Archive for August, 2012

Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, 3.30, J McQuillan (Cavan) * Live RTE


#NOHYPE made an appearance in the world of Twitter this week to calm any notions Mayo fans may have had of ordering their 12-MO-SAM number plates, or taking green and red paint to the road markings.

Mayo are League finalists; All – Ireland semi – finalists for the second year in succession and are facing a Dublin team who have shown uncertain form in this year’s championship. In a county who’s supporters have an understandable history of delving from crisis to optimism with the changing of the wind, you could expect a certain level of hype to be bubbling above the surface. Not the case.

In the GAA world hype is something to be avoided like the plague and in Mayo we’ve learned that hard way. Keith Duggan christened Mayo football ‘The House of Pain’, after last week’s epic encounter, Donegal will be living in its hype equivalent. The mantle will briefly pass to Dublin on Sunday but in the past Mayo carried their fans suffocating expectation with difficulty.

In 99’ they faced Cork with the county desperately willing them to one last shot at redemption. In 2004 and 2006, Mayo hit Croke Park in late August having blitzed through Connaught, with a team too reliant on too few to perform. After a tangible change in approach last year, this Mayo team are travelling to the capital in the right frame of mind and with a team ethic to back it up. Mayo people are calmer now about the prospects of their team. The flags are out, the buzz is tangible, but the expectation is contained.

There is faith in what James Horan is doing with this team. The reaction within Mayo to Andy Moran’s injury was telling. If Ciaran McDonald had suffered the same injury at the quarter-final stage against Laois in 2006, the team would have been written off. Despite the loss of our talisman this time around there is enough belief in the team and system as a whole that we can prosper regardless.

For Mayo to do, it will come as a result of  dominance in the middle third. Moran and O’Shea have the potential to be the best mid – field in the country. I expect them to dominate Bastik and Fennell and set the platform for the Mayo victory.

For whatever weakness Mayo have in their full forward line, the support play that has become their hallmark, can more than compensate. Lee Keegan, Donal Vaughan, Colm Boyle and Keith Higgins are crucial; for Mayo to win these players will need to feature prominently in attack and on the scoreboard.

With dominance at midfield, gaining a platform in the full forward line is crucial to allow these runs from deep to come good. This is where the likes of Varley, Doherty and Conroy come into play. Not much is expected of them but their movement will need to be exceptional to compensate for Moran’s loss. This could be their day to make an impact in the absence of their captain.

Twelve months ago Donal Vaughan rose to the occasion against Kerry in a mighty way and forced defending duties upon Declan O’Sullivan. Despite McCauley being named at centre forward Alan Brogan will more than likely be his direct opponent.  If Vaughan can cut down on his tendency for over fouling and dominate that area he can cut off Dublin’s main supply into their full forward line. It’s likely that Kevin Keane will pick up the other Brogan. Keane is equipped to negate the influence of Brogan; no man in the Mayo defence will relish the challenge more.

Mayo have rarely approached a big game in Croke Park in a better place psychologically. Dublin have their All – Ireland, if the game comes down to the last 10 minutes you would hope Mayo’s desire will be greater. This team is as prepared as they possibly can be, the belief is there. I think it will be enough.

Verdict: Mayo by 2


And Finally..

THANKFULLY hearing Ciarán McDonald speak for the first time wasn’t as disappointing as the moment I first  heard David Beckham’s squeaky tones on Match of the Day. Ciarán Mc has a voice that matches the man; as reassuringly Mayo and composed as what we see on the pitch.

If you haven’t listened to Off the Ball’s interview with McDonald, please do. If ever there was an interview to thaw the cynical hearts of many a jaded Mayo fan, this is it.

It’s hard not to be over sentimental when you talk about one of the only modern Mayo player who can be talked about in the same context as Courell, Flanagan, Langan and Corcoran, but McDonald spoke with passion and authority. His views on Donegal were interesting and what you would expect from a  man, who like Donegal, plays the game in his own way.

Here it is:


All-Ireland MFC Semi-Final: Meath 2-10 Mayo 1-11 


WITH five minutes of the second half gone, Michael Plunkett made a lung bursting run from corner back deep into the Meath half. As he drew the defence, Ballinrobe’s James Quinn moved inside the cover, took the pass from Plunkett and  blasted the ball over the bar.

