“If you could see into certain players’ heads like you could with Homer Simpson, there’d be a monkey riding a bicycle across a tightrope”

If you want to design a great intercounty football team, what would be first on the list?

Dublin are the best funded GAA team around and it has played a significant role in their recent successes. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

At the season’s end, the teams who’ve done best will be those who’ve spent the most

The new mark rule will reward the skill of high fielding. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho.

Struggle that it was to get passed by congress, rule to encourage return of skill worth effort

Kerry’s Colm Cooper battles for possession with Philly McMahon, a player who performs better when he’s getting under the opposition’s skin. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Philly McMahon point was moment I knew Kerry’s goose was probably cooked

Donegal’s Karl Lacey returns to the dressing rooms after All-Ireland final defeat to Kerry in 2014. Photograph Cathal Noonan/Inpho

This will be a cagey affair but I expect Kerry to come through thanks to more scoring options

Goalkeeper Robert Hennelly’s two bad kickouts that lead to Dublin’s first two goals illustrated Mayo’s lack of composure when it really mattered.  Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Mayo just didn’t have the composure to close out the semi-final replay against Dublin

Referee Joe McQuillan awards Mayo a penalty on Sunday. With no help from a TMO, a ref must depend on linesmen who pick up only half of what’s going on and umpires who are just along for the ride. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Dublin-Mayo game illustrated that there’s no job worse than being GAA referee

Stephen Cluxton: his kick-outs are vital to Dublin’s prospects on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

If they get enough possession, Dublin’s forwards will score more than Mayo

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has always favoured players who are instinctively going to do the right thing in tight spots, and won’t tolerate players who make handling errors. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

As a Kerryman, last thing I want is team coming up to Croke Park with siege mentality

Aidan O’Shea gets away from Donegal’s Neil McGee and Mark McHugh during Saturday’s quarter-final: the Mayo player passed a big test in Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Joe Brolly was wrong about Donegal, but he could goad the Dalai Lama into an argument

Kerry’s Darran O’Sullivan scores a goal despite the attention of Kildare’s Ciarán Fitzpatrick and Eoin Doyle during last weekend’s one-sided All-Ireland SFC quarter-final clash at Croke Park.Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

What we saw on Sunday was two exceptional teams who will take all the stopping this year

Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton leads his players in the team parade before the Leinster final against Westmeath. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho

If Dublin lose, one of the reasons will be the fact that they were not tested all year

Could Jim McGuinness, Jim Gavin or  Éamonn Fitzmaurice, above,  win an All-Ireland if put in charge of Cavan, Sligo, Tipperary or Meath? The answer is, I believe, emphatically no. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

‘Manager can get them to the gates, but sacking of a city goes to those first over the walls’

Darragh Ó Sé shadows Graham Canty in the Munster semi-final replay in 2009. It was a game in which Kerry failed to match Cork’s tempo – but they were to regain their momentum in the qualifiers. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan

Cork and Kerry will be desperate to avoid the qualifiers with Dublin waiting to pounce

Alan O’Connor put in a towering performance in the centre of the pitch  last Sunday and as the game wore on, his self-belief got stronger and stronger. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Alan O’Connor put in towering performance as he led side from the middle against Kerry

The easy thing to say watching Westmeath making that comeback against Meath would be that they had great team spirit. If team spirit was so important, where was it when they were getting beaten out the gate in the first half? Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

All-Irelands are won with talent, motivation and tactics – team spirit is overstated

Rory Gallagher and Donegal have been getting the best out of Michael Murphy by playing him in the middle of the park. Photograph: Inpho

Teams are putting huge energy into taking game away from opposition’s key player

Galway’s Michael Lundy and Mayo’s Lee Keegan wrestle before the ball is thrown in. “The distance between club and county is light years. You never realise it until it happens to you.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

The best player on the best club team in Ireland was given a lesson by Lee Keegan

Galway’s Greg Higgins and Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea: Mayo beat Galway by 17 points two years ago, but the gap has been narrowing. Photograph: Inpho

Beating Galway would give Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly something to hang their hat on

Being congratulated by Páidí Ó Sé after the 2002 All-Ireland semi-final. When Páidí managed Kerry, he knew exactly what to do to me. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Taking charge of an intercounty team takes conviction, planning and personality

