What we learned this weekend. Apart from the fact that Rome is an awesome city (blog post to follow this week), this weekend may be remembered for the official arrival of Ireland golfer Shane Lowry to the sporting elite. The Clara man won the WGC Bridgestone International by two shots and his final round demonstrated composure under pressure and clinical short game. The quality of the field was there for all to see and Lowry had his work cut out to challenge as he was two shots back at the start of the final round but what a triumph. This success has announced Lowry to the US golfing public and one suspects that this is not the final time that the Offaly man will win over in the USA. Magnificent triumph. Roll on US Open!
I will go on record. I am getting incredibly disillusioned by the standard of the Senior GAA Championships this year. While at the Dublin Airport Terminal 2 (running around like a headless chicken last weekend), witnessed the most embarrassing one sided contest seen at Croke Park for many a year. I thought Kildare were genuinely better than that. Kerry did not have get to get out of second gear throughout. Dublin’s eight point win saw the usual taps on the back for plucky Fermanagh but did anyone feel that Dublin were going to be upset at any stage? The media can paint and hype the fixtures to the hilt but the real championship in football starts in two weeks.
Mayo and Dublin (fingers crossed) will be an incredible encounter, two teams who will be willing to attack their opponent rather than defensively setup to stifle, frustrate and look for opponent players to get dismissed. Mayo and Donegal was an excellent game compared to the UFC style matchup that preceded it (Tyrone vs. Monaghan). Mayo’s win was based on the rampaging form of Aidan O’Shea in the full forward position, Paul Durcan’s karate kick on McGee in the opening half which forced the full back to retire from the game which allowed Mayo to expose the loss evident in the Lee Keegan’s goal right after the break. Donegal never recovered from the O’Shea’s goal right on half-time, an emphatic finish from the Breaffy man who held off both McGee and McHugh to dispatch to the net. Donegal apart from Michael Murphy who was superb yet again in on all round play offered little upfront and became more disillusioned as the game wore on. Mayo were dominant in the middle third with Tom Parsons influential yet again. Mayo were deserving winners, their counter attacking pace and intensity without ball is very impressive which sets up the semi-final intriguingly. For Donegal, it is back to the drawing board. The team were yet again exposed when asked to chase the game, evolution is required in the game plan.
The less said about Tyrone and Monaghan the better, the cynical nature of the game forced me to look at the Chelsea match unfortunately in the Scholars Lounge in the GAA hotbed of Rome. All I will say is that Mickey Harte and Sean Cavanagh are two absolute legends, both men owe nothing to Tyrone football and they are the reason why Tyrone are in the last four – a tactical genius on the sideline and a superstar maestro conducting on it. For Monaghan, this was an opportunity spurned and questions will be raised on yet another flat performance in All Ireland Quarter final at Croke Park. Tyrone jinx strikes again. The intensity seen to full effect in the Ulster final was not at the same level at HQ and Tyrone’s stifling defensive setup led to Monaghan increasingly frustrated evident in the Finlay red card. Darren Hughes’ red card was a joke and is the low point of the championship this year. Hoping Kerry take care of business against Tyrone in a couple of weeks to give the neutral a more open footballing finale in September.
Kilkenny have to applauded for their six point win against a Waterford outfit whose defensive setup again exposed their inability to compete in the forward line. Waterford’s effort was evident throughout but the unforced error count defensively caused by over elaboration in clearing their lines allowed Kilkenny to easily score points (at least 12 points conceded). Walter Walsh was dominant in aerial exchanges particularly in the opening half and TJ Reid / Richie Hogan controlled affairs throughout. How Waterford did not stick a designated marker was astonishing? Kilkenny’s back line had a routine afternoon with their numerical advantage as Waterford decided to only have two forwards inside throughout. Prendergast and Holden had the luxury of pushing forward in the last quarter to create the space for Hogan and Alyward to score long distance points. Waterford can hold their head high. They are NHL winners this season, only lost two out of twelve competitive games this year but the defensive setup in their team did not allow them to genuinely cause an upset to either Tipperary (Munster Final) or Kilkenny today. O’Mahoney was a big loss upfront and credit to Maurice Shanahan for stepping up to the plate but no goals in either of those two losses spoke volumes. The game plan has to evolve and Waterford’s back line (man for man) need to take more responsibility for winning their individual battles. No risk reward from Waterford management or trust in their youthful squad on the bench in the last quarter was also noted. They ever had a chance of winning. Kilkenny will start the All Ireland final as overwhelming favorites but Tipperary or Galway surely will not be as naive in their defensive and attacking responsibilities as Waterford today. TJ Reid or Richie Hogan for HOTY even before a ball is thrown in for the All Ireland final — immense talents. TJ Reid goal was pure class.
EPL has started – hurrah for some but looks like winter has arrived for me. Arsenal fans, do not press the panic button. Cech is going to be a great signing, a debut to forget but will come good. Arsenal out field looked pleasing on the eye but are wholly dependent on Sanchez for any attacking potency. West Ham could have bagged the signing of the season with Payet – excellent today. Newcastle may have bagged themselves the dud of the season – Mitrovic is a liability and his first sixteen seconds does not bode well. Manchester United despite winning on opening day have not learned from last season, ball possession does not translate to goals and allow teams to hang on into games. Tottenham deserved at least a point from the game at Old Trafford. Chelsea and Swansea was probably the most entertaining game of the weekend. End to end action, sending off and chances galore. Swansea have a nice striking partnership in Ayew and Gomis as Chelsea struggled to contain the pair. Hazard continues to impress but Fabregas was anonymous throughout. Liverpool beat Stoke Spanish Armada – great strike from Coutinho. Sunderland, Norwich and Bournemouth will struggle in the league this term, naive defensively would be an understatement. Watford will join the party in a couple of weeks but did show glimpses offensively that suggests that they pose teams problems. Rudy Gestede – the new Benteke? Time will tell but with the right service could prove a success. Palace to finish comfortably midtable with Cabaye in the midfield engine room. My fantasy football league team looks in shambles already. If I was in real-life, would be first managerial axing. Reece Taylor, sixteen years and playing like a stud – bright future for the young West Ham midfielder, had Ozil in his pocket all day. Limerick FC win again – mission impossible (staving relegation) back on?