The goal was on but at that stage a point seemed like a satisfactory result. It moved Mayo seven points clear and was an defiant response to losing two of their most influential forwards, Eoghan Lavin and Sean Regan, through a sickening clash of heads moments earlier.

In a game where Mayo rode their luck in the opening minutes to an alarming degree, that point and the loss of Lavin and Regan signalled the reversal of that good fortune. Inexplicably, Mayo failed to score for the next 28 minutes, by which stage Meath had plundered 2-4 and deservedly moved into a decisive lead.

The game was only a couple of seconds old when a long ball into the Mayo half was narrowly flicked wide of the post by James McEntee. This set the trend for the next ten minutes with first O’Sullivan and then full forward Stephen Coogan, foiled by the crossbar and goalkeeper Michael O’Malley.

It was an extraordinary ten minutes that should have seen Meath already home and dry but instead ended up with Mayo leading by three points thanks to some economical forward play, the pick of the points coming from the impressive Sean Regan.

It took Meath until the 17th minute to get on the board, but true to their opening form this was quickly followed by a bad wide from the otherwise brilliant Cillian O’Sullivan. Meath’s ineptitude in front of goal seemed to encourage Mayo and they began to establish themselves in the game.  After Eoghan Lavin did well at centre field, a move involving Adam Gallagher and James Quinn ended with Diarmuid O’Connor squeezing the ball over the line.

Patrick Durcan was pushing forward all day and he got his reward with a point to push Mayo ahead by seven points for the first time. Gallagher was Mayo’s driving force and inspiration, while the full back line, in particular Gerathy and Moran were showing a propensity and worryingly, a need for coming up with last-ditch tackles.

Meath had closed the gap to four at the break but by five minutes of the second half it was out to seven again thanks to two points from Gallagher. That was to be as good as it got for Mayo as Meath gradually began to peg them back, with Cillian O’Sullivan causing huge problems for the Mayo defence and Ward unerring from place balls.

On a perfect day for football, a deftness of touch evaded both sides. In the end it was Mayo who were the sloppier, in particular their lack of precision in working the ball out of defence, which proved fatal in the end. It was a turnover that allowed Cillian O’Sullivan to reduce the gap to three points with six minutes remaining, before the crucial score of the game moments later.

As the recovered Sean Regan went to collect a looping pass near the sideline, he was blatantly pushed out of play by Patrick Kelly. However, no whistle came and despite Mayo regaining possesion, another lose pass out of defence was severely punished by O’Sullivan who broke through, his low shot ricocheting of the diving Adam Gallagher’s legs. The foot/leg block lacked intent or malice but the penalty was awarded. Fiachra Ward’s spot kick was Mendieta–esque in its tame trajectory, but it deceived O’Malley and glanced of him into the corner to draw Meath level.

In the end when Meath’s winner came there was a sense of the inevitable about it. As the game moved into injury time, Pauric Harran, who was influential all day, drove through the middle and after a scramble, the ball fell into the path of substitute Paddy Kennelly who smashed it home. Stephen Coen pulled one back at the death; it was Mayo’s first score in 28 minutes. If ever a statistic told the story of a game.


Man of the Match: Cillian O’Sullivan – The man from Moynalvey was a constant thorn in the Mayo side and spearheaded Meath’s comeback. Scored two points but was involved in many more.

Meath Scorers: Fiachra Ward (1-3), Patrick Kennelly (1-0), Jason Daly (0-2), Cillian O’Sullivan (0-2), Pauric Harnan (0-1), James McEntee (0-1), Ruairi O Coileain (0-1)

Mayo Scorers: Diarmuid O’Connor (1-0), Adam Gallagher (0-3), Stephen Coen (0-2), Eoghan Lavin (0-2), Sean Regan (0-1), Shane Hennelly (0-1), Patrick Durcan (0-1), James Quinn (0-1)

MEATH: Robert Burlingham (Simonstown Gaels); Declan Smyth (Dunsany), Brian Power (Ratoath), Shane Gallagher (Simonstown Gaels); Conor Carton (Donaghmore/Ashbourne), Shane McEntee (St Peter’s Dunboyne/Kilbride), Seamus Lavin (St Peter’s Dunboyne/Kilbride); Pauric Harnan (Jenkinstown Gaels), Adam Flanagan (Clonard); Cillian O’Sullivan (Jenkinstown Gaels), Jason Daly (St Peter’s Dunboyne/Kilbride), James McEntee (St Vincent’s/Curraha); Barry Dardis (Summerhill), Stephen Coogan (Dunderry), Fiachra Ward (Wolfe Tones).

