GAA unlikely to pull the plug on Super 8s before third year
Defending champions Dubs top report cards as counties absorb lessons of the Super 8s
Sean O’Shea: has been prominent in Kerry’s attack this summer. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
The second year of the three-year Super 8s trial is complete and the air is thick with demands for it be discontinued in the aftermath of the Tyrone-Dublin dead rubber in Group Two, which saw both sides field second-choice teams.
It’s unlikely the GAA will pull the plug before the third year of the experiment is played, albeit with some tweaking to the Croke Park round and maybe the sequencing of matches. Attendances were up – largely thanks to Mayo’s arrival in this year’s round robin.
On the pitch, the football produced the decade’s top four counties as semi-finalists – as they have been en bloc, twice previously in the last 10 years. Here is the report card at the end of this year’s quarter-finals.
Played: 6, won 6
For: 14-124, average 27.6
Against: 1-69, average 12
It’s been a straightforward championship for Jim Gavin and he heads into the semi-finals with a strong panel and intense competition for places. The vulnerability of the full-back line to early ball remains an issue but only one goal has been conceded and their defensive stats are the best of any remaining team.
Fact: Should they end up playing Tyrone again, Jim Gavin may want to have a hard think about Eoghan O’Gara. Although there was more focus on Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan of the old guard on Sunday, O’Gara has scored a goal every time (three) he’s appeared in a championship match against Mickey Harte’s team.
Played: 5, won 4, drew 1
For: 6-94, average 22.4
Against: 5-70, average 17
After failing to make the cut last year, Kerry delivered a solid campaign, highlighted by the big win over Mayo in Killarney. Paul Geaney’s return to form and Seán O’Shea’s development makes attack formidable and David Moran was dominant against Mayo but has been bothered by injury since. They are however conceding on average more than the other semi-finalists.
Fact: Although Ulster is the only province with which Kerry isn’t in credit in respect of All-Ireland finals (50-50 against teams from the north), their semi-finals record is better (16 out of 22) but Tyrone in 2003 were the only Ulster county to beat Kerry in the last four for 28 years although that was avenged in 2015.
Played: 9, won 8, lost 1
For: 10-144, average 19.3
Against: 9-115, average 15.7
Like Mayo, Tyrone have made a habit of coming through on the outside track and after the disappointment against Donegal, Mickey Harte reverted to a more cautious set-up. But when faced with danger against Cork, he reconfigured at half-time and with Mattie Donnelly switched to attack, they completed the comeback
Fact: Sunday will be Mickey Harte’s ninth time to take Tyrone into the last four and his record is four wins and four defeats. Peter Keane will be the fifth Kerry manager he has opposed.
Played: 8, won 6, lost 2
For: 9-127, average 19.2
Against: 7-101, average 15.2
Mayo followed the pattern of recent years by bombing out of Connacht but picked up momentum in the qualifiers and recovered from a poor start to the Super 8s in Killarney. Best performances have come in the must-win matches and injuries are clearing up. Scoring freely is still a problem.
Fact: Dublin have not won any of the last five semi-finals with Mayo at the first time of asking. Three times, 1955, ’85 and 2015 the contests ended in a draw with Dublin winning the replay. Mayo came out on top in the other two, 2006 and ’12.
Played: 6, won 5, lost 1
For: 6-104, average 20.3
Against: 5-87, average 17
Donegal will have been hugely disappointed to go down at the final hurdle for the second year running. On the basis of the Kerry match they looked in good shape but simply couldn’t produce anything near their best in the face of Mayo’s relentless physicality. Injuries played a role in their downfall but not an exclusive one.
Fact: Like Kerry last year they exit after losing just one match – the only counties so far to do so.
Played: 6, won 4, lost 2
For: 10-78, average 18
Against: 5-93, average 18
Roscommon’s best shot was in the first quarter-final round when they had home advantage against Tyrone but weren’t able to make it count. Conor Cox gave them greater bite up front and they showed progress in picking up two points in the quarter-finals.
Fact: Roscommon are the only team to have won away from home and not make this year’s semi-finals.
Played: 6, won 3, lost 3
For: 16-86, average 22.3
Against: 13-82, average 20.1
It’s been a great summer for Cork football and if the seniors drew a blank in the Super 8s, they gave a good account of themselves, particularly in the Croke Park matches.
Fact: Cork are the leading goal scorers in this year’s championship.
Played: 8, won 4, lost 4
For: 9-106, average 16.6
Against: 9-121, average 18.5
Like Cork, Meath have had a good campaign overall and gained valuable experience for next year’s return to Division One. Proved competitive for long spells of all three quarter-final phases.
Fact: The five points that Meath restricted Dublin to in the first half of the Leinster final, was the lowest of Jim Gavin’s championship career.