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Wed 04-Aug-2010 16:19
More from this writer..
Just what the doctor ordered
Emmet Moloney writes for the
'The Irish Farmers Journal'
and is a former sports columnist with 'The Kerryman'.
At last. The football championship has been turned on its head and we are guaranteed a novel All-Ireland final. Emmet Moloney can’t wait for it...
Thank God for that. Tyrone and Kerry? Thanks for the memories, lads, but you won’t be missed by the rest of the country. Those of you in the Kingdom, it’s time you woke up to the fact that all this tolerating and feeding of the Paul Galvin soap opera is costing you All-Irelands. Manager Jack O’Connor has brought a certain edge to the Kerry set-up, one that is not traditional and mostly based around being tough enough to beat Tyrone. Deep down, there are quite a few supporters uneasy with the behaviour of certain players. Blaming the CCCC for losing this All-Ireland should be the explanation in the dictionary for the phrase “shooting the messenger”.
Tyrone haven’t been right in Croke Park for two years now. Brian Dooher might have played his last game at headquarters and one or two more could say goodbye. Dooher has been some warrior for his county, a great player and a real leader. Sean Kavanagh, his natural successor, doesn’t look anything like the footballer he was two short years ago. Without him firing, Tyrone are an also-ran.
Meath are a young team going places. We’ll never know what damage was inflicted on them in that bizarre Leinster final and its poorly managed aftermath. They have young forwards with obvious ability, they’ll be back and with stirrings in Dublin, Louth and Kildare, Leinster is beginning to look strong again. The Royals will win an All-Ireland sooner rather than later.
Roscommon, the only underdog that didn’t win at the weekend, will take plenty of comfort from the year. They will learn to protect the ball a bit better against sides as strong as Cork, but youth is also on their side and a Connacht title was a bonus in 2010. Let’s hope they stay on the right course and don’t lose the run of themselves.
The big winners of the weekend were Down. They say they didn’t pay much heed to their record of having never lost to Kerry in Croke Park but they’re a proud lot up there; it must have been spoken about. Heroes like Kevin Mussen, Sean O’Neill, the McCartans and Lindens – could you let them down? After all, the Mourne County are unique in the annals of Gaelic Football with this ability to beat Kerry on the big day. We might have written them off, but Ulster football is littered with proud performances such as this. Momentum is on their side.
The Lilywhites await them. What a prospect. Colour, atmosphere, excitement and unpredictability guaranteed. Kildare looked the best of the four winning sides, but we’ll never be quite sure when they will find the self-destruct button.
Has McGeeney cured them of their sudden tendency to kick the ball wide from promising positions or into the hands of an untroubled keeper with the game on the line? It looks like he has, judging by the way they clinically closed out Meath. Of the last four they assume the neutral’s hopes. With Dermot Earley’s dignity, McGeeney’s calm yet driven persona, along with all Kildare bring to the underachievers table, they have fairytale written all over them.
Cork and Dublin carry the weight of their supporters heavier than most. The Rebels looked desperate against the Rossies, at times merely going through the motions. The Dubs, on the other hand, played with a ferocity very few will cope with, but will never be prolific scorers relying on the Brogans. Neither will frighten the winners of Down and Kildare.
Now that the football championship has really caught our imagination, is there any hope for the hurling equivalent? This Sunday the champions elect face another seemingly straightforward task – Cork in a semi-final. So, have Cork any hope? Newsflash for anyone who hasn’t been following the recent lives of these two teams; Cork will put up a performance. They will tear into them. They will have a plan. They will try something very different. They will not roll over.
Respect is a big thing with this panel. To many of us it is a bit annoying when they lapse into this American sports psychology speak, but they do buy into it. There will be plenty of that talk in their dressing room. And there will be a plan. It might just work. No team is unbeatable. To stop the Cats, you must deprive them of the ball in the air. It’s a tall order as they have magnificent ability under the dropping ball. But that’s the first item on the beating them agenda.
How do you do it? Short puck-outs? Ground hurling? Head-high puck-outs? Or do you rely on personnel to simply best their opponent? That’s a dilemma for every manager facing them. In five years, nobody has figured it out as well as Liam Sheedy did last September, but even then Tipperary still lost. Here’s a theory we were kicking around the other night. How about putting Sean Óg, Ronan Curran and John Gardiner into the Cork half-forward line for every Cork puck out? Let’s see Tommy Walsh lord it over those boys.
That’s the kind of thinking needed from Denis Walsh, Donal Óg or whatever brain trust Cork employ at the moment. Playing your best 15 and hoping the ball breaks for you will not work against the greatest team to ever play the game. You must try to stop them hurling.
The five in a row with Cork and possibly Tipperary on the semi-final and final rota will prod Brian Cody as well. This is the way to make history, beating the oldest of enemies along the way. They’ll be expecting a savage effort and some unpredictable strategies from Cork; nothing will catch Kilkenny unawares on Sunday.
Forget the Rebel’s anemic displays against Antrim and Waterford, they will be a different side on Sunday. It is the last-chance saloon for a few of them and good and all as the Cats are, they won’t be afraid of them. It could well be the game of the summer so far in terms of intensity, courage and tactics. It could well be the shock of the decade.
Expect a low-scoring contest. Expect the Cats to get out of there by the skin of their teeth.
To catch Emmet's latest column, get
'The Irish Farmers' Journal'
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