We made it. It’s semi final time. And both semis should serve up two tasty treats.
Cork having beaten Dublin already this season in Croke Park will be hoping to emulate the same result. But I’m sure the current league Champions will have something to say about that.Our big focus will throw in at 2, and after last weekend’s encounter I cannot wait. Derry come to the party with an impressive league campaign under their belt. They have evolved this season, and some will say they have become more united since the departure of Eoin Bradley. The younger brother of Paddy has opted to play soccer with Colerine FC for the spring.
I watched Derry’s first league game against Tyrone on TV and they were very impressive; they drew, but were unfortunate in the end not to win having come from eight points down to draw level. It was, of course their first Div 1 game in four years. Monday mornings I usually chat to two male work colleagues and we review the weekend’s sporting events, casually of course! After the opening round of the league we discussed the games and I mentioned that I thought Derry were a team to watch this season (I still do), and one of the lads, dismissed me with a laugh. I haven’t spoken to him about the games since and no, not because I took the huff!
We’ve come to the business end of the season now. Derry proved a poor opposition for Mayo last weekend, but it was clever from Brian McIver. He knew they were through and figured Mayo were going to meet them again this weekend. So his starting 15 got a week off to prepare and got an up close look at Mayo for free. They play passionately and very much as a unit. They have a number of standout players on the team this year, Mark Lynch at centre forward continues to flourish, he scored 1-6 from play last weekend against Kildare, he’s hard marked and attacks right through the middle so it’ll be interesting to see how Donal Vaughan, who also likes to attack, will cope with that. This season they look to operate with a two man full forward line consisting of 6 foot 4 Keelan O’Boyle, a UUJ student, and Emmet McGuckin, who scored a cracking goal in Castlebar, is small but good in the air and very powerful. How the Mayo defenders will cope with these two will be something to keep an eye on.
Last weekend James Horan gave Aidan O Shea and Jason Gibbons a rest day so a big performance will be needed from them to take on the might of Fergal Doherty and Patsy Bradley. Mayo are the highest scorers in the league so far followed closely by Derry who are playing quite a similar type of football to James Horan’s men. Their centre back adapts the same attacking role as Vaughan, so this may allow Keith Higgins and the Mayo half forward line some space to get scores. They have relied on outscoring their opponents throughout the league so this one should keep the scoreboard operator busy. Mayo will have to improve on their scoring as they are racking up quite a lot of wides this season, an area they will have to sharpen up in as they proceed towards the Connacht Championship and beyond. Cillian O’Connor has slotted back into his role as chief free-taker after his break through injury, and top scorer of the league for the county, Kevin McLoughlin (1-24) will hope to continue on from where he left off against Dublin.
This one will be hard to call. It’ll be a cracker, full of scores and open honest football from both sides. Because of their experience at this stage, I think Mayo will edge this one.
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