Old rivals breathe new life into championship

Love him or hate him, Joe Brolly provides excellent analysis. In the aftermath of the epic Dublin Kerry All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday, Brolly hit the nail on the head. While Pat Spillane and Ciarán Whelan were busy picking Stephen Cluxton’s kick-outs apart, Joe identified what makes Dublin so formidable. Quite simply: they love to play football.

  In the closing stages, the anti-Dubs’ favourite villian, Diarmuid Connolly, made one more lung-busting run to support an attack. Most players would have taken a hop and turned back towards support. Connolly, who had struck a couple of poor efforts earlier in the half, had other ideas and cut across the ball with the inside of his left foot. It split the posts and Connolly clenched his fists in delight and clinched another All-Ireland final appearance for his team.

  Joe Brolly’s post-match observations added to something a Roscommon senior player told me recently. The Rossie was in Dublin on teaching practice and current members of the Dublin panel, David Byrne and Paul Mannion were in his class. The way he tells it, those students asked if they could do homework through lunch in order to be freed up to train or play matches in the afternoon. They clearly valued practice time over free time and that only comes from a genuine passion for the game.

  There was a moment during Sunday’s game when the camera closed in on Diarmuid Connolly highlighting his sheer size and physique. Again, love him or hate him; he’s an amateur, but looks like a guy who spends every waking hour focussed on his sport.

  The Dubs and The Kingdom rescued the game of football on Sunday afternoon from another underwhelming year. They went toe to toe and absolutely battered each other throughout a rip-roaring game. Both counties played football in an attractive, attacking manner and last weekend’s fare was the real Dublin v Kerry, showing that last year’s final was merely an off-day for both teams.

  The dust has now settled and Mayo know that not only will they face a team of style at Croke Park in a couple of weeks, but a team of genuine, steely substance.