2018 GAA Senior Football Championship Draw: Reflections

Mayo fans have hardly gotten over the traumatic All Ireland Senior Football final loss to Dublin but tonight (October 19th, 2017) saw the draws for the 2018 GAA Championship draws (well football at least). Hawkeye Sidekick has submitted a thesis investigating how the Senior Hurling Championship will work, let us focus on the senior football provincial championships in this blog posting because to explain the SHC format would require too much space of this internet service provider.

Munster:

Let us get to the point. Preliminary games where the likelihood is that Clare and Tipperary will advance to meet perennial kingpin Kerry and a kingpin Cork who will look to restore pride next season. Tipperary out of the four perceived minnows in the province will fancy a cut off Cork given they ran the Rebels close last year. Stephen O’Brien’s return to the football fold is a welcome addition to Liam Kearns side. Cork will be warned; their performances last year were mediocre at best and only a spirited Mayo loss gave the Cork football supporter with anything realistically to shout about. Kerry will hope that Clare provide some level of opposition before a provincial final. I have my doubts that this will become reality; all aces stacked against Clare and with a trip to Killarney next year, doubt many will give the Banner County any hope of an upset. Kerry look the form team of the province again. Cork final showdown in the revamped Pairc Ui Chaoimh would be a superb occasion but Cork have to earn their right to the final and the Tipperary fixture looks close. No disrespect to Waterford or Limerick but NFL Division Four promotion is the objective this season; both well short in terms of squad depth.

Leinster:

Wicklow or Offaly senior football management will have to work overtime to convince some players to commit next season after this draw. The victor of this opening round tussle faces the arduous task of playing Dublin in the quarter final. Damage limitations already for either county. Meath are in the same side of the draw as Dublin and one would imagine the Royal County getting over the likes of Longford in a quarter final fixture. Kildare were probably the main beneficiary of this provincial draw, avoided Dublin and Meath. Kildare play either Louth or Carlow in a quarter-final tussle, a nice fixture to get the season up and running before facing potentially Westmeath / Wexford or Laois. Despite the musings afterwards, Dublin hold the aces in this province again. I cannot see any other county getting close to Jim Gavin’s men next year. Points spread bets could be the order of the day here.

Connacht:

Eanna Smith face was telling despite given due respect to either Leitrim or New York, Roscommon are nailed on for a provincial final appearance. The other side of the draw saw Mayo and Galway lock horns in a quarter final fixture. The loser faces the prospect of long and winding qualifier series and with the super eight’s immediately afterwards, All Ireland success would look remote. Sligo or London face the victor who will be battle hardened from the McHale Park local derby tussle. Mayo need to win this fixture and I think they will advance to the provincial final. Roscommon will be keen to retain their title; expect a close encounter and a lot will depend on Mayo’s mindset and whether they have the appetite to get off the canvas again and go for another Sam Maguire tilt. Slight edge to Mayo.

Ulster:

This province struggled in All Ireland series games last season and next year will be a chance for certain counties to redeem themselves. It is a fascinating draw; still the most competitive provincial championship. Donegal face a huge tussle over a progressive Cavan outfit. Declan Bonner will need to blood new players to the side and a loss here will spell massive problems for Donegal harboring any ambitions of advancing to the Super Eight format. The two sides of the draw are well balanced. Tyrone vs. Monaghan will be a cracker and no quarter will be given in Omagh. Armagh will be wary of the threat posed by Fermanagh away and Kieran McGeeney’s side will be keen to avenge the loss to Tyrone if they meet in the last four. Monaghan can never be discounted; another NFL Division One season beckons and with Conor McManus, they have a player capable of winning any contest on his own. The other side of the draw is perhaps a chance for Derry or Down to stake a claim for an Ulster final particularly with Donegal in transition from a squad perspective. Cavan if they progress could be the dark horse on this side. Down will face Antrim in the quarter-final and should set themselves up to seriously have a go in the last four. If Derry can get their act together with their top players committing to the cause, then they are the side to watch. Intriguing championship. Tyrone have lost several warriors from their ranks. McMahon’s and Sean Cavanagh will not be in the dressing room to provide leadership / experience and skill. Wide open championship with several progressive sides in the mix to attempt to topple Tyrone.

