
More cud for Liam Kearns to chew on....
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