MAYO: Conor O’Malley (Westport); Joe Geraghty (Ballintubber), Sean Moran (Kiltimagh), Michael Plunkett (Ballintubber); Patrick Durcan (Castlebar Mitchels), Cian Burke (Ardnaree Sarsfields), Kevin Lynch (Mayo Gaels); Brian Mullen (Westport), Adam Gallagher (Mayo Gaels); Eoghan Lavin (Kiltimagh), Stephen Coen (Hollymount/Carramore), Diarmuid O’Connor (Ballintubber); James Quinn (Ballinrobe), Sean Regan (Ballina Stephenites), Shane Hennelly (Shrule/Glencorrib).

REFEREE: Fergal Barry

YOU know you’ve gone mad when sitting at home in front of the TV on a Wednesday night, you find yourself becoming slightly upset at the quality of a Chinese gymnasts double pike somersault. A week ago a double pike somersault was something you would have associated with angling, which as far as I know is one of the few sports along with Darts and Ludo that are not in the Olympics.

This is what the Olympics do to the sports obsessed. There is a sense of obligation, sometimes based on national pride, to become educated in such things as the technicalities of the breaststroke and the many components of the modern pentathlon (Swimming, Running, Shooting, Fencing and Showjumping; not that you asked). Without Analise Murphy, I would never have known about the scoring system of the Sailing Laser Radial Class and when Longford’s Derek Burnett takes part in the trap shooting competition, for the first time in my life, Clay Pigeon Shooting will mean a great deal to me.

If you have been suffering from severe over exposure to the Olympic coverage, I say thank God for the reassuring constant of the GAA. Its unlikely football and hurling will ever be an Olympic sport; we wouldn’t be pushy about making other lads play just to win a few medals for ourselves.   Anyway, the GAA gives us a chance to spend a few magical hours by ourselves where we can shift the spotlight from London back to home.

This year we have four of the most competitive and intriguing football quarter finals since the quarter finals were introduced and if you have been exposed to unhealthy amounts of minority sports this week this could be your brief ticket back to normality.

Saturday will see RTE wrestle Michael Lyster out of the Olympic studios and back into the Sunday Game crèche to roll his eyes at Joe and Pat. I’d say he’d much rather stick to the Canoeing where fun spontaneous things happen; like one of your analysts answering their phone live on air to speak to the Irish Olympic Coach.


Maybe we should get James Horan or James McCartan to prank Joe Brolly on Saturday, might delay another repeat of last Sunday’s debacle and himself and Pat’s inevitable dismissal of the merits of Mayo’s match with Down.

Come the final whistle you’ll just have time to switch briefly back to London to see Robert Hefferan on the final stretch of his 20km walk and hopefully on his way to a medal, before Dublin will attempt to walk (eh eh) all over Laois in the second quarter-final at seven.

It’s TV3’s turn on Sunday, showing both games. Hopefully alongside Matt Cooper we’ll have the two midfield generals, Daragh O’ Sé and David ‘Terminator’ Brady, who despite wearing novelty oversized headphones, still manage to look tough and offer some excellent analysis to boot.

Please note if you have been exposed to the potentially mentally damaging swimming analysis from the riveting Earl McCarthy on RTE, and intense crazy, starey swimmer pundit/Olympic legend, Ian Thorpe on the BBC, I would strongly recommend a full dosage of the four quarter finals. Enjoy.

Mayo V Mayo, Croke Park, Saturday 5.00 pm, M Deegan (Laois);  Dublin v Laois, Croke Park, Saturday 7.00 pm, C Reilly (Meath) * Both live on RTE

Cork v Kildare, Croke Park, Sunday 2.00 pm, J McQuillan (Cavan);  Donegal v Kerry, Croke Park, Sunday 4.00 pm, M Duffy (Sligo) *Both live on TV3