Thursday, April 12, 2007

NFL Debrief

In keeping with the time of year, the gaelic football season has, in recent weeks, began transforming from an ugly winter larvae into the beautiful butterfly of summer.

Pitches have hardened, ferocious hailstorms have abated and spare tyres have been run off players' midriffs. The sun has come out. Oh and Dublin have been losing games in the second half. Summer's here!

With the semi-finals and final being merely a passing out ceremony, let's break down the lessons from GAA boot camp.

Hey, Good Lookin'
Obviously, the four sides that contest this weekend's NFL Division 1 semi-finals can be said to have had A Good League. Let us segregate the two division 1A top dogs for special praise here, however.

Donegal and Mayo not only emerged - comfortably - from the tougher of the two top echelons, but they also accumulated a total of five extra points than the sum of the points totals of their division 1B counterparts, Kildare and Galway.

Presuming they round off the league in the manner in which they have conducted it so far, Donegal can re-gather themselves for the Ulster Championship in confident mood. Brian McIver's side's excellence was based on a potent combination of a limpet-like full-back line, a midfield perfectly balanced between Neil Gallagher's towering poise and Kevin Cassidy's explosive class and a forward division that scored 10-79 in the league (that while pulling up in the last two games).

The timing of Mickey Moran and John Morrison's removal from the Mayo tiller - in the aftermath of an All-Ireland final - may have seemed inappropriate to many observers, but it was clear that the county needed rejuvenation following another harrowing September.

Enter John O'Mahony and Mayo look steady and refreshed. David Heaney's deployment at midfield has worked well, unsurprisingly given the former full-back's natural footballing ability, and, whisper it, Ciaran McDonald's absence might just have allowed others, like Conor Mortimer, the space to grow.

Kildare and Galway came through a division which was a much more egalitarian affair, but the fact that the Lilywhites made it through to their first league semi-final since 1997 suggests that they will be delighted to be returning to some sort of national eminence, after a 21st century which has thus far been been largely hallmarked by mediocrity. Freescoring Johnny Doyle could step up to celebrity status this summer if Kildare have a good run.

Things Can Only Get Better
For everything that Dublin football represents, demotion to division 2 is a blow. Paul Caffrey is right to point out that a second tier that features Armagh, Cork, Westmeath, Meath, Cavan, Monaghan and Roscommon is not exactly a pond of full of tiddlers for the metropolitan big fish, but all the same, it's not where they want to be.

The Dubs don't appeared to have addressed any of their 'issues' during the league campaign. Ross McConnell does not look the the final solution at full back, only intermittently have they dominated in midfield and they continue to lack a true focal point in attack. That Jason Sherlock was recalled - and performed better than most - and that Shane Ryan is missed further back is worrying.

Most infuriating is the continued meekness that sees them allow games to repeatedly slip away, a flaw which reflects a lack of leadership, or even composure.

Adding to Donegal's confidence will be the distinctly mortal image that Tyrone and Armagh projected. Such sage operators as Mickey Harte and Joe Kernan will not mind such an impression. Both missed important players in the league, but while Armagh can at least welcome back the Crossmaglen contingent, Tyrone will be willing Brian McGuigan's recuperation to gather pace.

Peter Canavan's retirement robbed Tyrone of a presence whose maturity and wile contributed hugely to steering his county to their two All-Irelands, truncated as his appearances were. In his absence McGuigan's orchestrative powers from centre-forward are the closest Tyrone have to the great man's intelligence; without him they will not win a third All-Ireland.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home