Kerry's Kieran Donaghy and Mayo's Aidan O'Shea battling it out at Croke Park.
There's a dangerous level of groupthink going on - nothing new it happens all the time where experts gather, but this time was more noticeable than ever - in the Croke Park press box.
The vilification handed out to Stephen Rochford after the Mayo Kerry drawn game was outrageous, unfair, and simply wrong.
Most journalists, it seems, see all games through a very narrow prism, with little real thought or examination of any playback replay to ensure fairness. Maybe that would be too much bother.
Anyone who knows Gaelic Football will tell you that a replay can reveal things that were missed on the day in the heat of battle.
Mind you, some things are so blatantly apparent that it’s hard to fathom how so many journalists, could all arrive at the same consensus. The only real explanation is that the groupthink syndrome grows whenever several experts are located in close proximity. Like the Croke Park press box!
First off, let me say that Stephen Rochford makes mistakes in his selection, from time to time.
But the selection of Aidan O’Shea was an obvious certainty in my book, well in advance of the first game.
In fact I believe if Aidan O’Shea had not been chosen to play the full back position, Mayo would not now be in the All Ireland Final.
Of course he's not a natural full back, having played most of his football way out the field. But neither is he a novice who cannot assess what's happening around him and react to it, immediately.
By placing him on the square, Mayo removed the threat of aerial bombardment immediately, which ended up in Donaghy coming further out the field.
First of all, let's address Aidan O’Shea’s apparent stamp on Donaghy’s foot. Which ended up with Donaghy hitting him twice in the face. It is true O’Shea did stamp Donaghy’s foot, but does anyone watch what happens when the play is at the other end of the field?
I do, and in the drawn game, and several times in the second meeting, some very disgraceful things were done.
Let's look at the facts.
The general agreement emanating from the experts corner was that in the first game, Donaghy was partly responsible for 2-6 of Kerry’s total.
A dramatic claim, hardly borne out by examination of the facts.
The first of Kerry’s goals, came from an extended hesitation at midfield by Seamus O’Shea who looked up for too long, and was surrounded by Kerry jerseys. Stephen O’Brien got a hand in, and the ball spilled to Anthony Maher who, looking up, spotted Donaghy looping towards midfield. Maher passed the ball to him and ran hard to get the return on his right side.
onaghy waited for Maher to arrive while Keith Higgins raced across to track him (Maher). As this was happening Aidan O’Shea was ten yards off Donaghy, but trying to guard his goal. O’Shea held his ground while four different Mayo defenders were allowing Stephen O’Brien to cut through them - any one of the four could have raced to O’Brien and tracked him preventing him having such an easy shot on goal. As O’Brien sprinted past Donaghy (for whom this was bread and butter stuff) Donaghy was now blocked in his path by O’Shea and laid the ball right in O’Brien’s path and O’Brien took an easy goal.
The fault lay squarely with the four Mayo defenders who barely moved to pick up O’Brien coming through at pace. If the defenders had covered O’Brien instead of leaving O’Shea marking the open space, the goal would not have happened.
Not O’Shea’s fault.
The second Mayo goal happened when Mayo were in complete control, and Keith Higgins launched a cross field ball to O’Shea who had run out the field as Mayo were building up an attack, but the ball was hit slightly too hard and ended out of bounds. As Kerry launched the sideline kick, Seamus O’Shea rushed to Donaghy and covered him, beat him in the air, and got his fist to the ball. Donaghy did not even touch the ball.
Again nobody tracked David Moran coming through the centre alone, and the score was something that’s been rehearsed again and again in Fitzgerald Stadium.
The one single high ball directed at Kieran Donaghy in the absence of Aidan O’Shea wasn't caught cleanly and ended up in a goal.
Aidan O’Shea never gave away a free the first day, and was never turned over once in the game, on a day when his collegiate specialist defenders were extremely clumsy and gave away frees for little or nothing.
Again the first day, Donaghy did some nice things and got one great point from outfield when he turned O’Shea before firing. But that was one point, and Mayo management had decided that it was acceptable if Donaghy got a few points. He got only one direct score.
I won't go through the six points, although they too merit examination, but its farcical and way wide of the mark to suggest that Aidan O’Shea had a bad game, or that he was out thought by Donaghy. Never mind what the Gooch says, or Ciaran Whelan. Both great pundits, but both slightly biased from different directions.
Think for yourself, and don’t be afraid to do it.
The experts can often be alarmingly wrong.
The best decision Stephen Rochford ever made was locating Aidan O’Shea at full back in the first game, and doing it even better in the second by rotating him between midfield and full back.
There's also another devastatingly clever decision made by the Mayo management, but I'll hold that one, for now.
So far, nobody has even commented on it.
But some of the headlines written, especially in the Independent, after the first game, were absolutely outrageous and I wonder what would happen if they applied the same rules to reportage on Dublin, or Kerry?
Few will say openly that in the second game O’Shea wiped the floor with Donaghy, rendering him absolutely useless to Kerry.
The rage boiled over and unfortunately Donaghy lashed out. A pity for such a great player to end the game in such a manner.
But, he knows what he did, off the ball through both games.
Viewing independent footage of both games will confirm everything asserted here.
The Dublin Mayo game should certainly be interesting.
You may also be interested in: