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GAA Roundup: Out of reach

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

This time Dublin lost because their defense utterly failed to come to terms with a Tyrone attack in which Owen Mulligan rediscovered his sublime form of two years ago, and because their forwards had no one other than Alan Brogan to seriously trouble the Ulster county’s rearguard.
When Brogan was forced out with a leg injury in the 25th minute, Dublin’s attacking wasteland became all the more apparent. To their credit they did manage to conjure up an electric run of five unanswered points in the second half that suddenly revitalized a contest that had swung Tyrone’s way, but when the irrepressible Mulligan struck for his team’s second goal, Dublin’s momentum died a quick death.
Without a threatening forward to complement Brogan – Mossy Quinn missed four frees to add to his personal misery – and without a defender fit to fill the injured Paddy Christie’s boots, Dublin are just not accomplished enough to live with the standard set by Tyrone, Armagh and reigning champions Kerry.
While they continue to struggle at midfield, Tyrone learned from the draw and proved themselves to be in a different class to their opponents.
“Tyrone just proved once again how good a team they are,” reflected Dublin manager Paul Caffrey. “There’s a consistency at this end of the championship that you need to have, and we didn’t quite get there. They put on a fantastic display of football out there, and that’s the level we’re aspiring to.”
In fairness to Dublin, they went toe to toe with the winners in a fast and furious opening which saw Brogan leave his marker Chris Lawn clutching at thin air, but when Tyrone were given a penalty that was harshly awarded against Stephen O’Shaughnessy. who had superbly dispossessed Sean Cavanagh, there was a certain inevitability about the outcome.
Stephen O’Neill expertly dispatched the kick to the corner of the net and Tyrone were five points clear. That margin would increase to seven by the interval as Mulligan continued to wreak his style of havoc and as Ryan McMenamin, Conor Gormley and Philip Jordan put the squeeze on the Dublin forwards.
The loss of Peter Canavan, who had been scheduled to start, with a stomach bug was absorbed by the tireless Brian Dooher who found time in between blocks, tackles and perceptive passes to kick three points. If he was Tyrone’s engine, Mulligan provided the oil finishing with an outstanding 1-7.
“Those people who castigate players for dying their hair and other things like that should take a step back,” said manager Mickey Harte. “They should allow players to have their individuality, and appreciate it because talent like Owen Mulligan should not be scorned by anyone.”
As for Mulligan himself, who was dropped earlier in the summer, there was no evidence of over-confidence. “It’s about time. Maybe I’d been trying too hard, and there were boys taking my place who were doing better than me. Maybe I just lost form. It was a good team performance, but we won’t be getting over-exited about it.”
If some of the Dublin supporters in the attendance of 82,000 had been thinking about a quick exit at half time, their minds were quickly changed early in the second half when in the space of six minutes, five points in a row cut Tyrone’s advantage to three. This was Dublin with renewed self-belief and what had threatened to become an exhibition was now a game once more.
Crucially, however, Dublin failed to sustain their charge. A Stephen Cluxton kick out was lost by substitute Declan Lally, and Cavanagh drove upfield to find Mulligan who fired home the second goal. That effectively secured Tyrone’s passage to Sunday’s semi-final where they will clash one more time with Ulster rivals Armagh.
Mark Vaughan’s late cameo was something that augurs well for Dublin’s future, and while one young player was staking a claim, the veteran Dessie Farrell came off the bench to poach a late goal in what was possibly his last competitive inter-county outing.
“I?d prefer more than a week to prepare for an All Ireland semi-final,” said Harte, “but it’s a nice problem to have. Winning a game of that tempo certainly drains players, so we’ll be very careful about our approach.”

