The Irish Times 2019 All-Ireland Football Championship Vox Pop

Dublin’s weakness . . . Mayo and Meath revivals . . . best footballer in the land . . . Super-8 selection

Dublin’s Eoin Murchan celebrates with Brian Fenton and the Sam Maguire after the victory over Tyrone in the 2018 All-Ireland SFC Final. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Dublin’s Eoin Murchan celebrates with Brian Fenton and the Sam Maguire after the victory over Tyrone in the 2018 All-Ireland SFC Final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

KEVIN McSTAY

What is Dublin’s biggest weakness that can halt their five-in-a-row bid?
That when the crunch comes, as it is almost certain to, due to the presence of five other contenders, will Dublin have the savage desire/hunger required to win the five-in-a-row?

How much should we read into Mayo’s league revival under James Horan?
His return to manage Mayo is significant. The league win was a boost but not totally convincing. What if David Clifford had palmed the ball to the net in the closing minutes of the final? What would the narrative be now? Mayo are mentally in a better position than 2018 but still just one member of a competitive five-team chasing pack.

The best footballer in the land at present is?
Based on league form, it has to be Aidan O’Shea of Mayo

Are Meath back? What can we realistically expect from the Royals in the Leinster championship this summer?
Well, to state the obvious, they are certainly back in Division 1 of NFL. And I believe they have made significant progress towards competitiveness at the elite level. In the Leinster championship I expect them to reach the final comfortably and give Dublin their best test at provincial level for many years.

Name your eight teams to make up the 2019 Super-8s?
Dublin, Mayo, Galway, Meath, Tyrone, Monaghan, Kerry, Cork .

DARRAGH Ó SÉ

What is Dublin’s biggest weakness that can halt their five-in-a-row bid?
Their biggest weakness is just the pressure of doing the five-in-a-row. Everybody wants to beat the Dubs and every other county wants to see them beaten at this stage, and that’s through no fault of their own. So that added pressure is probably their biggest weakness.

How much should we read into Mayo’s league revival under James Horan?
I thought from the very outset that James Horan was the right man to come back. Look, they had a good league without being spectacular. Physically they’re one of the few teams who can go toe to toe with the Dubs, and that’s still a huge factor. But I still don’t think they’ve sorted their forward problems.

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

The best footballer in the land at present is?
Based on league form, the best footballer at present you would have to say is Aidan O’Shea. But of course the Dubs didn’t have a good league campaign.

Are Meath back? What can we realistically expect from the Royals in the Leinster championship this summer?
The jury is still out on them. The problem with Meath is for them to get a bit of momentum, they have to avoid the Dubs until later down the road. Which is unavoidable from their point of view.

Name your eight teams to make up the 2019 Super-8s?
Dublin, Kerry, Mayo, Tyrone, Donegal, Galway, Meath, Monaghan.

SEÁN MORAN

What is Dublin’s biggest weakness that can halt their five in a row bid?
The erosion caused by time. There’s a reason no county has ever achieved a five-in-a-row. The biggest fall-off in the recent league was a slackening defence, even allowing for injuries, particularly vulnerable to early ball. Talk of Rory O’Carroll coming back underlines as much.

How much should we read into Mayo’s league revival under James Horan?
It’s unfair to dismiss it. The league has been accepted as a touchstone for two decades. Mayo finished the campaign very strongly and launched some good new players. Old questions remain: will they score enough in the big matches?

Tyrone’s Mattie Donnelly holds off Paul Mannion of Dublin during the All-Ireland quarter-final game at Healy Park in Omagh. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Tyrone’s Mattie Donnelly holds off Paul Mannion of Dublin during the All-Ireland quarter-final game at Healy Park in Omagh. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The best footballer in the land at present is?
Matthew Donnelly has been outstanding for Tyrone for a while and if capable of being cloned, would play in a few positions. During the league however, his deployment as a forward in a more attacking configuration was a revelation.

Are Meath back? What can we realistically expect from them in the Leinster championship this summer?
There’s more to becoming a top-eight county than promotion but Meath were impressive in Division Two and acquitted themselves well in the final against Donegal. To-do list: get to Leinster final, perform competitively and reach Super-8s.

Name your eight teams to make up the 2019 Super-8s?
This didn’t work last year but here goes again - next year’s Division One with no springers: Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan and Tyrone.

KEITH DUGGAN

What is Dublin’s biggest weakness that can halt their five in a row bid?
They have few identifiable weaknesses but in addition to the strange reluctance of teams to try and exploit their lack of height in the full-back line, Dublin’s renowned substitutes bench may not have the same impact as it did two or three summers ago.

How much should we read into Mayo’s league revival under James Horan?
Because of the way the final unfolded, it was vital that Mayo won it. In doing that, they demonstrated that the old guard has lost none of its fire and that James Horan has discovered several new faces. It was a hugely beneficial spring.

The best footballer in the land at present is?
His league final performance against Meath underlined the fact that Michael Murphy is one of the greatest individual talents the game has seen. If you polled all the managers for a single player on their wishlist, Murphy would finish as most wanted.

Are Meath back? What can we realistically expect from the Royals in the Leinster championship this summer?
Their Division 2 run was encouraging but a Leinster final and Super-8s appearance are priorities now if they are re-establish their credentials as a leading light in football.