 

 

GAA – Weekend Reflections

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Hurling classic but football was all a bit one sided

August Bank Holiday 2017. A weekend which will be remembered for one sided senior football encounters. A weekend where Joe Canning down the stretch was incredible to lead Galway to a nail biting one point win over reigning All Ireland Champions Tipperary. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action.

Galway advance to the All Ireland Hurling Final

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Hail Hail Joe Canning!

With the scores level at 0-21 to 1-18, Joe Canning stood over a free deep in Galway territory. The subsequent free was short and many thought that was that and a replay was on the card. James Barry subsequent clearance was retrieved by the ever industrious Johnny Coen who had the presence of mind to pick out Joe Canning who from the sideline and under immense Tipperary pressure slotted a beautiful score over the bar.

It was a very ESPN classic moment. Galway supporters were in delirium but Tipperary had one more chance to level but O’Dwyer hit a difficult chance wide. The game ending was in fitting with a tenacious encounter. Both sides did not give an inch with both forward lines having work extremely hard for scores.

Galway’s back line were heroic all day. The full back of Tuohy, Burke and Hansbury set the tone with tenacious defending and team work. Tipperary’s inside forward line did pose a threat at times but in the vital moments, the Galway full back line stood up and won decisive ball.

The catch from Daithi Burke in the closing stages was imperious. Tuohy had an excellent second half, a shaky first half at times particularly on the John McGrath goal where he dwelled too long on the sliothar, was dispossessed and punished. Hansbury has being an unsung hero this season. The Rahoon / Newcastle club man reveled as the game progressed and his distribution out of defense was on point.

I have had asked questions of the center back position in this Galway team but Gearoid McInerney ticked all the boxes yesterday. Physically dominant, he won his duel with the ever willing Bonnar Maher. McInerney set the tone and won several key aerial tussles in the closing stages to setup the attacking platform. Aidan Harte and Padraic Mannion produced stellar displays as well. Their distribution on point and quietened the influence of the likes of O’Dwyer and Noel McGrath for long periods.

Galway advance but for the last twenty minutes of this contest, it was the Joe Canning show. Canning had a nervy start to proceedings but once he hit his stride and started to come out the field for ball, his influence was match winning. Canning hitting a couple of superb scores from distance in the closing quarter.

Tipperary management then decided to put Padraic Maher on Canning, a switch which was too little too late. It was fitting that Canning won this contest for Galway; the mercurial talisman for so many years. The match winning score was pure sheer class.

Conor Whelan in the full forward line had an impressive afternoon. His physicality and power for such a young man is unbelievable, kept Donagh Maher and James Barry busy throughout.

Whelan and Joseph Cooney moved deeper down the field in the closing stages and were prominent in winning critical ball. Glynn as an impact bench did what he had to do. Disrupt in the air and be a nuisance for Tipperary to clear the ball.

Tipperary will be devastated after this result. There were a couple of talking points during the contest. The free count was interesting. Galway won fifteen frees while Tipperary only eight during the contest. A disparity perhaps to some?

Galway free count was a combination of factors; indiscipline in the Tipperary tackling — going high but there were one or two frees where the Galway player went to ground easy and got a free. Some days, you get those decisions but there were a couple of frees on another day would not be given.

Further debate will ensue on the helmet pull on Bonnar Maher in the coming days. When I saw it first, it looked like genuine Tipperary claims considering the recent officiating of this offense in the All Ireland Quarter Finals. No action. The linesman could not run away from the incident fast enough.

The goal chances created by Tipperary were spurned. Callanan’s chance in the opening half was a key turning point. Galway’s full back line had a shaky five minutes immediately after McGrath’s goal and another goal then could have swung the game in Tipperary’s favor.

Noel McGrath’s goal chance was a tough chance, the pass was overcooked but the shot required a smart save from Callanan in the Galway goals. Two chances which on another day could have gone in.

Tipperary will rue a couple of point misses as well. Seamus Callanan received a head knock early in the second half, did not look right thereafter and the free taking was a mixed bag for the Drom / Inch club man. Brendan Maher and John McGrath had good opportunities wasted in either half. Fine margins.

The much maligned Tipperary back line had their best outing of the season but came up just short. The decision to move McCormick further down the field had the desired effect, the player won second ball throughout but the half-forward line suffered as a result, something that was articulated perfectly by the Sunday Game last night.

