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Mayo V Kerry All Ireland Football Semi Final Preview

21 Aug

By Paul Walsh
GAA Correspondent
Follow him on twitter @walshpots

This was not the way it was supposed to be. The pundits, the bookies and everybody with even a passing interest in GAA, had this down as a Kerry V Cork semi final. The Mayo players and management however, did not read the script. Their second half performance in the quarter finals left the All Ireland champions frustrated and as they floundered, Mayo prospered and booked their appearance at Croke Park today. Despite Mayo’s impressive performance against Cork, they still enter this game as massive underdogs. Are we about to see another upset, or have the experts got it right this time?

Jack O’Connor in the lead up to this game has played down the favourites tag. In his opinion and as long as he has been involved with Kerry, they have always had to deal with expectation. They were expected to progress against Down last year, when their campaign came to a shuddering halt. Despite the history, tradition and the presence of a number of All Ireland winners in Kerry’s team today, they are not unbeatable. Mayo needs to believe, they are a first division team and provincial champions, and they should not fear this Kerry team.

Mayo teams of course have come to Croke Park before and froze like a rabbit in headlights, at the sight of a Kerry jersey. Nobody from the West recounts the 2004 and 2006 All Ireland finals with any fondness. Both days were massacres as Kerry had Mayo beaten by half time on both occasions. Mayo need to contain Kerry early on and continue their excellent defensive play, that has got them this far. Players like Donal Vaughan of Mayo, who stood on Hill 16 at the 2006 All Ireland final, need to use that hurt to erase the impression of Mayo being a team with a soft underbelly.

The Kerry team’s strength lies in the All Star forward line. Mayo did contain Cork, but that was a Cork forward line decimated by injury. Mayo has to plan how they contain Kieran Donaghy, Colm Cooper and Darran O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan in particular has been in fine form, with his back heel against Limerick a clear indication of the confident mood he is in. Probably no other forward in the country would have attempted his audacious flick and it’s this ability to improvise that makes the Kerry forward line son dangerous. For Mayo, centrefield as it was against Cork is a key battleground. The Mayo O’Shea brothers had question marks hanging over them coming in to the Cork game, concerning their mobility. However, they came out on top in their match up with Aidan Walsh and Alan O’Connor. Today they face Anthony Maher and Bryan Sheehan and this Kerry midfield pair, should not strike fear at the heart of Mayo. If Mayo could dominate here, it could go a long way towards a shock victory.

With all due respect to the teams that Kerry has played thus far, they have not been tested apart from the Munster final against Cork. Today will be a real test of their title credentials. All Ireland Championships are not given out based on reputations and there are three really hungry teams that want to deprive The Kingdom of another title. I expect Mayo to be competitive and it will certainly not be a repeat of the 2004 and 2006 All Ireland finals. In the end despite some misgivings I have to plump for Kerry. Their forward line should just give them the edge but by a gap of just 3 points or less.

Dubs and Premier County Face off In All Ireland Semi’s

11 Aug

By Paul Walsh

GAA Correspondent

Follow him on twitter @walshpots

Whatever happens on Sunday, it has been a historic season for the Dublin hurling team. They won their first national title since 1938 and they are appearing in their first All Ireland semi final since 1948.

The progress they have made has delighted both Dubs and neutrals alike, as their aggressive and hard working style has marked them out as an emerging force in hurling. The Leinster Final defeat to Kilkenny was the one blot on their copybook and it perhaps indicated that they are not quite ready to sit at the table of the hurling elites just yet.

Dublin did not perform in the Leinster Final and one senses they would relish a chance to face Kilkenny again, this time in an All Ireland Final, which could redeem their reputation. Standing in their way is a significant obstacle in the shape of reigning All Ireland champions Tipperary. They have impressed on their journey to Croke Park, dispatching Cork, Clare and Waterford with varying levels of ease. Their goal blitz in the Munster Final against Waterford is surely a performance that has been keeping Anthony Daly up nights, as he attempts to plot a course past the Premier County.

