Pearse Stadium on Sunday was in grand shape: sunshine and 20,000 on site for a decently contested championship encounter in what the marketing people might term a ‘legacy fixture’.
It was surprising so to hear a well-seasoned football man from Galway refer to the venue as a problem for the county’s football fortunes. The argument ran that it took activity away from Tuam, all too visibly a ‘legacy’ ground.
That, ran the argument, affected performance, as the old home of football in north Galway generated greater atmosphere. It’s a matter of opinion but what isn’t is the parallel assertion that matches in Salthill actually discourage crowds.
Beforehand, there were the usual horror stories of people queuing in endless tailbacks trying to get into Galway, let alone across the Roundabouts of Sorrow that lead - eventually - to the ground.
Even afterwards - and that’s three hours afterwards - the roads still resembled scenes from sci-fi films where flying saucers have landed in an unsuspecting neighbourhood.
More successful positioning was evident in Mayo's deployment of Aidan O'Shea in what had been vaguely referred to in the lead-up to the match as 'the Michael Murphy role'.
This essentially meant the player switched around during the match between centrefield and full forward. It was an interesting antidote to the player’s difficulty in maintaining mobility levels around the middle but the variation also ensured that defenders couldn’t play themselves into controlling the physical threat up front.
O’Shea rotated with Cillian O’Connor and Kevin McLaughlin, varying the challenge on the edge of the square. Up front he was scarcely containable, drawing a succession of fouls from persecuted defenders which were punished by O’Connor.
At the start of the second half he stormed centrefield, catching the re-start and playing a key role in the 1-3 in less than five minutes that ultimately sank Galway, part of a powerhouse display that earned O’Shea a consensus Man of the Match award. SM
Before Wicklow’s impressively competitive outing in Navan at the weekend there was some reference to the statistic that Wicklow hadn’t won this fixture for 58 years.
There's a link between now and then in that former Dublin player Jonny Magee currently manages Wicklow whereas the 1957 win over Meath was secured by a late goal from John Timmons who together with his brother Joe a year later would win an All-Ireland with their native Dublin.
The Timmons's were from Dublin but for a number of years lived with their maternal grandparents in Annacurra in Wicklow and played for the local club. When they returned to Dublin they re-registered with St Mary's in Saggart and won a Sam Maguire and National League with the county. SM
Kerry thankful Sheehan’s wide awake
On a somnambulant afternoon in the Kerry ranks, they could be thankful that at least Bryan Sheehan was wide awake against Tipperary. Sheehan is sometimes all too easily faint-praised as the best free-taker in the country, as if that was the sum total of his contributions to the Kerry cause. But in Thurles, he was just about the only Kerry player who seemed alive to the needs of the day from the start.
Whereas the rest of his team came out of the dressing room knowing they would win eventually, Sheehan attacked the day as if the result was in doubt. He scored Kerry's first point at a time when Tipp already had 1-1 on the board and were rampant. He broke up Tipperary attacks and got forward to set up Barry John Keane for the first Kerry goal. And of course, he nailed his frees when he had to.
Still only 29, Sheehan is that rare species really only ever found in Kerry - an under-rated five-time All-Ireland winner. David Moran will be back for the Munster final but there's no way Sheehan will be the one making way for him. Not after this display. MC
Meath will struggle to take Dublin’s Leinster crown
This could have been a mirage; Wicklow were impressive in racking up 3-12, and yet, how much did Meath looseness, all over the field but particularly in defence, invite them to raid forward? Either way they must go up to Armagh, a badly stung Armagh having been crushed by Donegal, while Meath face Westmeath in a Leinster semi-final.
They should still progress to the provincial final against Dublin but on this evidence that won’t go well for them at all. Granted, injuries forced Mick O’Dowd to blood six new players so, really, we learned very little. Harry Rooney looked the part in midfield. The new John McDermott? We’ll have to wait and see. Wicklow, under Johnny Magee, the Kilmacud Crokes think-tank and PJ Cunningham, are an honest pack of footballers. The Athletic Grounds on June 27th doesn’t seem so intimating anymore. GC