Maher, Barry and Cahill stuck to their task well. Padraic Maher was immense for Tipperary; his possession count and point taking was superb. Ronan Maher at half-back had his moments of brilliance but in the closing stages, his influence waned particularly when Canning moved out the field and Glynn was causing issues with his height on the aerial balls. Seamus Kennedy was good throughout. All players left everything on the pitch. A superb advertisement for hurling.

Galway advance to the All Ireland final. The goal for the season has not yet being accomplished and there are areas of improvement for the Tribesmen. David Burke was industrious throughout but will be disappointed with some scoring opportunities that got away. Cathal Mannion was out of sorts from the first whistle but is a player that should come good in the All Ireland final.

The forward line was all Joe Canning in the final quarter. Galway’s potent attackers such as Flynn, Conor Cooney and Niall Burke need to provide more leadership in the scoring duties for the All Ireland final as Cork and Waterford will look to mark Joe Canning (best of luck) out of the game. Conor Whelan was superb.

Johnny Coen’s performance yesterday needs to be highlighted; had my doubts about the Loughrea clubman in the midfield engine room but he was superb yesterday. Breen, Forde were taken off due to the work rate of Coen yesterday. He was selfless in his passing and distribution, assisted his colleagues defensively and was pivotal for the game winning score. Kudos where it is deserved. Roll on September!

Football Snooze-fest

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Bad day for Armagh

I type this blog posting as Mayo are twenty-two points up on a hapless Roscommon. The three senior football fixtures this past weekend lacked any bite or competition. Tyrone swept aside the Armagh challenge with minimum of fuss.

Peter Harte outstanding but you cannot rate Tyrone as a team given how poor Armagh were who struggled in all facets of play. The kick outs so good against Kildare was snuffed out and caused Armagh issues defensively. Mulgrew hit a nice quick brace of goals but will the Ardboe club man get the same space against Dublin? I don’t think so.

The only thing you can say about Tyrone is that they were defensively superb at present; the discipline of defending is a joy to watch. They put the pressure on the ball carrier who either fouls the ball or coughs up possession. Officiating will be interesting in the All Ireland semi-final on this facet of play. Colm Cavanagh’s injury and a red card (two yellow cards) to McCarron will be negative points for Tyrone on a stress free afternoon.

Dublin had little trouble getting past a disappointing, unambitious Monaghan outfit. McManus had minimal influence and Dublin were out of sight after fifteen minutes. Monaghan’s full forward line threat was non-existent; opening period saw no Monaghan inside forward thirty meters from the Dublin goal.

The usual suspects were to the fore for Dublin. McCarthy and McCaffrey were stellar in their runs from deep, caused Monaghan endless problems. Rory Beggan in the Monaghan goals was superb and only for him, Dublin would have scored more goals than the one goal scored by Dean Rock. The good news for Dublin was the squad bench that came on. Flynn, McAuley, Brogan all looking the part when coming on to create selection posers for Dublin management.

The All Ireland football semi-finals will be immense affairs. Mayo are the only team in the top four that have being battle hardened and will cause Kerry issues defensively. Their performance today was encouraging; they went for the throat and Roscommon were killed off in the opening twenty minutes. Mayo’s middle third was impressive; did not give the young Roscommon side a chance to settle.

Andy Moran, Cillian O’Connor inside were constant menaces. Parsons, Vaughan, Doherty, Boyle and Higgins were critical in the middle third superiority. The running lines of Mayo were excellent but did expose massive issues in Roscommon defensively. The kick out strategy was a disaster for Roscommon as well. No general movement for the Roscommon keeper to launch kick outs.

Super Eight format next season looks a bit precarious on the basis of this year’s All Ireland quarter-finals. Super Four in a couple of weeks hopefully will provide better footballing entertainment. The GAA demands it from the two semi-finals. A nation holds it breathe!

All Ireland Senior Football Quarter Final Preview

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All Ireland Football Semi-Final spots up for grabs

Sunday sees the first of the All Ireland Senior Football quarter finals. Kerry take on West Coast rivals Galway and Connacht football kingpins Roscommon take on a battle hardened Mayo outfit. Hawkeye Sidekick previews the action.

Can Galway stifle Kerry’s attacking play to upset the odds?

Galway enters this contest wondering realistically where they are in terms of team development. A narrow victory over Mayo in the Connacht semi-final saw several good moments and indicated scope for improvement which never materialized in an utterly disappointing Connacht final display against Roscommon. Last weekend, Galway took advantage of an insipid Donegal performance to easily advance to the last eight of the competition.

