Kevin Cassidy

KEVIN CASSIDY: The championship plot thickens

AFTER a hugely exciting weekend with the hurling semi-finals last weekend, the attention now turns to the footballers as they head into battle.

With the amount of exciting games we have had in the quarter-finals and now with the semi-final pairings, it would be easy to forget the amount of meaningless games we had in the group stages.

It’s important that we look at this next year and try and eliminate some of those games.

Now that we are right in the thick of things this season, I think we have excellent pairings at the semi-final stages.

I think that all neutrals would have wished for this draw because it does a number of things. It paves the way for the ultimate final if that’s the way things pan out between Dublin and Kerry.

It also gives us the opportunity to see how these two powerhouses may fair out against difficult tricky opposition who will set up in a certain way.

Starting with Saturday’s game, we were all blown away with how efficiently Dublin swept Mayo aside but they will face a totally different proposition against this Monaghan team.

For the last number of years, they have built themselves on dragging you into a war of attrition and then hitting you on the counter. So, for me, I’m interested to see how Dublin will cope with this and whether or not Monaghan will be able to hurt them on the counter.

If we rewind the clock to Jim Galvin‘s time, his Dublin teams learned to deal with this type of opposition, patiently holding onto the ball and waiting for their opportunity.

Over the last number of years, we have seen them become very wasteful with possession and if they continue with that trend that’s playing straight into Monaghan’s hands. If Monaghan can force Dublin into making silly mistakes and handing them back the ball then they are in with a real chance.

However, if Dublin continue with this immaturity and patient play that made them the champions that they were then think that Monaghan could be in for a long day.

I have no doubt given all the coaching and tactical knowledge this Monaghan team have gathered up over the last number of years, they will enter into this game with a plan and will be fully comfortable of causing an upset.

With all those factors in mind, I think this game could be a real cracker at the weekend.

In the other semi-final, I think it’s a free shot for Derry because all the talk has been about this powerful, athletic, skilful and ruthless Kerry side.

For me, the Derry players should just go cut loose, play it to the best of their ability and you just never know. That Derry never say die attitude and hunger may cause the Kingdom some problems.

Obviously, Ciarán Meenagh has a number of headaches this weekend when he sits down to decide who will man mark the Cliffords, Sean O’Shea and the key Kerry stars.

There is no getting away from the enormity of the task they face, but I’m sure these Derry players and supporters will relish this challenge of upsetting probably the title favourites at this stage.

As I noted last week that it’s great that we have two Ulster sides in the semi-finals to fly the flag and hopefully at least one of them may make the final.

We cannot sign off this weekend without a mention for the Down footballers as they prepare for their final.

Massive credit must go to Conor Laverty and his backroom team for beginning the process of bringing Down football back to the top table once again.

With their footballers in the final this weekend and also with the u-20 success earlier in the year it’s clear to see that everyone is buying into Conor’s philosophy and I haveno doubt that in a year or two Down will be back challenging at the top.

I’ll go for a Down win and although I would love to see at least one Ulster side in the final I will have to go for a Dublin v Kerry All-Ireland final this year unfortunately.

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