An afternoon which saw Kerry advance without showing their hand against a Galway side who were unable to take their goal chances and were unable to deal with the inside Kerry full forward threat. Mayo and Roscommon must do it all over again as the Connacht rivals drew in an exciting but very poor footballing spectacle. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action.
Kerry advance but Galway will rue an opportunity missed
Kerry will reflect on this nine point victory as mission accomplished. Quarter finals are there to be won and were first to admit post-game that they need to step up in terms of work rate, tempo and accuracy in the semi-final fixture. 1-18 was a good score considering the precarious underfoot conditions at Croke Park. The turf rework after recent summer concerts left the surface incredibly slick on top and players in both quarter finals today struggled for their footing.
Galway fans were very dejected coming out of HQ. There was a sense within the county during the week that the team would give Kerry a rattle but there were underlying fears on how they would combat Kieran Donaghy in the full forward line. Those concerns were well founded as Donaghy dominated inside in the opening period, winning multiple high balls and scored a fine goal. David Walsh had a thankless task this afternoon; the experiment or solution (whatever court of opinion you are in) failed.
The Tribesmen were devoid of defensive nous to combat the high ball into the full back line. Walsh was not alone in struggling with this facet of play. Kyne was a remote figure and Silke who was supposed to be a sweeper for the full back struggled to win any second ball. The goal scored by Donaghy midway through the opening period opened up a five point advantage. The goal was a killer blow for Galway as they had spurned two goal chances before this opener. Good Kerry goalkeeping but it exposed massive gaps in the Kerry full back line.
Kerry were never forced to go into the reserves as Galway’s forward line squandered some easy scoring opportunities. Armstrong after a bright opening missed a regulation free just before the interval. Shane Walsh was unfortunate on a number of occasions in the opening period. The clinical forward play required was at time short for Galway and the second half was a struggle only scoring four points.
Galway could not be faulted for work rate. O’Donnell, Bradshaw, Conroy, Armstrong, Daly and Comer attempted to take the fight to Kerry but the Kingdom closed down the space in a disciplined second half defensive display and scored at regular intervals. Jack Savage’s cameo was eye-catching; his work rate and possession count was on point. Paul Murphy was the player of the game personally; possession count, scores from play and involved in everything good for Kerry today.
Kerry’s inside forward line were not as incisive as in the Munster football final but Paul Geaney showed well, scoring some lovely points from long and close range. The Dingle native is such a threat. O’Donoghue running off the ball was sublime at times. Buckley chipped in with a couple of sharp scores from outside the twenty-two. Kerry played within themselves and the squad depth closed out the contest with assured performances from Maher, Savage, Young and Murphy.
A game that never caught fire. Galway will reflect on a season which secured NFL Division One football next season; the side will come on leaps and bounds next season as a result. The Galwegian natives will ask on the tactics and ability of the players to play more freely but Kevin Walsh has laid solid foundations for further progression. However, whether Armstrong or Meehan are involved in the setup next season is an entirely different story.
Kerry advance to the semi-final. Eleven wides is a tally that will need to improve and the side were sluggish at different intervals. No-one remembers quarter finals, victory is the name of the game. Mission accomplished.
Mayo and Roscommon share the spoils
The last ten minutes of this contest was exciting for the neutral; probably not for the blood pressure for either Mayo or Roscommon supporters. Mayo edged ahead and then Roscommon without a recognized free taker placed their hopes on Donie Smith who produced a sublime long range free to secure the draw.
Was this a missed opportunity for Roscommon? Seven points up early doors thanks to an excellent work rate, tempo and incisive passing inside to hit two quick fire goals. Mayo’s full back line were cut to shreds but Mayo to their credit refused to panic and current footballer of the year Lee Keegan provided leadership and scoring nous in the opening period.
Not content to man mark Enda Smith, the Westport clubman went up the pitch to score a quick fire 1-2. His goal was typical Keegan; great run from deep, his drive was deflected to the net but he asked the question of Roscommon to defend the situation. The goal settled Mayo down and the two point advantage at the break was just desserts for a dominant last ten minutes.
Cillian O’Connor and Andy Moran providing good scores for Mayo and Roscommon were running out of ideas and steam; static players in forward positions not helping matters. The half-time break came at the right time for Kevin McStay and backroom management in that they decided to push Enda Smith into the full forward line, moving the threat of Keegan further away from the Roscommon goal. A smart move and one that Mayo should have counteracted with a switch of marker for Smith with someone like Higgins or Boyle. Baffling stuff from Rochford and Mayo management.
The second half exchanges started with Roscommon in the ascendency and they were back level within five minutes of the restart. You hoped that one team would take the mantle of pushing home the advantage but let us be honest, no-one the pitch took the responsibility to make a game winning contribution. The draw was a fair result.
The last quarter could be best described as exciting due to the close scoreline but the shot selection and turnover rate was awful at times. Roscommon as an attacking threat inside were now non-existent and it provided Mayo with easy turnover possession in their half-back line. Even six minutes of injury time could not separate both teams who would like another crack at each other next bank holiday weekend.
Plenty for both teams to work on and improve. Roscommon showed that their Connacht title was no fluke and created chaos for Mayo defensively particularly in the opening period. Mayo’s experience, composure and refusal to not getting beaten was to the forefront again today. Roll on Monday week!