The performance was good but Donegal were shambolic throughout. A season where NFL Division One football was secured earlier in the season, Galway are still an unknown quantity on Sunday. They have superb footballers in all units. Silke, O’Donnell, Conroy, Sice, Bradshaw, Armstrong, Walsh are superb talents and if the game is an open affair, Galway will more than match Kerry in the skills department.

The main issue for Galway will be on how they stifle Kerry’s forward line who were extremely impressive in their Munster football final triumph. The speed, tempo, movement, quality distribution was a joy to watch and Kerry’s forward line were causing chaos with every possession in the attack.

Kieran Donaghy in the full forward position poses serious issues for Galway. What does Kevin Walsh and Galway management do? Donaghy’s aerial ability will pose Galway untold problems. Do Galway consider moving back Conroy to negate this threat? His physicality and power under the dropping ball would certainly be a plus point for Galway defensively but Galway will lose something further up the park. It is an intricate balancing act.

Kerry’s forward line has sparkled this season. James O’Donoghue has had a superb season so far; back to his 2014 form. His movement and ball striking have being exceptional. Paul Geaney as an inside full forward threat will punish Galway if given time and space. There is no weak link in this attacking unit. Galway will do well to keep Kerry under control so they are going to have to score heavy to keep in the contest.

Do Galway have hope? I believe they do. The Kerry performances this season in the championship have shown occasional lapses defensively. Clare for forty minutes in their Munster semi-final fixture exposed Kerry on occasion. For as bad as Cork were in the provincial final showcase, they could and should have scored a couple of goals against Kerry as the full back was left exposed due to player running overlaps. Galway need to score a couple of goals to seriously upset the odds tomorrow and with forwards such as Comer, Walsh, Armstrong in the starting line-up and Michael Meehan coming off the bench, chances will be created provided Galway’s outside players play good, fast ball inside to their forward line early.

That prospect though is dreamland stuff as Kerry will be prepared for Galway particularly after the recent U21 football fixture between the two counties earlier in the year. Kerry U21’s were humbled by Galway; the groundwork of this win was midfield dominance and this is an area where Galway will look to impose their will on proceedings. O’Curraoin and Flynn will look to set the tone with early 50/50 wins. Conroy will provide leadership and game management but a lot depends on whether he is tasked with stifling Donaghy.

Kerry’s midfield are no mugs. Maher and Buckley will look to execute the fundamentals well and with Donnacha Walsh coming back into form. Kerry have players to win their own 50/50 ball as well. I think the game will be a good spectacle for the neutral but if the weather is anyway decent, Kerry’s forward line could be too much for Galway defensively. It is imperative for Galway not to let the heads drop; it happened last year against Tipperary so twelve months on, it will be interesting to see how far the team have progressed. Kerry to advance but Galway will expose defensive issues with Kerry. The kick-out strategy could be also vulnerable if Galway decides to push up on the Kerry kick outs given their talent in the middle of the park but it is Kerry for me by five points.

Can Roscommon cope with the Croke Park occasion to expose Mayo?

I admire Kevin McStay, always liked his candid opinion on the Sunday Game and despite ferocious criticisms from within Roscommon, his side have secured the Connacht Senior Football title with a youthful, energetic side.

Roscommon had a miserable NFL Division One campaign but the calibre of opposition faced improved the side; the NFL Division One factor has being huge for Roscommon and they have safely negotiated Connacht with a minimum of fuss with a professional win over Leitrim and then overwhelmed Galway in the provincial final.

The victory against Galway was no fluke. Galway complacency argument is a little rich; a disservice for anyone associated with Roscommon who dominated the aerial exchanges in midfield and their speed and tempo consistently had Galway on edge throughout.

Enda Smith was sublime in the provincial final. His cameo from the middle of the park set the tone for others to follow. His catching and distribution were on point throughout and laid the foundations for Roscommon to score. Yes, there were numerous missed chances in the opening period but one hopes that McStay and management have worked on that side of play in the three weeks after this triumph.

A side which has a good age profile; more progression and scope for improvement can be seen for the team in the coming seasons. Roscommon should have no pressure on them this weekend. Mayo will be expected to triumph and they need to embrace the occasion. Their record in Croke Park has being shocking recently; too much pressure applied within and players have failed to produce.

