Kildare and Monaghan both looked at least prepared to set up properly, but Monaghan bullied the Kildare players all over the field, incessantly.’
Croke Park at the weekend was promising a feast of top class football, which unfortunately did not live up its promise, in reality.
Nonetheless it was instructive to study the behaviour of teams on the pitch, as they were cagey, and fearful of allowing the opposition any room to play football as we know it.
Gone are the days of great catches, flowing interchanges, swift movement (with some notable exceptions), men running forward at blistering pace, and many of the obvious enjoyable trends of previous times.
Instead we need to be satisfied with studying the complex ways in which most serious teams go about their business, and indeed it is a legitimate study when one becomes engrossed in it. But it does not make for exciting football, in any sense.
Galway and Kerry, two teams bursting with sheer talent, looked very ordinary in the new way of playing football.
Galway won’t mind the complainers as they’re perfectly capable of playing blistering, exciting football, but it simply does not work.
Gaelic football has become very much like soccer in the patient way the build up to a score takes place, rendering the fans who are used to better fare tearing their hair out.
Every team has made the decision to limit the opponents scoring threat first. Then attack at real pace in the hope of finding an opening, which often opens up.
But generally, it’s all caution.
Look at the half time score in the Galway Kerry game.
Of the four games, Roscommon looked out of their depth, and somewhat lacking in the real effects of residual fitness which can only begin to take hold after a couple of years development.
Furthermore, they paid for their persistence with trying to play ‘nice’ football. It really doesn’t work with how the top teams have begun to set up.
Time and again Roscommon left gaping holes at the heart of their defence, which Tyrone exploited like a knife cutting through butter.
Kildare and Monaghan both looked at least prepared to set up properly, but Monaghan bullied the Kildare players all over the field, incessantly. Until umpires discover balls of a different variety, this will continue to go on. I thought several times that Monaghan were over the line, discipline wise, and lucky not to have men yellow carded, at least.
Yet, Kildare may have something to say yet.
The game in Newbridge will be a massive test for them.
I wouldn’t be ready to nominate a winner there.
Kerry will have to show new purpose in Clones, as will Dublin in Healy Park.
Two interesting games, in which I predict Monaghan and Tyrone to win. Monaghan because they are so well drilled, and also because they will not allow Kerry to intimidate them.
Tyrone will take the game to Dublin, who are in for a heated day, and I’ll be surprised if fifteen aside remain on the pitch for the hour.
Tyrone are not a nice team to play against in Healy Park, of all places. Tight and close, a visiting team is made to feel the heat from the moment they take the pitch. Moreover, Tyrone will relish the fact that they’ve got Dublin out of Croke Park, for once.
I cannot see them let the chance slip.
In other games at the weekend, Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy saved not just the sliotar on three vital occasions, but also Kilkenny from the drubbing they could easily have taken from a Limerick side who looked like a team possessed. The intensity of the game made it impossible to watch the second half of the Sunday Game, without wondering what is happening to Gaelic Football.
Sin sceal eile.
Limerick came of age on Sunday, by casting off the shackles of Kilkenny, and leaving themselves feeling rightly confident of further success. They’ll possibly meet Galway eventually, but maybe not. Wexford fell to Clare, who looked very good.
Either way, we’re lucky to have hurling to entertain because we’re so starved of courage in football.
By comparison, it looks like a pedestrian game, currently. Full of fear, with every player (again with occasional exceptions) afraid of making a single mistake.