Name your eight teams to make up the 2019 Super-8s?
Dublin, Tyrone, Galway, Mayo, Kerry, Donegal, Monaghan, Meath.

MALACHY CLERKIN

What is Dublin’s biggest weakness that can halt their five in a row bid?
No actual weaknesses, only potential ones. Cian O’Sullivan, Brian Fenton or Ciarán Kilkenny getting hurt at the wrong time would make it interesting. Also, history is heavy. Let’s see them carry the weight.

How much should we read into Mayo’s league revival under James Horan?
Quite a bit. For years, we’ve assumed that Mayo can’t do well in the league because half their squad is in Dublin early in the year. If Horan has successfully zapped that excuse, what others are up for grabs now?

Donegal’s Michael Murphy scores a goal against Armagh during the league. Photograph: Evan Logan/Inpho
Donegal’s Michael Murphy scores a goal against Armagh during the league. Photograph: Evan Logan/Inpho

The best footballer in the land at present is?
None of the premium Dub consiglieri would be out of place here obviously but for pure, all-round, Swiss Army Knife ability to affect all elements of the game, Michael Murphy is still the most complete package.

Are Meath back? What can we realistically expect from the Royals in the Leinster championship this summer?
Depends where ‘back’ means. Back as All-Ireland or Leinster challengers? No and no. Back as a Super-8 team? More plausible. If they make a Leinster final, they’ll need to beat someone like Cork, Clare, Roscommon, Fermanagh, etc to make it. Doable but not definite.

Name your eight teams to make up the 2019 Super-8s?
Dublin, Mayo, Galway, Tyrone, Kerry, Donegal, Monaghan, Meath.

EAMON DONOGHUE

What is Dublin’s biggest weakness that can halt their five in a row bid?
Finding a partner for Brian Fenton has been a problem. They’ve been deploying James McCarthy there, although Jim Gavin clearly prefers to line him out at half back. Michael Dara Macauley doesn’t appear to have his manager’s full trust, and the likes of young Darren Gavin looked lightweight during the league. Getting this partnership in the engine room right will be crucial.

How much should we read into Mayo’s league revival under James Horan?
They have certainly not gone away, but neither have their old failings and they will seriously struggle to break down Galway. Which means negotiating the qualifiers.

The best footballer in the land at present is?
Michael Murphy. Not only is he a terrific talent and a key man in a key position for his team, but the Donegal captain is also an incredible leader.

Are Meath back? What can we realistically expect from the Royals in the Leinster championship this summer?
Meath’s early-season efforts will make peaking again in May very tricky. Hopefully they can be competitive again as Leinster football needs them, but they’ll need a fortunate draw to reach the Super-8s.

Name your eight teams to make up the 2019 Super-8s?
Dublin, Kerry, Galway, Donegal, Tyrone, Mayo, Roscommon, Monaghan.

IAN O’RIORDAN

What is Dublin’s biggest weakness that can halt their five in a row bid?
The obviously unknown. Not just the pressure of trying to achieve what no senior football or hurling team has done before, but also the incentive it might give other teams in trying to stop them. Ask Kerry and Offaly, or Kilkenny and Tipperary.

How much should we read into Mayo’s league revival under James Horan?
Enough to know that Horan’s return has coincided with a first league win since 2001, and that experienced players such as Lee Keegan has also been reading well enough into it. The force will be strong with them.

Brian Fenton celebrates Dublin’s All-Ireland SFC win over Tyrone last September. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Brian Fenton celebrates Dublin’s All-Ireland SFC win over Tyrone last September. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho


The best footballer in the land at present is?
It’s still hard to look too far beyond Dublin, Brian Fenton capable of reminding anyone and everyone on any given day that he is that footballer.

Are Meath back? What can we realistically expect from the Royals in the Leinster championship this summer?

Definitely on the way back, only not quite at Leinster championship contender stage, they still must consider themselves capable of testing Dublin.

Name your eight teams to make up the 2019 Super-8s?
Beginning with provincial champions Dublin, Kerry, Mayo, Tyrone, plus Galway, Donegal, Monaghan and Meath.

GAVIN CUMMISKEY

What is Dublin’s biggest weakness that can halt their five in a row bid?
Hubris seems highly unlikely. This is reaching but the faith Jim Gavin shows in current players over bringing Diarmuid Connolly or Rory O’Carroll back into the fold could prove a costly mistake (Surely, if fit and willing, O’Carroll will return even for training purposes).

How much should we read into Mayo’s league revival under James Horan?
The hilarious out pouring of emotion, by Mayo players and fans, after capturing silverware in Croke Park made it seem like September had come early. Always nice to see Aidan O’Shea in form but, as the fella says, the league means nothing in August.

The best footballer in the land at present is?
Diarmuid Connolly of St Vincent’s.

Are Meath back? What can we realistically expect from the Royals in the Leinster championship this summer?
Back to the Meath who haunted and ruined Dublin summers for two decades? Not until we see reincarnations of Mick Lyons and John McDermott garnished by some Trevor Giles. Maybe they’ll make the Super-8s and capture a provincial title at some stage but ridiculous to say “Meath are back” or that they ever will be.

Name your eight teams to make up the 2019 Super-8s?
Same as last year except Mayo replace Kildare and Meath might bump Roscommon.

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