Mayo come into this fixture with football fans wondering where the team are this year. The loss to Galway exposed leadership issues both on and off the pitch, misfiring sweeper system where Boyle was caught in catch twenty-two situations too many times. The qualifier campaign has being less than plain sailing. Extra time was required to beat Derry and Cork and in between struggled to impose their will against Clare until breaking away in the last quarter.

Andy Moran and Cillian O’Connor have being outstanding for Mayo this season offensively. The decision to replace Moran last weekend nearly backfired against Cork; a true leader and leads by example. His work rate and ability to take a score has being to the fore this season. O’Connor against Cork was lights out; he focused on his inside forward line play and it paid rewards. Two vital attackers for Mayo.

The emergence of Aidan O’Shea is a welcome boost for Mayo. The Breaffy clubman had an indifferent start to the season but the physically imposing player has played superbly in recent outings. He needs to continue this form for the rest of the season.

Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle and Patrick Durcan are one of the best half-back lines in the country. I am dubious on Boyle as a sweeper though; better when having to man mark an opponent and contributing with scores from play. Keegan usually takes his game to the next step at this time of year. Durcan is so underrated; great running game and ability to score from long range.

The issue for Mayo is the full  back position. Ger Cafferkey has admirably tried to fill the position but Cork and other opposition have highlighted the area with ball in recent seasons. Roscommon will look to test this area of the pitch again as Cork created goal chances last weekend which on another day could have gone in. It is not just down on the Mayo full back; players around him need to protect the space in front of the full forward line but Mayo options to fill the full back position look limited.

Mayo management as well have not gotten away with criticism. Their substitution policy has created much debate particularly last weekend. Rochford’s decision to haul off Moran, Boyle against Cork was a mistake. Mayo management will point to scientific facts for the decision but these players were having good outings, why change a winning team? The decision making last weekend adds more ammunition to the fire when you consider the Mayo goalkeeping fiasco in last year’s All Ireland final replay. Management need to provide confidence and right now, they are struggling for form and confidence themselves.

Roscommon to win  will need to overcome their Croke Park nerves. Mayo are a battle hardened outfit in Croke Park and will relish playing a youthful side who have had nightmarish experiences playing at HQ.

The early exchanges will set the tone. If Roscommon can settle into the contest, then we will be in for a good game. Mayo will look to build momentum during the contest; continue the good form of their attacking units. The Roscommon back line will need to be disciplined and have slight reservations that they will leak needless frees.

Mayo’s experience could hold sway here, hoping Roscommon can produce a performance. The occasion is the one area I worry on Roscommon so tipping Mayo for a five point win. Two exciting encounters and mark the business end of the football championship!

 

All Ireland Senior Football Final Replay Reflections

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Twenty-fours after the fact. Dublin have retained Sam Maguire. Mayo begin to yet again lip their wounds after a tenth successive All Ireland Senior Football final reversal. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on a replay which will be talked about for some time to come.

Mayo Management Decisions Backfire Enormously

The decision to drop David Clarke instead of Robbie Hennelly was  a massive call. It is a massive call to drop anyone from a starting lineup for a replay, even more so when the player in question plays in goal, a position fundamental in modern day football where kick-out accuracy to win primary possession is paramount. Stephen Rochford post-game tried to justify the selection call stating that Dublin had sussed out the short kick-out strategy adopted by Mayo in the opening  final game. Was Rochford and management team spooked by the Diarmuid Connolly point in the first game where Clarke’s mislaid past hit the Dublin forward on the back before being dispatched for a white flag. Hennelly is a fine keeper but yesterday nerves got the better of him. His first four kick-outs were long but in areas where Dublin numerical advantage was evident. No variation in the kick-out stategy direction and Mayo were suddenly four points down.

Credit to Mayo, they fought back to level matters but the tone of the game had being set. Hennelly was increasingly looking more vulnerable with each pass made; his high delivery to colleagues giving Dublin players plenty of optimism to chase down lost causes. The long range free at the end of the half spoke of a player who was devoid of any tangible confidence and it should not have being a surprise when he spilled the ball for the lead-up to the penalty. Black card saved him for even more anxiety.

The player will need a strong network of family, friends and GAA colleagues to gather around him and pick him up from this disastrous performance. Hennelly’s cameo is more to do with the panic in the Mayo management in their rationale to drop Clarke who after picking the ball out of the net from Connolly’s emphatic penalty was assured with solid ball distribution from the back. A fatal mistake from Mayo management; a clear 1-4 conceded from the decision and on All Ireland final days, you cannot expect to win championships based on monumental judgement call failures.

