Dublin 2-11, Meath 0-10 By Mark Jones
A new-look Croke Park, with its new playing surface and new Hogan Stand, hosted a new trend in football last Sunday in front of 66,000 spectators. After seven long seasons of disappointment, Dublin finally beat Meath in a championship game to book a date with Kildare in next month’s Leinster decider.
Meath’s run of dominance over their greatest provincial rivals came to a shuddering halt as Dublin produced the sort of fast, fluent attacking display that hadn’t been witnessed since the county’s All-Ireland triumph in 1995. If Meath appeared to be still suffering from the psychological hangover of last year’s crushing All-Ireland final loss to Galway, there was a swagger and energy about the winners that must be attributed to new manager Tommy Lyons.
Along with significant changes in personnel, the Lyons style is more direct going forward and more competitive in defense. Meath’s rearguard was constantly twisted and turned by the impressive Alan Brogan and Ray Cosgrove, and their scoring feats had Dublin in front by as much as eight points early in the second half.
As if routine, the Meath fightback materialized and the gap was whittled to just three going into the closing stages when the game’s key moment occurred. Brogan’s attempt from long range fell short, and Cosgrove jumped Meath keeper Cormac Sullivan, punched the ball clear and followed it up into the net for his second goal.
While it was clear that the Meath players knew the match was lost, manager Sean Boylan wasn’t pleased about Cosgrove’s challenge on Sullivan. “What would happen if a Meath player did a full frontal on a goalkeeper?” he asked. “Whatever chance we might have had was gone with that. It was a terrible decision, but I don’t want to take anything away from Dublin, because they played beautiful football — they deserved it.”
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Right about the latter, wrong about the decision. Despite Boylan’s genuine anger, the goal was legitimate, and it summed up a bad day for Sullivan, who earlier had failed to deal with a John McNally free that was drifting across the square when Cosgrove pounced to punch the ball home.
In short, and unlike so many of the previous encounters between the teams, nothing went right for Meath. Midfielder, John Cullinane had to be taken off in the opening exchanges after a heavy fall left him groggy, and injury prevented Ollie Murphy from being unleashed until the 48th minute.
If the absence of Dessie Farrell from the starting lineup was a blow, the loss of Murphy for the first half hurt Meath badly as his replacement Ray Magee struggled. Equally, Trevor Giles was forced to forage deep for the ball and Paddy Christie dealt with the occasional marauding runs by Graham Geraghty, as the Meath attack failed to fire.
Dublin got off to an impressively fast start as Brogan and Collie Moran plundered six points from play during the first half. Shane Ryan provided an imposing target for any long-ball deliveries, and Ciaran Whelan performed with confidence and composure in the middle of the pitch.
Magee and Nigel Nestor both missed goal chances as Dublin increased their advantage after the interval, but then somehow contrived not to raise a flag for 20 minutes as Meath fought their way back into contention. “Maybe we got the rub of the green out there,” Lyons said. “Our second goal was very fortuitous and it came at a time when we needed a score. Even a point would’ve done us; they had us on the rack. We had a young team, and they hit the wall.”
Dublin’s barren spell will no doubt preoccupy Lyons and his backroom staff in the coming days, but the benefits of this semifinal victory, which means that not one of last year’s provincial champions were able to defend their title, will far outweigh the glitches.
“These men aren’t robots, we mightn’t kick a ball against Kildare,” Lyons said. “But now we’re talking about playing in a Leinster final and we’re using that to energize ourselves.”
Kildare 3-9, Offaly 1-14
(after extra time)
Goals win matches. One of football’s truisms couldn’t have been questioned as Kildare edged into the Leinster decider after extra time following last Saturday’s semifinal replay at Nowlan Park.
Goals by Dermot Earley, Eddie McCormack and Ronan Sweeney decorated a compelling game, described by manager Mick O’Dwyer as “good as anything I’ve experienced since I came to Kildare.” However, his counterpart, Padraig Nolan, wasn’t as enamored of a contest, which left his side one agonizing point adrift of the winners.
Nolan was disappointed with several of referee Paddy Russell’s decisions, most notably when Russell awarded Kildare a free after Offaly’s James Grennan had in fact been fouled.
“I simply couldn’t understand the decision, and it’s up to others to make up their own minds about that,” Nolan said.
Russell had earlier sent off Sean Grennan for a second yellow-card offense.
With Offaly down to 14 men for 50 of the 90 minutes, Ciaran McManus stepped into the breach to virtually take on the work of two players. McManus finished with 1-6, including a penalty and three frees, but his monumental effort wasn’t enough in the end, and the losers now face Limerick in the second round of the qualifiers.
Offaly had led by 0-10 to 1-5 at the changeover, but quick goals by McCormack and Sweeney gave Kildare the advantage. Still, in a low-scoring second half, McManus’s penalty after a foul on Barry Mooney was enough to send the game into extra time.