Monaghan’s Karl O’Connell, seen here battling for possession with James McEnroe, showed a brilliant burst of power and pace to break through the Cavan defence and score a point. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Monaghan’s blanket is more evolved than Cavan’s and they did homework better too

Tempers flare between Donegal and Tyrone players during Sunday’s intense Ulster Championship match. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

I always thought that guys who were mouthing at me were wasting their energy

Kerry’s Aidan O’Mahony clashes with Donegal’s Michael Murphy during last Sunday’s All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Kerry manager and his players fully deserve every plaudit that comes their way

Donegal’s Michael Murphy and Kerry’s Aidan O’Mahony in the GAA Senior Championship quarter final at Croke Park in 2012. Photograph: Colm O’Neill/Inpho

Kingdom have more of a scoring threat and won’t give away goals like Dublin did

Management is crucial around now. These players are in the shape of their life. Some of them are like a prize racehorse bursting for the stalls to open. Others are standing in the stable, waiting for the day itself to arrive before they rise themselves. Photograph: Inpho

Darragh Ó Sé: This weekend is intense but it lays the foundation for the biggest game of their lives

Jim McGuinness picked his players up after getting a hiding at the end of last year and has brought them to another All_Ireland final. “Think about what that takes. It’s about moulding minds over a long period of time, making fellas believe it’s possible,” says Darragh Ó Sé.  Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Kerry and Donegal are teams built on trust and honesty, led by two men who insist on it

Kerry’s James O’Donoghue with Mayo’s Keith Higgins. “I thought Higgins had an outstanding game and yet O’Donoghue still scored 1-3.” Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

I’m siding with Kerry and Dublin to come through the weekend’s two semi-finals

Kerry’s  James O’Donoghue is capable of causing Mayo’s defence serious problems on Sunday. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Kingdom boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice will have left nothing to chance and his players are coming into form at the right time

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody urges on his charges during last Sunday’s memorable victory over Limerick. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

His team’s never-say-die display against Limerick further evidence of the spirit instilled by their long-serving manager

Within squads, there’s huge enjoyment and huge competition going on side by side

Cork’s Eoin Cadogan attempts a block on and Paul Geaney of Kerry during this year’s  Munster final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

We’ll know more about the destiny of Sam Maguire after this weekend

Donegal’s Ryan Bradley and Michael Darragh MacAuley of Dublin during the sides’ All-Ireland football semi-final at Croke Park in August 2011. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

Jim McGuinness’s team aren’t just bodies behind the ball – they’re organised, clinical and totally in sync

Armagh and Tyrone players confront each other early on in last weekend’s qualifier clash at Omagh. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Presseye/Inpho

Last week was Armagh’s chance to set the tone and bully a team with a load of young lads on it

Cork’s Fintan Goold goes low to collect the ball ahead of Kerry’s Declan O’Sullivan in last weekend’s Munster final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

When the euphoria abates, Eamonn Fitzmaurice would have liked a closer game

Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton: has helped transform  the goalkeeper’s traditional role  into something much more fundamental to how the team operates. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Goalkeepers used to be the worst footballer in the team but now they’re among the best

Clare’s David Tubridy and Ciaran Russell in action against Kerry goalkeeper Brian Kelly. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Kerry and Galway both have a bunch of footballers with potential but that’s all it is so far

Tyrone’s Peter Harte confronts Monaghan’s  Dermot Malone during the Ulster SFC quarter-final at Clones. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho

The hoodoo factor is real – Kerry had it over Dublin, Tyrone had it over Kerry

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea and Seamus O’Shea lose out to Roscommon’s Cathal Shine in Sunday’s Connacht football championship semi-final at Dr Hyde Park.

I have sympathy for last year’s beaten finalists because there’s nothing worse than playing a team whose year is all about beating(...)

George Hannigan of Tipperary tackles Limerick’s Cian Sheehan during the Munster senior championship quarter-final at Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: Inpho.