Dublin’s cause has not been helped by a spate of injuries. It has now been confirmed that David Treacy will miss Sunday’s game after sustaining a hamstring tear in training over the weekend. He joins the long list of Dublin players in sick bay, which includes Stephen Hiney, Tomás Brady, Conal Keaney and Oisin Gough. Dublin does not have the strength in their panel that Kilkenny or Tipperary have and will find it hard to absorb these losses.

Declan Ryan in contrast has an almost full strength panel to choose from. Seamus Hennessey is their only injury. I expect Tipperary to test the Dublin full back line early and go for goals. The Dublin full back line has had a mixed championship, largely due to injuries to key players. Peter Kelly impressed against Limerick but the full back line will be under sever pressure this Sunday, when they face off against Lar Corbett, Eoin Kelly and John O’Brien. Dublin needs to weather the early onslaught and gain a foothold in the game to have any chance. Ryan O’Dwyer the hat-trick hero from Thurles, will be a key man for Dublin. If he get good ball he can do damage to his native county.

I have to agree with the bookmakers on this occasion and I expect to see Dublin’s odyssey come to a shuddering halt this weekend. The injuries to key players and the quality of the opposition will be the decisive factors. Dublin will put up a battling performance but I expect Tipperary to win by at least 4 points. Tipperary has the ultimate motivation, as the Cats wait for them in the final. If they can defeat the Dubs, a mouth watering final lies ahead in September, as the Federer and Nadal of hurling are on course to meet again.

Dublin’s Finest Supporter Crowned

10 Aug

Vodafone ran a campaign to find Dublin’s Finest Supporter which involved Dublin GAA clubs nominating the person they thought made the greatest contribution to their clubs. From all the entries a list of five were put forward for a public vote. You can watch their five videos here: http://www.hill16.ie/thedubhub/dublins-finest-supporter.html

 

Dublin 0-22 Tyrone 0-15

7 Aug

 

Dublin have secured their spot in the All Ireland Semi Final’s thanks to a seven point victory over Tyrone in Croke Park. It was thought that this would be the Dub’s biggest test of their 2011 Championship but they showed they were more than equal to the test.

The game got off to a quick start with both four points being shared after the first five minutes as they traded blows in the early proceedings.

However, the Dubs then stuck over three unanswered points to put them on the front foot over Mickey Harte’s side.

Tyrone pulled a point back but Dublin were in firm control as they continued to build their lead with points from Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan giving them a four point lead with just twenty minutes gone.

Dublin would add a further four points in the half as the Red Hand county would add just three to their tally leaving the score at Dubin 0-11 Tyrone 0-6 at the half time break.

The Dubs continued their ascendancy in the second half as they bagged four unanswered points inside the first ten minutes of the second stanza.

Tyrone were rattled as they were nine points off the pace but they bravely fought on with three points of their own eating into their opponents lead.

Pat Gilroy’s men were not going to let this one slip however, and they added five more points to their score to give them an insurmountable lead over Tyrone.

The game finished 0-22 to 0-15 in the Dubs favour as they now advance to the All Ireland Semi Finals where they will take on another Ulster opponent in the form of Donegal.

Dub Hub panellists preview Dublin V Tyrone

7 Aug

By Paul Walsh
GAA Correspondent
Follow him on twitter @ walshpots

This Dubhub event came before argubaly the fiercest rivarly in the GAA in recent years . The show brought to Dublin fans by Vodafone and FM104 took place in the Baggot Inn and I got a chance to speak to Paul Curran, Cian Murphy and former Tyrone player Pascal Canavan before proceedings began.

Paul Walsh: Cian, when you look at the Tyrone team that went out against Donegal, compared to the team that has beaten Longford, Armagh and Roscommon, what has changed?

Cian Murphy: I think they have gone back to a system that suits them. Also having Sean Cavanagh in the middle of the field means he influences the game far more than in the full forwards. They have just worked and what they are doing rather than worried about what the opposition are doing.

PW: Paul just to talk about the Dublin midfield and Bastick and Fennell being selected against Sean Cavanagh who looked hot against Roscommon. Is this an area Dublin could be exposed as Bastick and Fennell are not know for their pace?

