If I was a Tyrone supporter I would be particularly aggrieved with referee Maurice Deegan. I could mention numerous occasions when he ruled against the Ulstermen. I will mention only one though. Tyrone had a clear penalty call in the second half but the referee chose to book the Tyrone player involved for diving I presume. As one anti Tyrone supporter from Donegal told me, “they got what they deserved”. Really? I was also told that I have a “soft spot for Tyrone”.
It seems that Maurice Deegan certainly has a soft spot for Kerry. Tyrone deserved a fair crack of the whip. When Ulster teams go to Croke Park they bring a certain reputation with them. There’s a perception out there that our football is dogged and borders on the edge. For last Sunday’s game it seemed as though some people were saying “we need to put Tyrone back in their box” because of the squabbles which occurred during the final ten minutes of the Monaghan and Tyrone quarter final. By the way there were two teams squabbling.
Last Sunday Usain Bolt managed to beat twice drug cheat Justin Gatlin in the 100m World Athletics Championships final. I agree that Gatlin got what he deserved. He served two bans for taking drugs. As I stated last week, Tiernan McCann did something silly and suffered that infamous trial by media since. We exacted our own revenge.
Last Sunday, Kerry was technically the better team on the field but the best teams on the field do not always necessarily win games. I would have liked if there was a more balanced approach by the referee last Sunday.
If Ulster teams bring a certain unpalatable misconstrued image with them, then Kerry bring the exact opposite. There’s an aura about them. This is Kerry and we are the football kingpins. Their record of All-Ireland titles speaks for itself and there is everything to admire about their football. All counties aspire to emulate and learn from them. They were my heroes when I was a youngster growing up.
Dublin too brings a similar notion to the table - ‘We are unbeatable and untouchable’. But these teams are there to be beaten and our game becomes mundane when the same teams are at the top all of the time. The lesson is there to learn from them.
Had Tyrone succeeded last Sunday, there would have been uproar. The country would have collapsed. This was never going to happen though. Take the referee out of the equation and Tyrone still had a chance to bring the country down. Had they been clinical in front of the posts they had a chance. They created three goal chances and missed all three. They lack a couple of quality forwards just now who will make the difference in the seasons ahead. Tyrone can take a lot of encouragement from their performance in Croke Park. They won the All-Ireland U-21 title this year which augurs well for the future.
The show rolls on this Sunday with the meeting of Mayo and Dublin. This is a difficult game to call because both we have two genuine title contenders on display. Dublin still does not know how good they are because of the lack of quality opposition they have played to date.
Mayo on the other hand will be buoyant after their defeat of Donegal but they too have not been brought to the edge which is always a concern when facing stiff opposition. Both teams have tightened their defences since last year. Dublin now plays with an extra defender and funnel back to defence when not in possession. Mayo play with a third midfielder who also sits in front of their defence adding protection to their backs. Their styles of play are more open than what we’ve witnessed to date in the championship. Both teams like to attack leaving them vulnerable in defence.
Many pundits are tipping Mayo and I would dearly love to see a Mayo victory. That said I feel that Dublin is a very hurt team since Donegal beat them in the All-Ireland semi final last year. They are not as exuberant as they were. They have tried to keep a low profile and I believe that we will witness a classic battle on Sunday.
There’s something special about Dublin and what they bring to the game. Their supporters with their singing and banter add colour to our game. Dublin is the team that every other county wants to beat.
The national media, and particularly in the capital has the players pumped up into mega superstars which put added pressure on them.
Given that they have home advantage the odds always seem stacked against their opposition. However, these factors are hugely motivational for the opposing team and no doubt Mayo will take full advantage.
This year’s championship has not been the best and I feel that we need a massive boost. The men from the west will need to be fully awake on Sunday afternoon. If they are, then Mayo will give us all something that we badly need. Maigh Eo Abu!