Dublin v Offaly
It really couldn't have worked out any better for Anthony Daly. After the high of the League final, his team were taken down a peg or two in a Croke Park that might as well been populated by tumbleweed. Daly would likely have figured that a putative semi final against Galway would be as significant a struggle as provincial semi finals get in this back door era. Defeat for either side will lead to a degree of air coming out of the tyres. So there likely wasn't much room for frenetic manoeuvre versus Offaly. The usual pattern of intensity being ratcheted up a notch from league to championship didnt apply here. The Clarecastle man was thus blessed that Offaly's debilitating injury list meant that his charges didn't face a side at the same height of power that sorely tested Galway last summer.
There were positive aspects to Dublin's defending. Oisin Gough took the chance to show his manager that, as a specialist corner back, there should be room for him in the side. Shane Durkin is filling in for very capably for Stephen Hiney. Fans will also be heartened that there is competition for places once Brady and Boland return, but will be cognisant that both were missed. Further up field there are some kinks to be ironed out even though Alan McCrabbe showed signs of summer life. There is still too much switching and bunching in attack, albeit that Daly isn't likely to expunge the habits of a managerial lifetime at this point. It was a day where Dotsie cried out for a better service. In the current configuration Daire Plunkett is a tad of a speedy square peg in a round hole, and may end up an impact sub. Further Paul Ryan still has to impose himself on a big summer match. June 18th would most certainly be a day for that. Dublin will be at the very least a lean mean fighting challenge for Galway to tackle especially if they have a clean bill of health. Lets bring it on.
Offaly under Joe Dooley have got stuck in a habit of passing by compensation to use examinational parlens. Forced to deal with a hand that, without being cruel, included 3/4 very marginal players at this level they dug in with commendable valour. A trend has developed of the Faithful fighting on their backs against counties that they were usually equal to or superior, ( Galway, Dublin ) whilst surrendering relatively tamely versus the traditional giants of the game. On the positive side, amidst an epidemic of injuries, Derek Morkan and Dylan Hayden stood toe to toe with Dublin's physical half forward line in displays laced with no little skill. The slight frustration would be that, especially with Brian Carroll hobbled, Derek Molloy and Joe Bergin only flashed their potential intermittently as is their frustrating wont. The team are also still waiting for a Daniel Currams or a Cathal Mahon to truly gatecrash the party. You thus feel that, with injury problems always likely to be an issue, Offaly's summer doesn't have quarter final appearance written all over it. With under age steeples looking very dreary, retrenchment appears the best that can be currently hoped for.
Tipp v Cork
It's almost a new one in hurling circles. Perhaps coming to your town for one night only. Or at least for the first time since 1997: It being, a Cork moral victory. An eight point defeat to their deadliest rivals is apparently a prime opportunity for Cork to cook a snook to all their detractors. Doubtless there is an arguable case that the rebels overall worth has been slightly undervalued: That recent underage results are too blunt an instrument when judging the quality of players Cork are producing. But as it turned out Cork's display almost exactly mirrored their performances during the league: In that they were in there pitching with the best of them, but that a lack of cutting edge up front, and especially a lack of goal power did them in. Indeed if we were to try and patronise Cork people further it would be the observation of what an all round plucky display it was. For Sunday's Cork team, with John Gardiner slightly pallid and Shane O' Neill at best undercooked was almost completely devoid of genuine top quality. Exceptions may have been Niall McCarthy or Pat Horgan. But the former possibly hits a few too many injudicious wides, and the latter still has a little bit to prove on the summer stage, not least to his manager it appears. It's also interesting how, with Tom Kenny and Jerry O' Connor gone from the starting line up, and Cathal Naughton also not making the cut, that the possession running game is still adhered to. It was carried out fairly effectively, but the result of having the full forward line too far away from the goal is possibly a luxury the rebels can no longer afford.
There were positives, as there has to be when you puck more ball than the All-Ireland champions. Stephen McDonnell gave an unruffled and intriguing display- that had echoes of Frank Lohan about it- at corner back. William Egan survived the acid test that is an under 21 making a championship debut at centre back. Lorcan McLaughlin probed effectively at mid-field, not that, like Horgan, it saved him from the long hand of Denis Walsh's law. His partner Pat Cronin was the latest in a long line of Cork players to thrive in the world of Donal Og Cusack's peerless puck out accuracy. But Cork likely expected more from Cian McCarthy and the attack in general has to find a sharper rapier if they are to reach a semi final.
On his recent visit Barack Obama was doubtless made aware that he is a Tipp rather than an Offaly man when it comes to wielding the stick that Enda Kenny presented to him. But it was the words of another famous American icon Muhammad Ali ( Clare not Tipperary qualified ) that came to mind whilst watching the latest premier outing: In that most bumble bees would be delighted if they could match Tipp in the floating and stinging stakes. Indeed keeping track on Tipp's stellar midfield and forward play must be a sore trial for assiduous opponents who may have the naive belief that, say, a left corner forward will stay in there. And of course the silky probings of Kelly, Corbett, McGrath and Callinan ( who brought the form of the training field to championship ) are underpinned by the Stakhanovite zeal of Patrick Maher.
There are a few scudding clouds on the horizon. Wing back was the unauthoratative muddle that this blogger sensed it would be. There are notions abroad that the return of Conor O' Mahoney and Brendan Maher will allay these fears. But a reliance on O' Mahoney's fitness day in day out is a slightly quaint notion, and Maher would be ( and was on Sunday ) badly missed in midfield. Further presumably the return of O'Mahoney would mean that Paudie Maher would be exiled to a slightly less effective station at wing back. It's ironic indeed that, like the now defunct 10 bus, Tipperary centre backs seem to come along in a cluster after yonks waiting for one.
To these eyes at least the full back line seems at least as big an area of concern for Tipp management. A Cork full forward line with virtually no record of winning ball in the summer garnered buckets of it last Sunday.Plus you sense that Declan Ryan doesn't have bench options in this area of the field. But perhaps Stapleton, Curren and Cahill are the All- Ireland champs in microcosm. This blog expected Tipp to be mostly in third gear last Sunday and they didn't disappoint. If they were chinks in the armour the argument could well be made that very few outfits have the armoury to discommode Tipp if they ever hit fourth gear consistently.