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22nd Jul 2013

GAA Review: Monaghan shock Donegal, Mayo misfire to victory and Qualifier quandaries

The Farney men provide the shock of season in football while we wonder what to make of Mayo, Tyrone and Galway.


The Farney men provide the shock of season in football while we wonder what to make of Mayo, Tyrone and Galway.

It was a weekend with more surprises than a House of Lords raffle but the top one has to be Monaghan’s dethroning of Donegal in Clones.

Before the game nobody gave Monaghan a chance to win. Most of us expected them to be tight, disciplined and control things for a while but we expected the Donegal machine to crush them before the end. That machine never even got out of first gear.

How did this happen, how did everyone, bar Malachy O’Rourke, get it so wrong? For a start, and most importantly, Monaghan were top class. They appeared to be fitter than Donegal and players like Dessie Mone, Darren and Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus were far superior to their opponents.

We have seen it written elsewhere but it is true that Monaghan simply ‘out-Donegaled’ Donegal, just as Down tried, and failed, to do. They won the breaking ball and fought like tigers for any loose ones. They also nullified, quite superbly, the triple threat that McFadden, Murphy and McBrearty usually bring and the brains trust on the Donegal sidelines were unable, or incapable of reversing the blue and white tide.

As has been speculated before, the Donegal panel gets very thin outside the first XV and the forced early removal of Mark McHugh, plus a raft of early tactical subs, didn’t really work for McGuinness and Co.

We won’t be foolish enough to write Donegal off, but they looked a tired team on Sunday. Lifting it, in just six days, for Laois will be tough. As for the newly crowned Ulster champions, they certainly didn’t play like a Division 3 team yesterday. Who knows how far they can go now…

The other provincial decider was a more straightforward affair and on the basis that Mayo won by 16 points and escaped without any injuries or suspensions then you could say it was a very good day in Castlebar.

But in his post-match interview James Horan wasn’t too pleased with how his team ‘executed’ and he was right. Sixteen wides, with some so bad they nearly landed in Ruislip, was the most glaring problem but simple things like passing and offloads were awry too. True, they were not under anything like real pressure and they will surely sharpen up against stiffer opposition but the Connacht champs were a little sloppy. Still, lots of time to fix it…

As for London, they have a week to get ready for Cavan, and while we were mightily impressed by the Ulster side’s win over Derry, Paul Coggins will believe his side can have a lash at them. Should be a great game next week.

As for the Qualifiers, the big one went the way we expected, but not in a manner anyone expected. Kildare had a simply abysmal start, Tyrone had an equally shocking start to second half and in the end, that fast start by the Red Hand County, plus a few experienced old stagers at the finish, saw them home.

ONeillStephen 2013 red

While they knives may be out in some quarters for Kieran McGeeney (not here by the way) we’re more intrigued by Tyrone. They will play Meath next week but we honestly can’t make out if this incarnation of Mickey Harte’s team is any good or not. They appear to be getting faultier by the week but when the game was really in the melting pot in Newbridge, lads like Stephen O’Neill (above), Sean Cavanagh and Peter Harte pulled it out of the fire. They still don’t convince us as real contenders for Sam though.

Elsewhere, the other big shock of the weekend was Galway finally clicking and beating a highly fancied Armagh in Salthill. The slick, all-out-attacking team Paul Grimely had guided through the Qualifiers hit just 0-9 on Saturday but the Tribe showed they were underestimated with a gutsy, and at times classy, win.

Finally, Wexford kicked themselves out of the Championship at Wexford Park. Fifteen wides to Laois’ two tells its own tale and it is Justin McNulty’s men who have the unenviable task of playing a wounded Donegal next Saturday. Best of luck…