THE All-Ireland quarter-finals were filled with class, excitement, unpredictability and, at times some madness, so you could see that we all enjoyed those games last weekend.
We had two very big statements from Kerry and Dublin last weekend who are now clearly out on their own in the race for Sam 2023.
Monaghan and Derry also did what they needed to do in order to reach the last four, but if we are being completely honest with ourselves – basing our opinions on what we saw last weekend – then Kerry and Dublin are further ahead than the rest.
Monaghan and Derry reached the last four playing the sort of football that we have been accustomed to seeing from most teams over the last few years.
But, when you compare their performance to the performance of Kerry and Dublin, then there was a clear gulf when you look at the intensity and directness from the other two.
Monaghan and Derry played that cagey sort of football, trying to lure the opposition into a trap and then going about hurting them on the counter attack
My worry with that approach against Kerry and Dublin is that their press and their calmness on the ball doesn’t allow that to happen too often, so getting the ball off them is very, very difficult.
Monaghan and Derry will know that these two teams will press the life out of them on the kick outs and even when they are coming out of the defence with the ball.
So, their approach will have to be totally different for the semi-final and a lot of work will have to be done on the training pitch before those games.
A lot of that may sound negative, given the fact that these two teams have just reached the last four of an All-Ireland race but it’s just the reality of the situation that faces them. It’s a situation that they are going to have to overcome in order to reach the biggest footballing day of the year.
I will look into both games in more detail next week. For now, I’m sure the players and management teams in both Monaghan and Derry camps are just delighted to be where they are at for this time of the season.
The games last weekend went pretty much as I predicted. The only surprise for me was how Monaghan outmuscled and outfought Armagh to deservedly take their place in the semi-final draw.
Monaghan stayed in the game and got the rewards for doing so. Great credit must go to Vinny Corey (right) and his team who had full belief in themselves when many others didn’t.
I’m sure that Kieran McGeeney and his players are sick with themselves this week, but they have only themselves to blame. For me. they didn’t do enough to go for the game when the game was there for the taking.
Derry, in my opinion, did what they had to do in order to reach another semi-final, so they will be happy with that performance, but there is no doubt that they will have to go up a notch or two for their showdown with the champions.
Cork didn’t really cause them a lot of problems, so it’s difficult to say if they were really tested. There is one thing for sure, they will be tested the next day out.
In the other game, Kerry completely dismantled Tyrone at their ease. The Red Hands will be disappointed at how they finished the season, but they came up against a team who were far hungrier, far more aggressive and far more skilful on the day.
In the last game, the Dubs flexed their muscles, totally outclassing Mayo and setting down a marker for the rest of the year. To be honest, they look like a formidable force once again.
We have two fantastic semi-finals to look forward to and it’s great that we have two Ulster teams still in the mix. We have a lot look forward to over the next few weeks.