KERRY 1-19 CORK 0-9
Kerry were expected to win last Sunday’s All Ireland semi-final at Croke Park, but not by so big a margin, and not so easily. Cork turned up alright, however, they never really laid a glove on the champions. Kerry ducked, danced and weaved leaving their opponents grasping, and then struck at will.
It was more of a demonstration in the end. The gap was seven points at the changeover, and it had ballooned to 13 by close of business. Two halves of torture for Cork, some of it self-inflicted, most of it at the feet and hands of a team that appears to be coming nicely to the boil.
Kerry were more ruthless than flamboyant, punishing their opponents? errors with the sort of relish expected of a confident outfit. Yet amid all the efficiency and the movement, one player stood out like a beacon, and on a day when there was a minute’s silence for the great Sean Purcell, it was somehow apt that Colm Cooper delivered a master class of attacking play.
With Brian Sheehan running clever decoy lines, the supply into Cooper was nigh on perfect, but the simplicity and accuracy of what the young forward did next was breathtaking. A half-turn, or a fake, and the ball was over the bar. If anything, his five points from play were more striking in their elegance than the bustling contribution of Owen Mulligan a day earlier.
Niall Geary was chosen to execute one of the most demanding marking jobs in football and he lasted just over a quarter of an hour before being replaced by Kieran O’Connor. The switch was testimony to Cooper’s influence, and the problem for Cork was that Mike Frank Russell, Dara O Cinneide and Declan Quill were all waiting on the bench.
There were also interventions from Paul Galvin, Eoin Brosnan and William Kirby, and while Cork never offered the resistance their quarter-final victory over Galway had promised, Kerry hardly missed a beat in their search for back to back titles.
“I felt there was going to be a good team performance, an improvement from the last day,” said manager Jack O?Connor. “We could see it on the training ground, the only place to see it. Fellas have been very competitive there and that’s what makes it.”
On the subject of Cooper, O’Connor was understandably effusive: “I’m not the first fella to say it, this is a great man because first and foremost he’s a team player. He’s not selfish, he fights hard for the ball, he makes scores and he gets scores. He’s a great leader of the line and just a joy to have in the squad.”
With Cooper in such devastating form, the Kerry backs were able to surge upfield on occasions to add to Cork’s difficulty and Michael McCarthy, Aidan O’Mahony and Tomas O Se all got on the scoresheet. Graham Canty just about held his own at full-back, but Anthony Lynch was a mere shadow in comparison to the way he controlled the game against Galway.
“I know we’re much better than that,” said Cork manager Billy Morgan whose side failed to score from play between the fifth and the 56th minutes. “And I know we just didn’t play. Our midfield had been so dominant but Kerry just cleaned up. They also played some great diagonal ball which made it difficult for our corner backs. But write it down, we can come back. That’s a very young team and we’ve won the last two Munster under 21 titles.”
Kerry now wait on the winners of Sunday’s Armagh-Tyrone showdown, and the promise of a mouthwatering final.
O’Connor was asked about the tougher challenge presented by the two Ulster counties.
“Well, sure, we’ll only be playing one of them. It’ll be fascinating because obviously there is a contrast in styles between northern and southern football, but it will be a great challenge to adapt our game.
“We were hurting badly leaving Croke Park in 2002 and 2003, but while we’re not looking at revenge, I’d say there’s the thought of redemption in many ways. It was that hurt that has driven these players on for the last two years.”

Mayo booked their place in the All Ireland minor football final with a 1-12 to 0-14 win over Kerry at Croke Park last Sunday. Goalkeeper Shane Nallen emerged as the hero of the hour when pulled off a match-winning save from Kieran O’Leary late in the game after earlier blocking a penalty from Paul O’Connor.
O’Connor had an opportunity to earn a resurgent Kerry a replay in the dying seconds when he lined up a 45, but his kick drifted wide and Mayo are now in sight of a first minor title since 1985.
Their opponents in the decider will be Down who accounted for Offaly in Navan on a scoreline of 1-15 to 1-7. Level at the break, Down produced an outstanding performance in the second half to reach the final for the first time since 1999.

Sean Purcell, who died last weekend at the age of 76, was one of the legendary figures of Gaelic football history. Although he only won one All Ireland title with Galway in 1956, Purcell was a gifted player who was selected on both the GAA’s Centenary Team of 1984 and on the Team of the Millennium.
A native of Tuam, with whom he won 10 county titles, he formed an attacking partnership with his neighbor Frank Stockwell and the pair were later to become known as the Terrible Twins. Purcell gave what many believe to be his finest display in that 1956 win over Cork, and his personal total of 2-5 in the game remains a record for a 60-minute final.
In a career that spanned the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, he also won a National League medal and three Railway Cup medals.
“He really was a remarkable performer,” said GAA president Sean Kelly, “and the fact that he could play in so many positions marked him as a man apart, but then he had such a wonderful range of skills that anything was possible.”
Affectionately known as The Master? from his teaching days, Purcell also served as an administrator chairing both Galway county and football boards. “Together with Frank Stockwell, his name has gone into folklore,” added Kelly, “and he will always be remembered as a giant of the game.”
Galway county board chairman, Frank Burke, said Purcell was revered all over the county. “Regarded as the best ever exponent of the skills of Gaelic football, he represented Galway in all central positions from full-back to full-forward with equal success. The brilliance of The Master? was balanced with a remarkable measure of humility and caring and he brought a human touch to everything he did,” Burke said.
Sean Purcell is survived by his sons John and Robert, daughters Ruth, Mary (who is married to former Dublin captain and manager Tom Carr), Frances and Louise.

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