Kerry show class but Mayo struggle on epic weekend The Big Picture

Kerry show class but Mayo struggle on epic weekend

What a weekend of GAA action it has been! Two excellent fourth round qualifiers on Saturday evening to finalise the quarter-final line-up were followed by drama and controversy aplenty on Sunday as Kerry eased past a very disappointing Galway, while Roscommon and Mayo couldn’t be separated and must do it all again next Monday.

With the GAA championships in full flow, there was plenty of great entertainment last weekend and the stage is set for more excitement at headquarters over the bank holiday break, with the remaining two quarter-finals set for Saturday, the Galway-Tipp hurling semi-final on Sunday, and the replay of the Mayo-Roscommon drawn quarter-final following on Monday. Not bad!

While much of the attention of football fans will already be focused on this weekend and the appearance of Leinster and Ulster champions Dublin and Tyrone as they take on Monaghan and Armagh respectively, it’s worth reflecting on last weekend’s fare for a little while longer just to savour the quality and excitement of what was on offer.


Monaghan showed their chops as they avenged their Ulster SFC semi-final defeat in June as a strong second-half display saw them run out deserved 1-24 to 1-16 winners over Down after the sides were tied on 1-09 apiece at the break. Conor McManus contributed 0-10 for the Farney, who showed signs of a return to their form of two years ago when they won their 16th Ulster title, but they will have to play out of their skins to trouble the Dubs who some bookies were quoting at 14/1-on to win earlier in the week. Still, stranger things have happened…..but not many.

Surprise?

Armagh produced what was arguably the only surprise of the weekend as the Jamie Clarke-inspired Division 3 outfit beat top tier Kildare by 1-17 to 0-17. It was sweet revenge for Orchard County manager Kieran McGeeney who was dismissed by the Lilywhites back in 2013.

Andrew Murnin scored the only goal of the game on the half-hour mark to help the Ulster side to a 1-08 to 0-08 lead at the break, but Kildare responded with six scores in a superb 12-minute spell midway through the second period to get their noses in front. But Armagh hit back as Clarke knocked over a point and set up two others to reclaim the initiative. When Keith Cribbin was black-carded for hauling down Joe McElroy 12 minutes from time, the writing was on the wall for the Lilywhites and Armagh ran out worthy winners and booked a quarter-final place for the first time in three years.


McGeeney’s side were fluent and physical and are sure to provide a stern test for Tyrone this weekend. It remains to be seen, however, if their long journey through the qualifiers, which has included victories over Fermanagh, Westmeath, Tipperary and, now, Kildare, has left them with enough in the tank to lift themselves for another challenge. It’s a big ask as they head into their third game in 21 days, but a chance to topple the reigning Ulster champions is sure to get their blood up and we should be in for a cracking encounter.

No surprise


If Armagh produced a surprise on Saturday evening, the outcome of the Kerry-Galway quarter-final clash on Sunday was anything but as the reigning league champions showed their class to easily see off a disappointing Galway by 1-18 to 0-13. Much had been expected of the Tribesmen following their thrashing of Donegal the previous week, with plenty of pundits predicting that an upset might be on the cards.


It was not to be, however, as Kerry, aided by a moment of Kieran Donaghy brilliance for a superbly taken goal on 13 minutes, barely needed to go beyond second gear as they coasted to victory. While it laid down a firm marker that the Kingdom are here to play and are serious contenders for a league and championship double, it does highlight the gulf that exists between the top three or four teams in the country and everyone else as this year’s Division 2 champions were comprehensively outclassed. Having said that, perhaps if Galway had taken either one of the gilt-edged goal chances they had at the beginning of each half, things might have been different, but probably not as you always got the feeling that Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side had plenty more in reserve if they needed it.

Kerry’s reward for their efforts will be a semi-final clash against the winners of the Roscommon-Mayo replay on August 20th.


Thriller

Speaking of Roscommon and Mayo, they produced the game of the weekend with a thrilling 2-09 to 1-12 draw in slippery conditions on Sunday. Kevin McStay’s side, surprise victors over Galway in the Connacht final, raced out of the blocks as goals from Fintan Cregg and Ciaran Murtagh saw them 2-02 to 0-01 ahead with barely a quarter of an hour on the clock. But Mayo fought back superbly, posting 1-06 without replay, including Lee Keegan’s rasping strike which took a wicked deflection on its way past Rossies goalkeeper Colm Lavin. It appeared that order had been restored.

Mayo led by a point at the break and all the signs were that they would ease to victory from there. But Stephen Rochford’s side could manage just four points in the second period as their long journey through the qualifiers culminating in an extra time win against Cork the week before seemed to have finally taken its toll on them. They seemed leggy as the normally deadly Cillian O’Connor hit three wides late on and then dropped a 50m free just short in the dying seconds.


It means that they will have to wait until Monday for a chance to secure a semi-final place for the seventh year in succession, while the Rossies are still waiting for their first championship victory over their neighbours since 2001. It’s a bit rough on the supporters of both counties who travelled in huge numbers last weekend that they have to brave the trials and tribulations of the capital’s ramshackle traffic management system two weeks running, but we can expect a fairly decent crowd for what is sure to be another epic encounter and a fitting finale to a great weekend of football and hurling action.

Images: INPHO

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