Kevin Cassidy

KEVIN CASSIDY: Group stage finale doesn’t get the pulse racing

WE are at the stage of the group stages of this year’s All-Ireland series and finally we should see some real championship matches this weekend.

A lot has been said and written about the format of the championship this year. I do think that perhaps we might see some changes to this in the future because all of those games, some of them are meaningless. They need to be looked at and I think the powers that be will do that.

There are a couple of very interesting clashes this weekend with a lot at stake for some teams.

As we glance across all fixtures, Derry are the team under most pressure. This is understandable given where they started the championship. Anything less than a win for them will spell disaster not alone for Mickey Harte but for the whole county.

Westmeath have performed admirably this season under the guidance of Dessie Dolan, who is very intelligent football man. They will fancy their chances of taking a big scalp this weekend.

Westmeath have been unlucky this year to date, so a bounce of the ball here and there and it could go their way.

There is one thing for sure, if Derry haven’t sorted the offside-like kamikaze tactics this weekend then there is no one better to take advantage of that than a Dessie Dolan team.

Having played with Dessie and from spending a summer with him in the States, I know that he is an advocate for fast kick-passing football so he will be in his element this weekend if Derry haven’t sorted this out.

Monaghan’s clash with Meath is another one that sticks out. Both of these teams have struggled this season, so both sets of players will be eager to get a win this weekend. It would prolong their season and perhaps save it in some sort of way.

Tyrone’s game against Cork should be a real cracker given that the outcome of this game could have a big say on who tops this group. With Tyrone picking up their first win against Clare, then it’s all to play for as these two pair off.

Donegal will travel to take on Clare in what should be a routine win for us, but I must say that I was impressed with the Banner men this season, particularly in Munster where they gave it a real go.

I don’t think that it will be a foregone conclusion. Clare have absolutely nothing to lose so Donegal will have to make sure that they are professional about their approach and just get the job done.

Topping the group gives you a massive advantage. I can see Donegal winning this weekend with perhaps Tyrone doing us a favour.

I’ve said here on a number of occasions how I don’t think that the championship starts until the group stages are over. Yes, granted, we have some very interesting ties this weekend but I am really excited to see what happens from here on in when the trap door closes and it’s win or bust.

There is just something about last-chance salon type of football. It brings out the best in players and, as supporters, that’s exactly what we want to see.

Up until now teams know that this is not the be all and end all so let’s see who has what it takes from this point.

For the week that’s in it, I’d like to issue a warning to all the defence -minded coaches out there, who for years have bluffed their way around the GAA scene.

Please take note. Jim Gavin and his review committee are coming for you and it may be sooner than you think.

No one wants to watch teams drop back behind their 45. No, it’s not interesting, no, it is not intriguing and no, it is not Gaelic Football.

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