James Horan will be an interested spectator on Sunday, when he will learn the identity of Mayo’s All-Ireland semi-final opponents.
Cork and Tipperary are facing off at Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the right to play the Connacht champions in the last four.
I was hugely impressed with Cork’s physicality in the middle of the park against Kerry; particularly from Ian Maguire and Killian O’Hanlon. Their work-rate and willingness to track back and chase was non-stop from start to finish.
They showed industry in their half-forward line to stem the Kerry half-back line, the source of many of the Kingdom’s attacks. Similarly for Mayo, Paddy Durcan and Eoghan McLaughlin have been crucial in building from the back. Cork have shown they are able to nullify that threat.
The Mayo boss will also be keeping a close eye on the Rebels’ scoring efficiency up front. Can they be as ruthless again?
Are they going to use the long-ball tactic which led to the winning goal against Kerry? Granted it was intended as a shot, but ended up in the back of the net? Will they give Mark Keane more game time?
But it would be foolish to think this is going to be one-way traffic.
Tipperary do possess real quality up front. If they are able to break even in the midfield and get enough ball in, they have quality forwards in Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney. We witnessed against Limerick that they have stomach for a fight.
Colin O’Riordan is back, after the Sydney Swans permitted him to play. We saw how Conor McKenna didn’t need months of preparation to perform to a high standard. Can the Premier can get a big game out of O’Riordan? He left here as one of the most talented footballers in the country, so if he can continue in that same vein of form, it will be a massive boost to Tipperary.
I wouldn’t see this match as a foregone conclusion.
Can Meath be competitive against the Dubs?
You can only go on recent evidence to predict how competitive Meath can be on Saturday evening. In their last two National League games, the Royals performed well away to Dublin and Monaghan.
In the championship, with the exception of the first-half against Kildare, they were impressive, scoring heavily.
But facing Dublin in knockout football is the ultimate test.
They just need everything to go right for them on Saturday. The fact that it’s in Croke Park plays into Dublin’s hands. Despite making progress, Andy McEntee’s side are really up against it.
I don’t think Dublin are in any mood to lose their Leinster or All-Ireland crowns just yet.
A good result for Meath would be if they remain competitive, with the game being in the balance with 10 or 15 minutes to go.
When the sides met in Parnell Park last month, it looked like Dublin were going to run away with it. But Meath showed good resolve to hang in there. And they made a real game of it.
McEntee and Co will look at how Cork took on Kerry. Yes, Kerry had opportunities which they missed. And Cork were ruthless with their free kicks and whatever opportunities they had. It’s going to have to be one of those days where Dublin are missing chances. Meath need to score everything they hit.
But I think Dublin will retain the Delaney Cup with eight or nine points to spare.
Donegal building momentum
I was very impressed with Donegal in last week’s Ulster semi-final victory.
People were quick to point out that they weren’t against much, and it was a facile victory. But the fact of the matter is Armagh will be playing Division 1 football next year. And they brushed them aside with some ease. So you have to be impressed with the Donegal set-up.
We spoke about their physicality in the middle sector against Tyrone. And despite Armagh having bigger men in that middle third, it made no difference.
It was an accomplished performance. They were defensively sound. They won ample possession in midfield, and up front, you had an array of scores and threats coming from all angles. Once again, players came off the bench to perform. The only thing that Declan Bonner will be concerned about was the injury to Stephen McMenamin.
Apart from that, it was a very competent performance from Donegal.
I think Cavan have to stay with them to have any hope. They can’t rely on another late comeback.
Against Down, the platform for victory in the second half was that of the 12 long kick-outs that Down hit, Cavan won 10 of them.
They will be doing well to win 50 per cent of kick-outs against Donegal.
What Shaun Patton possesses, he can vary his restarts short, medium and long. And he’s accurate with them, giving Donegal the best possible chance to secure possession.
The reigning Ulster champions are experts at counter-attacking.
The one advantage that Cavan is how hard they are prepared to dig in and fight when the going gets tough. It doesn’t get more difficult than being seven or eight points behind at the break against Monaghan or Down, and they were able to respond.
If they can keep it close going into the last 10 minutes, then Cavan have a chance. But it’s unlikely that Donegal will afford them that opportunity.
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