Chinks in Donegal armour?
Have Down shown that Donegal can be beaten? Mayo showed last year that it can be done without actually doing it and the men from the Mourne county did the exact same on Sunday. Having been hammered by 11 points in last years Ulster final, Down brought that back to an unlucky three this year.
Changing from their traditional style of football and playing with a mass defence, James McCarten's side took the game to the All-Ireland champions and almost came up trumps. If Down had Benny Coulter from a few years agao or Marty Clark in their side there is no doubt they would have come out on top.
Jim McGuinness's men came up against a style of play that they themselves have perfected and it completely threw them off balance. Whenever a side perfects a certain style of play it is very hard to play against that, including for the side who perfected it.
Down's players making too many bad decisions, passing to men in worse positions and some sloppy handpassing, and Donegal having Colm McFadden on the field eventually decided the game as Donegal got out of Cavan with a lucky escape.
The defending champions have been shown that teams know how to take the game to them and are not being shown the respect they probably expect from teams looking to beat them in any way possible. But McGuinness's men fail to show other sides much respect with their persistant fouling.
James Horan, Jim Gavin and Eamonn Fitzmaurice will have watched events on Sunday with a keen eye and they will have learned one thing. Donegal are not the unstoppable juggernaut the media would have everyone believe they are.
Late Reid equaliser breaks Dublin hearts
Dublin 0-17 Kilkenny 1-14
Dublin led in injury time in Portlaoise and looked like causing a famous upset, before TJ Reid nabbed a last minute equaliser, which sends Dublin out for a fourth consecutive weekend of championship hurling. Going in at the break, the sides were level and Dublin looked up against it, not having taken advantage of the significant wind.
Dublin were slow to settle in this Leinster semi final and trailed by three points. They registered their first score after thirteen minutes, having already amassed five wides. It gave Dublin the impetus to go and take the lead through Joey Boland, who was on free taking duty after the early withdrawal of Paul Ryan. Walter Walsh, who was excellent throughout, kept The Cats in touch in the first half and was the only Kilkenny attacker who lived up to his billing. This was in part thanks to the dominance of both Peter Kelly & Paul Schutte. Kilkenny will have been satisfied to go in at the break all square, safe in the knowledge that they had the wind at their backs in the second half and with strikers of the calibre of Ryan, Power & Larkin you felt Kilkenny would be able to pick off their scores from distance.
Dublin were tenacious from the start of the second half and tackled like their lives depended on it, their intensity was what we have come to expect from their opponents. Dublin carried well into the wind and picked out teammates intelligently throughout the second half. This was the athletic, physical Dublin team we have hoped for, with added hurling nous, that is all too often absent. Dotsy O’ Callaghan impressed when introduced, scoring one and setting up another couple, intelligently so, with his back to goal. When Walter Walsh raised the green flag and gave Kilkenny a two point lead, lesser teams would have wilted. The reaction may have stunned The Cats, as Dublin continued to methodically work the ball down field, to pick off their scores.
Kilkenny had only four scorers over the course of seventy minutes and one of those, Larkin, scored exclusively from frees. The impression that Shefflin truly makes this Kilkenny team tick has never been stronger and Kilkenny without him continue to look vulnerable. Dublin on the other hand had nine scorers sharing the burden in a strong team performance. The injury worries are piling up for Brian Cody; with Fennelly, Tyrrell and more recently, Paul Murphy added to the list of walking wounded. The absentees give Dublin every chance and if they can replicate the second half performance over the course of seventy minutes next week, they may just get their first championship win over Kilkenny in 71 years. Brian Cody will be asking serious questions of his outfit this week and if the answers aren’t forthcoming it could be a short year for The Noresiders. The replay takes on added significance, with Tipperary awaiting the losers. Eamon O’ Shea will be uneasy at the prospect of facing either team.
Cold-blooded Cork expose Clare shortcomings
Cork 0-23 Clare 0-15
Munster Championship hurling is the gift that keeps on giving. In fact, the hurling championship as a whole has had it all so far and is leaving the football in the ‘ha’penny place’. In the Gaelic Grounds, the Clare heads were in the bin from as early as the 40th minute and there was a sense of inevitability about the result, from very early in the second half.
Clare played with a strong wind in the first half and went in, three points to the good. You felt that playing into a tough wind in the second half wouldn’t inconvenience Clare as much as other teams, less au fait with a possession game. Brian Murphy followed Tony Kelly around every blade of grass in the Gaelic Grounds and kept the usually prolific marksman to just a single point. Colm Galvin looked sharp, hitting two points in the first half. But the Cork team, with an emphasis on team, hung in there. Anthony Nash landed a monster of a free, from inside his own 65, which was a massive score, in more ways than one. Clare played more directly than we’re used to in the first half, availing of the wind and Darach Honan hit two points, while looking dangerous. Podge Collins deputised for the injured Shane O’ Donnell and scored a massive five points from play. Critically, John Conlon was injured in a nasty incident in the first half and his physical presence was undoubtedly missed in the second half, when their backs were to the wall.
