Category: Archive

Kerry’s to lose

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

For the most part, the men from the Kingdom hit the championship proper after experiencing far less stress and strain than some of their rivals. Naturally, they have to deal with pressure and expectation, but the road from the south up to Croke Park is relatively short and sharp. Not so for the counties who have to navigate out of Ulster and Leinster.
Throw the contenders into the mix – realistically, only Kerry, Cork, Donegal, Tyrone, Armagh, Mayo, Dublin and Galway have a shot at glory – and the easiest thing to do is pick holes in their prospects.
Take Donegal for starters. Their surge to the National League title without losing a game marked Brian McIver’s panel as a serious threat, and with scoring forwards such as Brendan Devenney and Adrian Sweeney, and a midfield engine of Neil Gallagher and Kevin Cassidy, they are deservedly one of the favorites.
However, their journey out of Ulster is once again fraught. While Kerry await the winners of the game between Waterford and Clare, Donegal’s championship begins later this month when Armagh are the opposition.
Now, Armagh may be on the wane due to injuries, the most recent of which has sidelined their key defender, Francie Bellew, but they remain formidable competitors. With their confidence as high as it has been in 10 years, Donegal could just edge the verdict, but no one would be too surprised if they have to seek the back-door route through the qualifiers.
That is the nature of business in Ulster. Donegal, Tyrone and Armagh are the front-runners, yet no county is safe.
If Donegal are on a roll, and if there are doubts over Armagh, Tyrone probably find themselves somewhere in between. Potentially, a third title in five years is within their compass, but their summer will probably depend on the availability or otherwise of Brian McGuigan and Stephen O’Neill who are currently struggling with injuries.
Equally, for Mickey Harte’s team to prosper, they need Owen Mulligan to rediscover the brio of 2005. So, with both Tyrone and Armagh still searching for the magic formula that brought them Gaelic football’s most prized piece of silverware, it could be Donegal’s turn in Ulster.
Just as it could be Mayo’s turn both in Connacht and further afield. They have class and quality, but their first opponents happen to be Galway who themselves will harbor ambitions of going the distance to Croke Park. Still, Mayo have the edge and they surely will have learned as much from last year’s dramatic semi-final win over Dublin, as from their humiliation at the hands and feet of Kerry in the final.
In Ciaran McDonald, they possess a proven match-winner, and in John O’Mahony, they have one of the shrewdest managers around, therefore Mayo get the vote in Connacht.
On to Leinster, and inevitably to Dublin. For a team which continues to lack the necessary self-belief, there is always the chance of getting on a run and of generating almost unstoppable momentum. The standard in Leinster is not of a vintage variety, and Dublin should surmount their first hurdle against the winners of the Meath and Kildare game, but they will need Ciaran Whelan, Alan Brogan, Conal Keaney and Bryan Cullen to be at their very best in order to win a first All Ireland since 1995.
That leaves us with Munster where Cork have an impressive mix of rising stars and experience. Impressive, but not sufficient to destabilize Kerry. The champions will have to cope in defense without Seamus Moynihan and Michael McCarthy who have retired, and there is always the possibility that their opponents will have figured out a way of dealing with the hulking presence of last season’s star forward Kieran Donaghy.
But as Cavan and Down, Longford and Westmeath, and New York and Sligo prepare to do battle this Sunday, the question at the outset concerned the notion of anyone being good enough to beat Kerry. On a given day, Dublin, Mayo, Donegal and Tyrone probably are good enough, but that day is unlikely to come in the summer of 2007.

Are dope tests unfair?
INTERESTING reaction to the anti-doping controls that were carried out in the aftermath of the recent National Hurling League final between Kilkenny and Waterford at Thurles where two players from each team were randomly selected to provide urine samples.
Paddy Buggy, a Kilkennyman and a former GAA president, said the testing process was both “unfair and demeaning to young men”, adding that as the players are amateurs “I don’t think there should be any testing”.
Significantly, both Buggy and the Kilkenny team doctor Tadgh Crowley, said they didn’t believe that GAA players were taking performance-enhancing substances.
Buggy and Crowley might be right in their assessment, but is the presumption that just because Gaelic games aren’t awash with money, there will be no temptation to cheat a correct one?
The belief that no GAA player is involved in doping is just not enough to allow the association immunity from any controls. If, as Buggy suggested, “some young men would be embarrassed to pass water under supervision” then they shouldn’t be.
All the players, who rarely have to undergo testing in the first place, are doing is following the rules of the Irish Sports Council, and possibly even protecting their own sports from abuse.

Boss Keane wins
title on 1st try
IT was a weekend when Roy Keane won his first trophy as a manager and when Alex Ferguson might have won his last. Sunderland’s 5-0 thrashing of Luton Town gave managerial rookie, Keane, the English Championship title, while Ferguson was celebrating his ninth Premiership title with Manchester United. Keane, along with Sunderland chairman and former international colleague, Niall Quinn, will now have to contemplate how to spend the money they have available in order to strengthen their squad for next season.
If some observers predicted that Keane would never be suited to management because of his penchant for setting extraordinarily high standards, and because of his volatility, he has been the undoubted success story of the English season.
But as he cuts his coaching teeth at Sunderland, it could be that eventually he will be the one to replace Ferguson at Manchester United. The pair won seven Premiership titles together at Old Trafford, and even though 65-year-old Ferguson insisted that he had no intention of retiring, if Keane makes progress at the highest level, it is hard to see him not being in the running for the United job in the near future.
“I don’t know how long exactly I’m going to last, but I’m enjoying it and I’m going to carry on doing this job until I stop enjoying it,” said Ferguson.
But if there is no mention this summer of Keane agreeing to a contract extension with Sunderland, what odds on him returning to his spiritual home before long?

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