What a great win for the Donegal U-21 team last Monday night in the Ulster final. From the outset of the championship Declan Bonner’s men have been favourites to pick up the title. This same group were impressive as minors and have only gotten stronger.
It’s no secret that under Bonner this team has done a lot of work, both in the gym and on the field. Not only are they well developed physically but they have been well coached in terms of defending but also in front of goals. They have notched up a lot of big scores in their advance to the All-Ireland semi-finals.
The experience of playing in the McKenna Cup in place of the county senior team has helped a great deal in their preparation. The opportunity to play at a decent level instead of playing challenge matches has certainly brought them on leaps and bounds not only as individuals but also as a group.
Bonner and his management team will relish the chance now to play against the Dubs on Saturday. Hopefully the busy schedule of the last few weeks will not have caught up, especially with the lads that have combined college, senior and U-21 football, all since the New Year.
Like Donegal, Dublin have put up some big numbers in their quest for another Leinster title. If we look back on these two sides when they met in the minor championship in 2014, Donegal could shade it. If anything they are a stronger side adding a number of outstanding players to their squad.
It’s also hard to know exactly what the difference in standards are between the Ulster and Leinster championships. One advantage that the Dubs may have will be that they go into the game on Saturday evening with a couple of weeks of rest while Donegal will only have five days to recover. There is a belief that the momentum that Donegal will have gained from playing the game on Monday night will get them into the groove early and hopefully do enough to get them another opportunity to play in an All-Ireland final, either against Kerry or Galway.
One point that has to be made is why did they have to drag the supporters of both Donegal and Derry all the way across the province to watch the final in Armagh on a Monday night? I am not sure who pulls ideas like this out of the hat but it shows very little regard or respect towards the supporters and followers of Ulster football. This on top of the shambles in which both semi-finals were called off at the last minute does not paint a very good picture. Considering that one of the biggest problems that is prevalent within the GAA is the planning of fixtures around both club and county level, it’s important that those who run our national games get their house in order.
END OF RUN
Kerry finally put an end to the great Dublin run last Sunday in the National League final.The game was end to end with some extremely open play and very high scoring. Much was made of the long run the Dubs have been on the last few years but to be fair, the Dublin camp have made very little of it.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice introduced a number of new players this year and they showed the hunger and endeavour that was needed. They attacked the Dubs with support coming from all areas of the field; they didn’t allow the Dubs to build from the back putting their defenders under pressure as soon as they had possession. They, like every other side in the country, pulled everyone behind the ball when they hadn’t got possession but when they broke out the Dublin players struggled to keep pace with them. Whether we can take anything from this in terms of looking forward to the latter end of the championship in August is hard to know.
Are the Dubs looking tired and has the hunger gone? It would be a brave person to predict such a downfall. Personally I think they will be delighted to have that monkey off their back and it will refocus a few minds for the summer ahead. When you consider they were missing the likes of Jack McCaffrey and Johnny Cooper, and that Diarmuid Connolly didn’t spend that much time on the field, you would be forgiven for thinking that those suggesting there may be a changing of the guard may be a bit premature.
Kerry, on the other hand, have shown they have plenty to come through in the next few years. Jack O’Connor has done a lot of work at both minor and U-21 levels and Kerry are now going from strength to strength. While the championship will be hyped up to the last and we will be told that everyone has the same chance, the truth is that Kerry, Dublin, Mayo and, hopefully, Donegal will be there or thereabouts when September comes.
Fair play to the Irish soccer ladies for standing up for what they believe in. They took a brave stand last week in going public about the way they were being treated. You would think that loss of earnings, your own gear and a match fee was the minimum you would expect when you would go and play for your country but those that run the FAI didn’t think so.
When you consider that these ladies are representing their country, the least they deserve is to be treated with the same respect as anyone else.
Would the men stand for such treatment and what would the public do if the men were being treated like this? What surprised me was the lack of support from other areas within the soccer world.