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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 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

Bryan Cullen named captain of Dublin for All Ireland Championship

27 May

By Paul Walsh
GAA Correspondent

Pat Gilroy has announced that Bryan Cullen will lead the Dublin footballers as captain this summer with Paul Griffin as vice captain.

This marks an incredible turn around for Cullen given that prior to his move to half forward last year it had seemed he was out of favour with the Dublin management team.

Some fine championship performances at half forward last year including a man of the match display against Louth means Cullen is now an integral part of Gilroy’s team. His work rate within the Dublin system makes him indispensible.

Cullen has experience in the role having previously captained the Dublin minors and under 21s. He also captained DCU to their first Sigerson Cup in 2006.

Dublin starts their campaign in the Leinster Championship with a quarter final meeting with Laois on the 5th of June. Laois struggled to victory over Longford in their first game of the championship last Sunday.

Round up of Sunday’s All-Ireland Football Action

27 May

By Paul Walsh
GAA Correspondent
Follow him on twitter @Walshpots

A second half goal ensured Leitrim had a deserved victory over Sligo in yesterday’s Connaght Championship clash at Markievicz Park by a score of 1-10 to 10 points.

Going into this game as outsiders, Mickey Moran’s men produced a tremendous performance to book their place in the last-four of this competition against Roscommon.

Leitrim held a lead of 0-8 to 0-5 at the interval, and Conor Beirne scored a goal in the second half to guarantee victory for Leitrim.

Kerry’s got their championship started yesterday with a Munster quarter-final win against Tipperary by a score of 2-16 to 11 points.

Kerry had to deal with a spirited Tipperary performance particularly in the first half. Despite Tomas O’Se getting sent off for Kerry in the 33rd minute, it was actually The Kingdom that picked up their performance after this.

Conor Sweeney got the opening point of the half to put Tipperary ahead and Brian Fox scored again for Tipperary to give them a 0-2 to 0-1 lead. The contentious issue of the first half was the sending off when Tomas O’Se was involved in an off the ball incident.

Kerry also got a penalty in the second half after Kieran Donaghy was pulled to the ground. Bryan Sheehan calmly tucked the penalty away. They then lead 1-09 to 0-5 and they never looked troubled after this with some excellent forward play from Kerry throughout.

Cork cruised into the next round of the Munster Championship with a convincing victory over Clare at Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday by a score line of 1-23 to 11 points.

The game was over as a contest by half-time with Cork leading 1-9 to 0-4. Clare were powerless to stop Donnacha O’Connor’s punched goal in the 22nd minute which was a key turning point in the game.

This sort of form by Cork already means they are already favourites to retain their All-Ireland Championship.

A disappointing performance from Wicklow saw them meekly exit the Leinster Championship with a defeat to Kildare by a score of 0-12 to 0-5.

Kildare led by just one point at half time but dominated the second half. John Doyle for so long a talisman for Kildare again put in an inspired performance for the Lillywhites even with his enforced move to midfield from his preferred attacking role.

Kildare move on to meet Meath on the 5th of June in the Leinster quarter-final and Kieran McGeeney’s main concern in advance of that game, will be fact his team only scored 12 points despite their dominance.

Laois progressed in the Leinster Championship by the tightest of margins by 0-10 to 0-9 over Longford.

The early stages of the game were dominated by Laois. Both teams were guilty of wayward shooting and Laois will certainly have to improve when the face Dublin in the Leinster Championship Quarter Final. A score of ten points will certainly not be enough to defeat Dublin.

Derry had a comfortable victory in the Ulster Football Championship by a score of 1-18 to 1-10.

Derry lead by 18 points at one stage but Fermanagh restored some pride and reduced to deficit to eight points.

Derry did not impress in the second half and they must now prepare for a difficult Ulster semi-final clash against either Down or Armagh.

Round-Up of Saturday’s GAA action

23 Jan

By Paul Walsh
GAA Correspondent

A hat-trick of second half goals ensured Clare had an easy victory over Limerick IT in yesterday’s Waterford Crystal Cup clash at Sixmilebridge by a score of 3-14 to 15 points.

Having struggled to overcome IT Tralee last weekend, Ger O’Loughlin’s men showed a big improvement to book their place in the last-four of this competition.

Clare held a slight 0-8 to 0-7 lead at the interval, but notched three goals on the restart to pull away from the students. Diarmuid McMahon netted a brace, while Adrian O’Donovan added the Banner’s third to ensure a semi-final meeting with Cork IT or Waterford.

Cavan’s new joint-managers Val Andrews and Terry Hyland got their first win of the season in yesterday’s McKenna Cup clash against Queen’s University by a score of 12 points to 1-4.

Cavan recovered from a slow start to see off Queens who lost their chance following the sending off of Fermanagh’s Joe O’Brien in the first half.

Points from Charlie Kielt, Joe O’Kane, Cathal Crilly and Niall McKenna put Queen’s into a 0-4 to 0-1 early lead , but with Ronan Flanagan in fantastic form from frees, the hosts fought back to lead by 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time.

Cavan tagged on six points in the second half, with Queen’s only score a goal from a free-kick by Tyrone’s Niall McKenna.

Dublin cruised into the O’Byrne Cup Shield final following a convincing victory over Offaly at Parnell Park yesterday by a score line of 3-13 to 7 points.

The game, which was brought forward by four-and-a-half hours to ensure a frozen pitch was avoided, was over as a contest by half-time with Dublin leading 3-6 to 0-2. Offaly, who were short 18 players due to college commitments and Rhode’s involvement in today’s Leinster club final, were powerless to stop Tomas Quinn (penalty), Kevin McManamon and Diarmuid Connolly from finding the net.

The visitors, who went 29 minutes without scoring in the first half, were more competitive in the second half with veterans Ciaran McManus and Karol Slattery leading by example.

Dublin, who themselves were without a host of college and club-tied players, introduced Paul Flynn and Paddy Andrews before the end, but opted to keep Footballer of the Year Bernard Brogan on the bench. After their disappointing loss to Westmeath in the O’Byrne Cup, the dubs have responded well with emphatic wins over Wexford and now Offaly. It is form they will hope to bring in to the series of league games to take place at Croke Park.