Even though they were restored to 15 men for the extra 20 minutes — surely an extraordinary quirk in the GAA rulebook — Offaly began to wilt as Kildare’s superior fitness was apparent. Points from Martin Lynch, Sweeney and substitute Patrick Murray opened the gap, and Colm Quinn’s free was too late to make any difference for Offaly.
Cork 0-15, Kerry 1-9
Life and football went on following a sad week for Kerry. Just a couple of days after the funeral of Micheal O Se, a brother of manager Paidi and father of three of the players — Darragh, Tomas and Marc — Kerry were left to contemplate defeat by archrivals Cork in last Sunday’s Munster semifinal replay at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
“It was a very difficult week for the lads and for me,” Paidi O Se said, “but the support we received helped to heal the shock of it all. Still, it wasn’t happened for us out there. We were in a bit of trouble.”
Although Cork’s success was somewhat clouded by the O Se family tragedy, this was a convincing victory. The signs had been there in the drawn game, and with Seamus Moynihan deployed in midfield, it was left to Tom O’Sullivan to keep tabs on Colin Corkery. The move didn’t pay off for Kerry, and yet again Corkery was to prove the game’s most influential player.
Corkery fired over some glorious points as the winners’ forwards stormed into the attack during the first half. The interval margin of 0-7 to 0-4 could have been much greater had it not been for the form of Kerry goalkeeper Declan O’Keeffe, who made two crucial saves from Fionan Murray, while Philip Clifford squandered two goal chances.
It looked for a while that Cork would rue those misses when their keeper, Kevin O’Dwyer, failed to hold a speculative lob from Mike Frank Russell that bounced off the bar into the net to level the scores at 1-5 to 0-8. Then when Clifford was brought down, O’Keeffe dived to save Corkery’s penalty.
However, with Anthony Lynch doing an effective marking job on Russell, Kerry were unable to take advantage at the other end of the pitch. In contrast, Cork refused to be fazed by the missed opportunities, and they struck again with scores by Murray, Corkery, Brendan Jer O’Sullivan and dual star, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, who had come on as a sub.
“I thought we played some very good football,” said manager Larry Tompkins, “but we missed a few chances, and they kept coming as I expected, but I think we deserved our victory. I hope that we can actually improve from this and go on and do what Kerry have done in recent years.”
Cork, who now meet Tipperary in the final on July 14, made just one change from the drawn game bringing in Clifford in place of Diarmuid O’Sullivan. Kerry’s reshuffle was more significant with Enda Galvin, Declan Quill, Dara O Cinneide and Liam Hassett replacing Seamus Scanlan, Aodhan MacGearailt, Noel Kennelly and Eoin Brosnan, respectively.
“After the save from Declan O’Keeffe, we got the goal and I thought I would’ve ignited us,” Paidi O Se said, “but it didn’t and I think that was the sign that we were in trouble.” Kerry now meet Wicklow the second round of the qualifiers on Sunday.
Mayo 0-20, Roscommon 2-8
The most high-profile of last weekend’s second-round football qualifiers turned out to be the most disappointing when Mayo got the better of Roscommon by 0-20 to 2-8 at Castlebar. A crowd of just over 6,000 turned up to witness a poor game, one riven by fouling and too many stoppages.
Mayo were clearly a superior force. However, two first-half goals by Nigel Dineen kept Roscommon in the hunt, and they were only 0-12 to 2-3 in arrears at the changeover. However, an under-pressure Roscommon found it hard to contain the scoring prowess of Conor Mortimer, Trevor Mortimer, James Gill and impressive midfielder, David Tiernan.
“We don’t have to prove to anyone that we have the players in the county who can take quality scores,” said manager Pat Holmes. “Twenty points is a great championship tally by any standards.” Roscommon manager John Tobin was not surprisingly in agreement. “The quality and consistency of the Mayo points suggest to me that they can go a long way this year,” he said.
Fermanagh 0-14, Westmeath 0-7
The Gallagher cousins combined to finish off a miserable season for Westmeath at Mullingar. Raymond, with six points from play, and Rory who added four more, were the mainstay of last Sunday’s 0-14 to 0-7 Fermanagh success, as Westmeath slumped once again.
A force in the championship last year, Luke Dempsey’s side have lost their way and the manager admitted: “The third year is crucial to the setup, and we don’t perform next year, then I would’ve looked on the three years as a failure. But I’m quite confident that it won’t be.”
Derry 2-13, Longford 0-9
Derry upped the pace in the second half to see off Longford’s challenge by 2-13 to 0-9 at Pearse Park. Trailing by 0-8 to 1-2 at the break, Derry manager Eamon Coleman moved Enda Muldoon back to midfield and the switch worked as Muldoon improved the delivery to the forwards.
Anthony Tohill scored both the winners’ goals, while Gavin Diamond kicked six points including two frees.
Meanwhile, Laois strolled into the next round with a comprehensive 1-19 to 1-6 win over Clare at Portlaoise. Stephen Kelly was the star of the show with nine points, while Chris Conway kicked 1-3. Also, the Leitrim-Tyrone game at Carrick-on-Shannon was abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch and has been refixed for Saturday.