After all the huffing and puffing that has gone on since last May we are left with just four teams in the quest for the Sam Maguire Cup.
With the exception of Tyrone, who have sneaked into the last four ahead of Monaghan, the other three quarter-finals were very predictable from a long way out and indeed as far back as last Christmas one could have predicted that Mayo, Kerry and Dublin would have been involved in the semi-finals; they are by some distance the best three teams in the country.
Tyrone have made progress but they are still some way off the top three. Last Saturday Tyrone ruined a very good display with cynical tactics, especially towards the end of the game. Much has been made of the diving of Tiernan McCann but I found the Cavanagh brothers’ feigning injury far worse.
Sean Cavanagh is a tremendous player and a great warrior but why oh why does he need to ruin it all by the carry-on we saw last Saturday? It is a terrible pity he acts this way because he makes a huge contribution to Tyrone’s success.
Tyrone were the better side though and they have plenty of top class footballers. Kerry would have much preferred to be facing Monaghan as Tyrone will not be afraid of going to Croke Park and beating them and that is a huge factor in teams facing Kerry.
In the other quarter-final Mayo were always a level above Donegal and they look to have improved a good bit since last year – but they still have a couple of huge steps ahead of them. Tactically they got it right against Donegal and they will have to do it again against the Dubs. The introduction of Barry Moran helped to stiffen up the defence and the good play of Tom Parsons at midfield has made a huge difference to Mayo.
The O’Shea brothers seem to be improving and getting even stronger. It is not often that we have seen the McGee brothers bullied out of the game for Donegal but Neil McGee looked a beaten man as he exited the field on Saturday. Most of the football we have seen this year has been pedestrian, but we are now left with two fascinating semi-finals.
Local club championships now hotting up
Last weekend most of the senior and intermediate club games here in the county went to form. The battle in Group A is hotting up and the likely outcome of that group should become a lot clearer this weekend.
Clann na nGael look to be in trouble after a good start and they have two very tough games ahead of them. Western Gaels are also in dire need of a win after their three games. Roscommon Gaels have made good progress but they must be very wary of a Western Gaels backlash.
Padraig Pearses under Shane Curran were very disappointing last weekend (against Roscommon Gaels) and they will have to turn it around in dramatic fashion if they are to progress. St Brigid’s are still the team to beat.
This weekend I expect wins in the senior championship for St Brigid’s, Roscommon Gaels, St Faithleach’s, Boyle, Strokestown and Castlerea. In the intermediate championship Tulsk look the team to beat but Michael Glavey’s have come into the reckoning after a big win against Kilbride last weekend. This weekend in the IFC I am predicting wins for Tulsk, Kilbride, St Dominic’s, Michael Glavey’s, Fuerty and St Barry’s.