Dublin middle third distribution key to victory

This is where the final was won ultimately. Mayo had their fair share of possession but middle third distribution to their forward line lacked speed, direction or cohesion. Dublin had their homework done, they allowed the likes of Seamie O’Shea and Tom Parsons to take endless ball into Dublin territory knowing that they lacked the speed of thought and passing range to distribute into the likes of Cillian O’Connor inside in the full forward line. Andy Moran even had to venture far from the full forward line to try to unsettle Dublin tactically but it did not make a difference.

Dublin will believe that their performance was far from perfect but their middle third of Kilkenny, Fenton, MacAuley, Flynn provided tempo and game management when required. Their distribution in the last quarter was simple; quick ball to a Dublin player in space who tended to be super-sub Cormac Costello who dispatched his efforts over the bar. The same was not the case for Mayo who never looked like creating any goalscoring chances in that second half inside. The fact that Cillian O’Connor’s decisive missed free at the death was thirty plus meters out tells you all that you need to know on the ponderous, indecisive attacking movement from Mayo throughout these two contests.

Squad depth wins championships

Despite the colossal mistakes in team selection, Mayo were in contention to win this contest at the death but when Mayo’s back line tired, Dublin were able to launch the likes of Brogan, Costello and MacAuley off the bench to make an impact. Brogan and Costello striking decisive points in the final quarter; the moves leading to those scores were splendidly executed moving Mayo’s defensive this way and that. Costello’s awareness of space was rewarded with a dreamy five minute period where he hit three sweet points to ultimately win this contest. Mayo’s squad depth was exposed. Alan Dillon who was a massive injury doubt summoned for one last effort. Conor O’Shea was ponderous in the half-forward line who replaced Donal Vaughan. Stephen Coen did an admirable job defensively but yet again, it was a distinct lack of firepower options on the Mayo bench which ebbed this fixture away from the Westerners.

Black Card Fiasco

I did not envy Maurice Deegan yesterday; the needle leading into this contest, the media soundbites targeting several players from both sides was needless stuff. However, Deegan did not set the right tone from the first whistle. How John Small stayed on the pitch in the opening period was mind boggling? Black card offense within minutes of the final, several personal fouls in that opening period and yet no card to quell the player’s discipline issues. Cooper and Keegan’s black cards were laughable; the reaction of Mayo and Dublin players for each black card was very unsavory and one has to think that the paper clippings about Lee Keegan leaned heavily on that decision. Cooper should have stayed on if the Laois official thought Small had no case to answer for his black card discretion. It was an incredibly frustrating final to watch; whistle blown too many times to allow a tempo to form in the contest. Leinster official refereeing a final? Surely, Munster or Ulster official would have being the appointment route for this replay. The black card is a joke; needs to be refined to only apply for the third tackle. Tackling is too open to interpretation.

Jim Gavin – Managerial Legend

Two All Ireland’s in a row has set Jim Gavin and this crop of Dublin footballers as one of the best GAA teams in the history of the game. Dublin have a sweeper system with the effective Cian O’Sullivan but their attack minded focus is most welcome in an era where swarming defensive win at all costs football has plighted the sport for too long. Gavin had his critics in the opening final but his decisions to wield the axe in a rational manner was effective and highlighted the lack of control in Mayo’s managerial calls. Gavin provides a calm exterior to the media but his unerring preparation and scouting reports of opposition is sensational. Jim Gavin is the blueprint that every other intercounty manager needs to follow and with the likes of Fenton, Byrne, Costello, Mannion and the mercurial Kilkenny in the panel, this is a nucleus of players who will be winning more Sam Maguire’s in the years to come.

Mayo – Where to from here?

Not much to say at this time. Glorious opportunities spurned against a Dublin side who were there for the taking. Mental blocks both on and off the pitch again conspired Mayo on the biggest day of GAA football. Attacking options need to improve; the overdependency on O’Connor and Moran was evident early doors. O’Shea in the half-forward line showed fleeting attacking glimpses, not enough to get over the line. Kevin McLaughlin is a forward and not a sweeper. Coen is an ideal sweeper player. Time to reflect and with a promising U21 All Ireland winning team this season, several of these players will need to step up next season as the likes of Andy Moran and Alan Dillon consider their futures. Heartbreaking loss but they were the victims of their own downfall.