I gave Galway a great chance going into last Sunday’s Connacht final, and they showed their attacking threats in the first-half.
Of the two teams, it was the Tribesmen who were playing together and working hard for one another before the break. Shane Walsh and Damien Comer provided the spark up front.
It’s hard to say what effect the half-time shemozzle had on the contest, but it is strange for a team in a winning position wanting to get involved in something like that.
It seemed to spur Mayo on, and they were rejuvenated upon their return to the field.
It is obvious that James Horan has them in great shape physically. There has been a huge difference in some of the younger players. Oisin Mullin, Tommy Conroy and Eoghan McLaughlin have made huge strides in that department over the last year.
And it bore fruit. Their running game and movement off the ball made the difference in the second-half, and the superior fitness was the cause of the comeback victory.
The tactic of Aidan O’Shea coming in and out was hugely effective also.
Despite the fact that Cillian O’Connor is ruled out for the season, they put in a brilliant performance and won with something to spare.
Mayo are well placed. They look hungry. They’re energetic. But the question remains, do they have enough fire-power to dispose of Dublin? They’re going to have to be clinical in the semi-final.
From Galway’s point, Padraic Joyce has left another game scratching his head. Against Monaghan, they were in a really strong position. Once more, they weren’t able to see a game out.
Shane Walsh’s injury was a factor. Galway look up to him for leadership and to inspire them. And the other injuries certainly didn’t help him in the second-half. Whereas the Mayo leaders came to the fore.
Joyce’s two-year term is now over. Will he be back for 2022?
It has been a hugely difficult two years for any manager. They haven’t got a fair crack at it. The fact there is no back door hasn’t helped managers develop their teams perhaps in the way they would have liked.
It is up to him whether he believes the raw materials are there to get them over the line. So it’s a difficult decision that he is going to have to make about whether he will return.
Can Kildare trouble the Dubs?
The Lilywhites will go out to have a crack off Dublin, rather than attempting to limit the All-Ireland champions in order to consolidate the progress they have made in 2021.
Knowing Jack O’Connor, I don’t think he will be going into this game saying if we lose by five or six points, it’s been a decent performance.
After watching the Meath game, he will sense there is an opportunity. If Dublin are not playing at their best, and they’re not firing at all cylinders at present, then this is a chance to get at them.
The longer the season goes on, I believe Dublin are going to get stronger.
O’Connor knows that up front, he has got the fire-power to make inroads against Dublin. Daniel Flynn appears to be returning to form, Jimmy Hyland and Neil Flynn are quality players who can hurt the opposition if they get early ball in.
It would go against Kildare’s strengths to sit back and try and play a defensive game.
I don’t believe for one minute that Jack O’Connor will settle for a decent showing. He will sense an opportunity of a major shock and a victory. The fact that Meath played with abandon, and really went at Dublin with speed and a high tempo in the second half, without doubt he will be trying to replicate that.
Ulster final cracker in store
Tyrone vs Monaghan promises to be a fascinating game.
Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher will have tougher decisions to make about the starting 15 than Seamus McEnaney.
Tyrone’s game-plan for Donegal worked superbly, but Monaghan pose different problems.
The Farney County’s first-half performance in the semi-final was the best they have played in a long time. They were moving the ball quickly, and are clinical up front.
‘Banty’ has a decision to make on whether to start Stephen O’Hanlon. His pace can cause teams serious problems, and Croke Park will suit him.
Tiernan McCann, Cathal McShane, Conor McKenna all made big impacts from the bench the last day. Could they be thrown in from the start on Saturday?
There is very little between these teams. Their National League meeting ended in a draw, and this one might be just as close.
They know each other so well. For both sets of players, there’s a big rivalry between the counties. We hope the trend of the Ulster Championship continues and they provide a spectacle for everyone in Croke Park.
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