Rollercoaster day ends with Dublin win over Monaghan
Kerry’s win over Tyrone means a bankable pairing for Allianz league final in Croke Park
Monaghan’s Gavin Doogan, Darren Hughes and Neil McAdam with Paul Flynn and Brian Fenton of Dublin during Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division 1 semi-final at Clones, Co Monaghan. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho
We’re used to the final day of the Allianz Football League resembling the trading floor of a stock exchange, as fortunes rise and fall throughout the afternoon, but this weekend it all stopped being metaphorical when, with time nearly up in Clones and Dublin trailing by a point, it looked like the GAA was heading for a league final of Donegal versus Monaghan.
Strong finishes from both Dublin and Mayo in Castlebar sent Croke Park shares soaring, as that most bankable of final pairings – Dublin versus Kerry – emerged from the tumult. Kerry’s win over Tyrone was sufficiently comfortable to catapult them into second place with a scoring difference three better than Donegal’s.
“I think Dublin came from behind again today to win, as they are prone to doing, but playing Dublin in a provincial venue and playing Dublin in Croke Park are two different things,” Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice told RTÉ Sport afterwards. “That’s the ultimate test really.”
Then in the hurling quarter-finals another bankable phenomenon – a Wexford team with momentum – was resurrected, as David Fitzgerald’s team sprang their first league or championship win over Kilkenny in 13 years. Having gained promotion, Wexford went to Nowlan Park and outplayed the Leinster champions, 2-18 to 0-19, with goals from David Dunne and a long-range free by goalkeeper Mark Fanning, which found its way into the net.
Brian Cody’s team suffered similar indignity at the hands of newly-promoted Clare in last year’s semi-final, but were still in Croke Park come September.
The league semi-finals will see All-Ireland champions Tipperary, a big win over Offaly under their belt, take on Wexford and, in the other, Galway face Limerick. This marks the first time in the four years of the format that three Division 1B teams have won their quarter-final contests against opponents from the higher division.
Dublin and Kerry also contested last season’s football final, and Dublin, in perhaps their most authoritative display of the year, won by 11 points. The current campaign has seen his team set a new record for unbeaten matches at 36 and counting, but manager Jim Gavin sounded underwhelmed when asked what he had taken from the campaign that saw the county top the Division One table.
We’ll continue to play our traditional style of football, as you seen today, no matter who we play
“I would take out from it that we’ve got a lot of work to do. I think our performances through those seven games have been clunky. We’re consistently looking for that consistency of performance and we haven’t got it yet.”
He hardly needed reminding, but the regulation match against Kerry, played just over a fortnight ago, was an ill-disciplined affair that saw a blizzard of yellow cards including the two that resulted in a red for Ciarán Kilkenny. It took more injury-time sharpshooting to level the scores that night, but Gavin referred obliquely to the skelping when asked how the final might be approached.
“I can’t speak for Kerry. There was a lot of off-the-ball activity in that game. All I can speak for is how Dublin approach the game and we’ll continue to play our traditional style of football, as you seen today, no matter who we play. We’ll go at it and see where that takes us.”
At the other end of the table Cavan’s good recent results came to an end against already relegated Roscommon, who registered a first win of the season. It didn’t matter in the end as Mayo’s win over Donegal pushed them up the table – nearly as far as the final.
In Division Two Galway survived a late Kildare rally to win by a point and ensure that Kevin Walsh’s team are promoted back to the top flight for the first time in six years. Meath chased valiantly but even a big win over Clare couldn’t shift them out of third place.
An unexpected draw in Cork kept Down footballers afloat, as Derry’s one-point win over Fermanagh was sufficient to relegate both counties.
There was a thriller in Armagh where the home side appeared to be on course to take the second promotion spot in Division Three, leading Tipperary by four points in the second half. Tipp All Star Michael Quinlivan, however, scored a hat-trick and the last of the goals was struck in injury-time to give last year’s surprise All-Ireland semi-finalists a one-point win, 3-8 to 0-16, and a ticket to Division Two – leaving Armagh becalmed behind their conquerors and Louth.
More late drama in the division saw Antrim relegated after Longford equalised in the seventh minute of extra-time in Corrigan Park. Joining them in the basement division will be Laois who have now slid to two successive demotions.