Paul Curran: They probably would not be the most mobile but the instructions would be clear for them, that they need to hold their positions. I think Cavanagh is a huge danger for us. He was outstanding last week and he loves Croke Park, he loves playing against the Dubs and more importantly he loves playing in midfield. Over the years Mickey Harte has tried him at right half forward, corner forward and centre forward and he has never really played as well as he his capable of playing. Now he is back in his favourite position, he loves the freedom there and the space. I think whoever picks him up has a huge task. I think whoever it is, whether it’s Bastick or Fennell or somebody else or there might even be two picking him, but if we can hold him it will go a long way to winning the match.

PW: Pascal what kind of advantage does it give Tyrone due to the fact they can bring players like Dooher, McMenamin and O’Neill from the bench?

Pascal Canavan: It’s an advantage because you go out with a Plan A but if that does not work it is always good to have a Plan B or C to fall back on. That’s the advantage of having a strong bench. You put your best 15 out but sometimes things don’t work out for all of them so it will make a huge difference to be able to bring them in.

PW: Do you think Mickey Harte has put out his strongest 15?

Pascal Canavan: I think so; I think it’s the strongest fifteen that’s available at the minute. Obviously the likes of Stephen O’Neill if he was fully fit and had played in all the games would be on from the start. But at the moment I think that is the strongest fifteen and with the likes of Mulligan and Penrose in there, I think that gives them a sharper edge up front.
PW: Cian, eleven Tyrone players scored against Roscommon, does that suggest that they have a better spread of scores than Dublin?

CM: Tyrone is all about complete football, so all of their players are comfortable taking a score.

PW: Paul since Dublin beat Tyrone last year, seventeen wides has become a mantra from their players and management. It has also been mentioned by the Tyrone camp in the run up to this game, the suggestion being that they kicked away the game last year. Do you think this is doing a disservice to the Dublin performance last year and could the Dublin management team use these comments as a way to inspire their players for this game?

PC: I think you are bang on there; they have been a little bit uncomplimentary to Dublin. At the end of the day Dublin set up last year to beat Tyrone. In a way last years quarter final was Dublin’s All Ireland although they should have beaten Cork in the semi final but they left it behind them. Tyrone kicked a lot of wides because they were shooting from distance because they couldn’t break this Dublin team down. I think for them to be harping on about last year and 17 wides is a bit foolish. I mean that’s history it’s all about this game, its all about whether they can break Dublin down and win the match. Both teams will be looking for different things. Dublin have the upper hand because they won last year but this is a real 50-50 game. It’s a little bit like last year but with the roles reversed. Tyrone are coming through the back door with Dublin winning a Leinster title. Lat year we had Tyrone winning their province and Dublin coming through the back door after building up some confidence. The big worry from our point of view is that we haven’t played a game for four weeks and we have a couple of injuries which means a couple of changes. Although the team that was picked may not be one that starts, but my main worry is that they have not had enough game time.

PW: I know this question comes up a lot about this particular player but I have to ask it. Is it the right decision to start with Eoghan O’Gara?

PC: I think the team named will not be the team that starts so I think O’Gara wont start. There is a strong rumour around the county that Barry Cahill is going to start centre forward and Alan Brogan is going to push up to the full forwards with O’Gara on the bench. I can’t see how O’Gara is going to start anyway because he only got a cast off this week and he hasn’t played football in three weeks. It’s an unbelievable decision to pick him. I think it’s a dummy team, I don’t think he will start; I don’t think he will play any part in the game.

PW: Do you think both teams may be dummy teams?

PC: There is probably an argument for that. I mean this little fella Coney dropped for Tyrone has been playing very well. Owen Mulligan has replaced him, Owen Mulligan walked of the panel and all of the sudden he is back in the team. Whether that is going to be the case I don’t know. Mulligan does love playing against Dublin and loves playing in Croke Park and knows after been dropped and walking away, he has to perform in this game.

