NORMALLY we get to digest games and look back upon them, but given the nature of this year’s championship structure the games just keep coming thick and fast week after week.
Last weekend went pretty much as we thought it would with Galway and Kerry running out convincing winners and lifting their provincial crowns.
Both teams looked very slick as they begin to grind through the gears as this championship heads for the latter stages.
A special mention must be given to the Clifford brothers – Paudie and David – who turned in a phenomenal display given the circumstances of losing their mother the day before the match.
I fully understand their decision to play because their mother would have wanted them to do so.
To actually be able to go out and play to those levels given the amount of mental and physical strain that their bodies would have been under is simply a testament to the way, their parents brought them up.
I’d like to pass on my condolences to the Clifford family at this difficult time.
On the pitch, Kerry looked like a well-oiled machine, and there is no doubt that they will take some beating further down the line.
Galway also looked impressive last weekend and they seem to be even stronger than they were last year and I fully expect them to be there at thereabouts at the business end of things in a few weeks’ time.
This week sees the clash of Derry and Armagh in the Ulster showpiece, and what a game that should be. I wrote here last week that given the fact that the All-Ireland series is just a few weeks away, it may slightly take away from this week’s game. Nonetheless, it should be an absolute cracker.
I do firmly believe that this Ulster title will mean more to the Armagh given where they are coming from, and given the fact that Derry reached the promised land last season. On the other hand, I do not expect Rory Gallagher to give up their Ulster crown that easily.
The problem for Kieran McGeeney as he prepares for this week’s game is that he is facing a Derry team who are so well coached that the only possible way that they may be unsettled is by launching ball after ball into the edge of the square.
This Derry team are so well coached and are so comfortable playing against any sort of game plan so that it makes things extremely difficult for McGeeney and his players this weekend.
That said, they are probably one of the only teams in the country who possess the artillery to mix it up and play that long ball so it may be a tactic that we see them try to use a lot of this weekend.
Another Ulster title would be massive for Derry, However, I do believe – and also knowing how Rory Gallagher operates – that after winning Ulster last year, that box has been ticked and his sights are now firmly fixed on the bigger price so it would be interesting to see how this weekend pans out.
Getting to who I think will win it, I think it will go as follows. If Armagh can get not one but two first-half goals, they will go onto win. If they can’t and they go down the home stretch neck and neck, then Derry will grind them down and win by three or four in the end.
That may seem like a bit of a strange prediction, but if Armagh manage to get those two goals it will mean that their long ball tactics are working and Derry are struggling. If they don’t get them, it means that Derry are simply doing what they have done to every other team over the last two years and the result is inevitable.
Elsewhere, even though Mickey Harte has Louth absolutely flying, I do expect Dublin to turn in a performance this weekend as they also begin to grind their way through the gears as the bigger games quickly approach. Dublin by five.