BEFORE we get into Tuesday’s draw for the new-look All-Ireland series that’s coming down the tracks, let’s touch on last weekend’s games.
Let’s start here in Ulster and as a neutral I was a little disappointed just how one-sided both games were.
Derry, while at times little sloppy in the second half, totally outplayed and outclassed Monaghan to take their place in the Ulster final once again this year.
I’d even go as far as saying that they are the best coached team in the country at this moment in time.
They are so comfortable on the ball, that no matter what system or structure theu face, they can figure it out because all of their players are comfortable in possession and they don’t do silly things.
When Derry went on the attack and Monaghan set up defensively, Derry had all of their players, including their goalkeeper at times, inside the Monaghan 45 metre line.
To play that sort of system, all of your players must be comfortable on the ball, but they also must be comfortable in the one versus one battles.
Derry have a full team of players who relish the 1 v 1 challenge, both defensively and offensively. We have to give Rory Gallagher great credit. because he has single-handedly dragged Derry football back to the top table, and they really are a force to be reckoned with at the minute.
They have a massive opportunity now of doing back-to-back titles but, with the draw also taking place during the week, you can be sure that Rory already has his plans set in place for the All-Ireland series.
In the other game Armagh easily dispatched Down to reach the decider. Although conditions were terrible Armagh were fully deserving of their win.
I expected a little more from Down given their recent u-20 success, but they just never got going and once Armagh got a couple of goals It just took the wind completely out of their sails.
The big question for Kieran McGeeney and his team now is whether or not they can finally land that Ulster title. With Derry lying in wait, it will be a massive ask.
I do believe that the Ulster title would mean more to Armagh than Derry at this particular moment in time. With the All-Ireland series looming, that could play a big part in how teams the approach the final and their attitude towards it.
Of course both teams will try and win the game, but mindset is a funny thing and depending on what message is being driven home in the camp, a lot could hinge on that.
I fully expect Rory Gallagher to be talking about winning the All-Ireland during his training sessions, so Derry’s focus could be more on the All-Ireland series than retaining their Ulster crown.
The draw took place on Tuesday and we now know who will make up which groups and what games we can look forward to over the coming weeks.
At first glance you have to admit that there are some cracking games in store, which should make for a fantastic championship from here on in.
From a Donegal point of view, it’s more like a mini-Ulster championship group and I’m sure they would have preferred something different, but it is what it is and I’m sure they will fancy their chances of an upset or two.
Tyrone will be happy enough with their group as they try to get their season back on track. When we look at the group, then, barring a disaster we should see them at the quarter-final stages.
I understand that this is the first year of the structure and we may have some teething problems around fixtures and venues.
At first glance, I am quite excited about how the remainder of the championship season looks so hopefully we are in for a massive few weeks of football games.