PW: Pascal, I was talking to Paul about Owen Mulligan coming in for Kyle Coney, do you think it is the right decision? What do you think Mickey Harte’s reason for this change would be?

Pascal Canavan: I think Kyle is very good and has a lot to offer and he still might have a lot to offer in this game. But with the sort of game it is and the sort of opposition it is, it maybe takes a more experienced player. When you have Mulligan there, he has performed very well against the dubs for a number of years so I think it’s a safer option. Owen Mulligan and Martin Penrose played very well against Dublin last year so it was probably an easier decision to make than you probably think or realise.

PW: So what’s your prediction for the game?

Pascal Canavan: Obviously I fancy Tyrone by maybe 1 or 2 points. It’s going to be very tight because both teams are defensive but I have a sneaky feeling for Tyrone?

Dublin fans can keep up to date on all things Dublin GAA including Cian Murphy’s blog, Match Day Live and Dublin’s Finest Supporter on the DubHub http://www.hill16.ie/thedubhub/

Dub Hub Gives Fans an Insight into the Big Game

9 Jul

By Paul Walsh
GAA Correspondent
Follow him on twitter @walshpots

Another Friday night before a big Dublin game and another Dubhub event. This time on a balmy Friday evening the show brought to Dublin fans by Vodafone and FM104 moved to Smyth’s in Ranelagh. . This time the regular panellists Jason Sherlock, Paul Curran and Cian Murphy were joined by Wexford legend Mattie Forde.

I had a few words with the lads before they went out live on FM104 and as usual they were forthright with their opinions.
Paul Walsh: Paul was the decision to start Eamon Fennell ahead of Barry Cahill and Ross McConnell in place of Michael Dara McCauley the right one?

Paul Curran: We will have to wait and see. I think there are three or four midfielders going for the two positions, which is a good thing in a way, but in another way we don’t seem to have a settled midfield. I don’t know where Barry Cahill is gone; he seems to have gone backwards in a very short space of time. He started the league final and played very well but he only came on for a couple of minutes in the last match and here he is overlooked. Maybe he is picking Fennell because of the type of game he wants to play. He is big and he is strong and direct, we will just have to wait and see.

PW: When Fennell came on in the last game, Cluxton aimed his kicks at him; do you think the plan might be to go down the centre?

PC: I think that’s probably one of the things he is looking at. I think the longer we go in the championship, teams will have our kick outs sorted. They will try and identify Cluxton’s kick outs and counteract. So, maybe we are looking to be more direct from the kick outs

PW: Matty do you think Jason Ryan will see midfield as an area that Wexford might be able to dominate?

Mattie Forde: Maybe not dominate but they will certainly target it, but the midfield is not just about the middle four it’s about the middle twelve. It’s not only about how much ball is won but it’s about what you do with it.

PW: Jason do you think it was a risk to stick with Eoghan O’Gara after his sending off against Kildare and question marks over his discipline?

Jason Sherlock: Well obviously Eoghan’s big strength is his physicality but I suppose everyone was a bit surprised when he stayed on the pitch after getting a yellow card. I think everyone felt it could happen. Obviously Pat has a lot of time for him, Pat has said he is going very well in training so I don’t see it as a surprise that he is starting. You could ask does he help the full forward line, its evident Diarmuid struggled the last day and Bernard hasn’t been as hot. In the league they were playing beside Mossy Quinn so maybe it suited them better playing beside him. Eoghan had a great year last year, he missed an awful lot of football through suspension and it could be a game when it all clicks for him on Sunday.

PW: When you look at the Wexford forwards with their team scoring 7-54 in three games, what kind of threat are they going to pose to Dublin and how will the Dubs contain them?

JS: They will pose a massive threat and to be fair to them they have had a great season so far. You would think that this is a step up. I think the style that Wexford play bringing a man outfield in Colm Morris will suit Dublin because it means they will have an extra defender there. So it’s going to be a big challenge for Wexford. But, when you look at Ciaran Lyng and Ben Brosnan they certainly have the firepower if they get the ball.

PW: No Leinster title since 1945, what would it mean Mattie for Wexford to win on Sunday?