Cork roared into the second half and were bright all over the field. Their hurling was crisp, their first touch was immaculate and they played good, direct hurling, with some nice short interplay when required. Clare were the very opposite of this, they were sloppy and short passes were just not going to hand. Credit must be given to Cork for this, as they hunted in packs and gave Clare very little room. The Banner had a couple of half goal chances, saved by Anthony Nash, when points were probably the order of the day. In fact, Cork rattled off the first eight points of the second half, before Collins got Clare off the mark.
There was a real reluctance from Clare to stray from the short passing game, even when it was breaking down. It was either extremely brave or naive. The manner of the result would point to the latter. Honan is one of the most dangerous forwards in Ireland on his day, with a mix of size, speed and a nose for a goal. However, he cut an isolated figure in the full forward line and remained on the periphery of the game. He seems like a readymade 6’ 6” plan B, but you could count on the fingers of one hand the amount of times he was targeted over the course of seventy minutes.
This was a real team performance from Cork, evidenced by the range of scorers, ten in total. With Seamus Harnedy, making his debut, and Patrick Horgan top scoring from play with three points each. Davy has been at pains to point out that this Clare team is a work in progress, and has admitted that the short passing game will break down from time to time. This result could be the makings of Clare in years to come, if lessons are learnt. For someone who prepares his teams as meticulously as he does, the lack of a plan B was noteworthy. Cork travel to Limerick for the Munster Final, for what will surely be another cracker. Clare must tread the all too familiar path of the qualifiers, with rather fortunately, Laois next up.
Resilient Waterford edge out Offaly
Offaly 1-14 Waterford 0-21
Playing with a gale in the second half, Offaly drew level in the 47th minute and it looked perilous for this youthful Waterford. With the game in the melting pot, Waterford exhibited the greater composure on the run in and were full value for their four point victory over The Faithful County.
Offaly won the toss and elected to play into the wind in the first half and it looked a shrewd move after a Liam Lawlor mistake put Shane Dooley clear, one on one to raise the first and only green flag of the evening. The goal would mean that Waterford could never really establish the six point lead, the strength of the wind, suggested would be required. Jake Dillon started really brightly and popped up everywhere in the first half, scoring two and setting up another couple. David Kenny played a captains role at full back for Offaly and lorded the square in the early part of the game, repelling several Waterford attacks. Maurice Shanahan roamed around in the first half and although chosen at full forward, picked up positions all over the Waterford attack, notching four first half points from play.
At the other end of the field, Stephen O’ Keeffe bossed his square, plucking a couple of balls from just over/under his crossbar. He had the presence of mind and ability to pick out Jamie Nagle, who again was excellent, on a number of occasions and launched umpteen attacks, which resulted in Waterford scores. However, The Deise struggled to shake off Offaly in the opening half and just when it looked as though Waterford would pull away and open up a lead, one that would be needed, Offaly hit back themselves. The second half looked primed for the long ball game Offaly looked so well equipped for and the four point Waterford lead looked insufficient.
Offaly dominated the start of the second half and there was a sense of déjà vu with the Waterford attack hitting several wides. It must be admitted that any shot from outside the 50 looked destined to be waved wide, such was the strength of the wind. Brian Carroll started to exert the influence he is capable of and hit a couple of nice scores to bring the sides level. It was at this point that Offaly themselves hit a couple of wides and they never managed to get their noses in front. Brick Walsh completely dominated the last twenty minutes of play from centre back and it was baffling to see Offaly hit ball after ball into his channel. Inexplicably, very little ball made its way into the Offaly full forward line and the ball that did was capably dealt with by the impressive duo of Shane Fives & Noel Connors.
The inspiring Maurice Shanahan continued to cause problems for Offaly and ended up with an incredible eight points from play. He was ably assisted by Brian O’ Sullivan who understandably improved as the game went on, as he has missed a lot of hurling in the past two months. Waterford picked off a few scores and hit several more wides, seventeen in total and found themselves four points to the good in the closing minutes. There was still time for an amazing save from Stephen O’ Keeffe, but the Offaly heads had long since dropped, perhaps betraying their recent lack of success.
Waterford were deserving four point winners and between the goal and the wides amassed, it could have been more. Shanahan, Brick, Nagle & O’ Keeffe were excellent for Waterford and as good as Shanahan’s point taking was, it was Brick that changed the game in favour of the Deise men. A long summer awaits Offaly who had no one to take the game by the scruff of the neck when it was there for the taking.