Seeding the football draw is tough on the players but hurling actually beats them before Cork or Kerry do

Aggression and attitude: Down’s Conor Laverty fends off Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh during their drawn Ulster quarter-final at Celtic 	Park, Derry. Photograph: Inpho

In the hardest provincial championship of all, you need a harder edge regardless of your size

SKY Sports presenters Rachel Wyse and Brian Carney with analysts Jamesie O’Connor (hurling) and Peter Canavan (football). Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

More than ever, prominent GAA players find themselves the subject of constant scrutiny

Michael Darragh Macauley (centre) was Darragh Ó Sé’s player of the 2013 senior football championship. His influence and his industry are huge. He’s aggressive, he’s strong, he gets forward at every opportunity, he defends when he’s needed. Just an all-round player, the full package. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

You can’t put a year as good as this one all down to what happened in Croker

Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin is tackled by Micahel Darragh Macauley and Cian O’Sullivan of Dublin. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Mayo needed to realise that if there was bullying to be done, they had to be the bullies

There is pressure on every player ahead of the All-Ireland final but the likes of Dublin’s Michael Darragh Macauley and Aidan O’Shea of Mayo will feel it even more, having played so well this year. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

With neither side a stranger to the occasion, Jim Gavin’s side have more scoring power

Myself and Galway’s Seán Ó Domhnaill exchange shirts after the drawn All-Ireland final in 2000. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Don’t be surprised if the best players for Cork and Clare the next day are the ones making amends

Dublin’s Diarmuid Connolly and Jonny Cooper tackle David Moran of Kerry. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Winning and losing of an epic contest came down to one vital late kick-out

Kerry’s Darragh Ó Sé and Ciaran Whelan of Dublin during the All-Ireland quarter-final in 2009. “You’d always believe you could beat Dublin.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Throughout our history the Dubs were never a team to be feared so why start now?

Donegal’s Rory Kavanagh and Frank McGlynn find Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea a real handful.

They’re a different prospect this year and could do a real number on Tyrone in Sunday’s semi-final showdown

Barcelona’s midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta put  pressure on  Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema. The speed with which they seek to regain possession is a key part of Barcelona’s game. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

There was a time when a Seán Cavanagh or a Maurice Fitzgerald could coast through the game but not any more

Aidan O’Shea of Mayo was the dominant midfielder on show in the quarter-finals. He is some physical specimen and clearly in the best condition of his adult life.  Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The four winning sides at the weekend were all propelled by towering performances by the men in centrefield

Monaghan’s Vincent Corey battles with Donegal’s Michael Murphy during the Ulster senior football final. Photograph: William Cherry/Presseye/Inpho

They threw the kitchen sink at Donegal and they will do the same against Tyrone

Monaghan hit Donegal where they were strongest, shutting down their full forward line including Vinnie Corey’s marking job on Michael Murphy. Photograph: Inpho

Jim McGuinness should have no trouble picking his team up for the qualifier against Laois

It was no surprise when old rivals Noel O’Leary from Cork and Kerry’s Paul Galvin renewed acquaintances in the Munster final at Killarney. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Even if the secret is kept, you run the risk of messing too much with your players’ heads

With the way he conducted himself off the field regarding his non selection for the third Lions Test,  Brian O’Driscoll showed the qualities that have enabled him to stay at the top for so long. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The sports might be different but the true greats all share the same qualities

A large crowd in Killarney await the start of last year’s Kerry versus Tyrone qualifier clash. “None of these Cork players have ever beaten Kerry there. This is no time to be giving them a taste of it.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Sunday’s game might not have relevance to the year ahead but there is a proud tradition to uphold

Donegal’s Ryan McHugh is tackled by Down’s Conor Laverty and Ryan Boyle at Kingspan Breffni Park last Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

It might not be pretty but it’s modern football so we must analyse it properly

Peter Canavan: will be selling crazy again to the Fermanagh players. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho

Everything you’ve been preaching has to be reworked to get everyone believing again

Many intercounty players  are going to New York or Boston for the summer to play

Team holidays would strengthen team bonds and make it harder to leave prematurely

Donegal have shown the way forward when it comes to preparing physically. Neil McGee took a hit off Stephen O’Neill a couple of weeks ago and O’Neill bounced off him. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Body shapes are changing, even in players who’ve been around a long time

Niall Morgan will never learn a better lesson.

Donegal have sent a warning shot across everyone’s bow but don’t write off Tyrone just yet

Galway’s Gary Sweeney is put under  pressure from Mayo’s Enda Varley, Alan Freeman, Cathal Carolan and Cillian O’Connor during last Sunday’s match at Pearse Stadium, Galway. ‘Mayo forwards will dog any defender coming out with the ball.’ Photograph: Inpho

It’s more than just turning over ball in the opposition half, it’s being ruthless when you do

More articles