MF: I think it would mean everything, obviously so long since a Leinster title so it would be massive. Hurling has taken over in Wexford as the number one sport in the last couple of years. There will be a small enough Wexford crowd on Sunday to what you would
get for a Leinster hurling final with Wexford in it, but it would mean absolutely everything. To be fair there is a loyal group of Wexford people that have supported the footballers over a long number of years, it would mean everything to them also to win a Leinster final on Sunday.

PW: Paul I just wanted to ask you about the disputed free against Kildare. It could be argued that Dublin has not got the breaks in recent years, how important do you think luck is for Dublin to be successful in the championship?

PC: I think a bit of luck is important, but I think you make your own luck. I have to say I was right in line with the free and Brogan was getting pulled. When they were kicking the ball in, I turned around to my 8-year-old and said “that’s a free”. He gave the free and when I watched it at home whatever way the camera angle was it didn’t look much. It was definitely a free he was pulling out of him and I thought it was a very brave decision from Cormac Reilly. A lot of referees with the score tied and the clock ticking down would have let it go and blown up and everyone is happy. It was a correct decision; you need those decisions to win especially the big matches.

PW: I just wanted to talk about something Jason Ryan said this week. He said that Bernard Brogan got a lot of soft frees against Kildare and he hoped that his players would get the same amount of soft frees. He also said he hoped that there would be consistency by the referee in awarding frees to both Wexford and Dublin. Do you think Bernard Brogan in particular and Dublin in general get a lot of soft frees or was Jason Ryan doing a “Mouriniho” and trying to put pressure on the referee?

MF: There could have been some semblance of that without a shadow of a doubt. Just because Bernard Brogan is footballer of the year does not mean he gets soft frees, I think everything he gets he earns. There could have been a small bit of gamesmanship it what was said. The referee is going to have a bearing on this game especially if the game is tight.

PW: Prediction for the game?

MF: The heart says Wexford but the head definitely says Dublin. The formbook all points in that direction.

PC: Just to comment on Jason Ryan I think he is learning out of the Alex Ferguson school of management. He is looking for a few breaks for his team on Sunday. I think as Matty says the referees in general are very fair. Against Kildare he made a good decision and one that most referees would not make.

Dublin fans can keep up to date on all things Dublin GAA including Cian Murphy’s blog, Match Day Live and Dublin’s Finest Supporter on the DubHub http://www.hill16.ie/thedubhub/

Daly’s Dublin day of destiny

1 Jul


By Paul Walsh
GAA Correspondent
Follow him on twitter @Walshpots

Dublin and Kilkenny have played three times this season and from these encounters the Dubs have won twice, collected a Walsh Cup and won their first League title since 1939. However, this Sunday sees the return of Henry Shefflin to the Cats and King Henry is sure to inspire those around him when they line up against Dublin for the Leinster final.

The success of the Dublin hurlers has been the story of the GAA season so far. This progress has been achieved by an excellent coach aided by a group of exciting and talented players. Tipperary native Ryan Dywer, Conal Keaney, Paul Ryan and Dotsy O’Callaghan form a lethal attacking threat. Elsewhere in midfield or defence Liam Rushe looks like an amazing young talent already on his way to an All Star.

It is not only Henry Shefflin that returns for Kilkenny, Tommy Walsh, Riche Power, Michael Fennelly and P J Ryan also strengthens the team that lost to Dublin in the league final. Kilkenny showed in the last round with an 11 point win over Wexford that they are not a team on the decline and there is no doubt they will want to lay down a marker on Sunday for these young upstarts from the Capital.

Dublin laboured to a win over Offaly but impressed against a Galway team packed with talent. A lot was made of how poorly Galway played but the fact is that they were not allowed play by a rampant Dublin team.

Dublin need to match Kilkenny for intensity first on Sunday then they need to unleash the talent they obviously have. Kilkenny are still hurting from last years defeat to Tipperary which spoiled their drive for five. Both teams will be hungry on Sunday but I expect to see Dublin fall just short as Kilkenny progress on their way to redemption in September.