The trophies had not even been lifted after the weekend’s Allianz Football League final before reflections of the summer invaded Croke Park.
Results, Achievements and Injuries. Suddenly they were all reduced to context, things that needed to be thrown into the mix, bits that needed to be analyzed and reviewed before the provincials started.
Take the big, meaty Connacht semi-final between Mayo and Galway on April 24 at Castlebar.
At 3:45 p.m. Sunday, there was a large consensus to take the advantage for this game with Mayo.
A few hours later, the same assessments were hastily revised after James Horan’s team, or some version of it, was beaten by Kerry by a point.
“It’s hard to tell how intentional Mayo was,” Jack O’Connor said afterwards.
“An eye if not two of their eyes were on the Connacht Championship game in three weeks’ time so it’s hard to know.”
Granted, O’Connor might have seen an opportunity to downplay the extent of Kerry’s dominance, but mitigation had been written all over the Mayo team sheet.
No Robbie Hennelly in goal. No Diarmuid O’Connor at the creative center of their attack.
James Horan’s half-back line, which provided most of Mayo’s energy, featured Michael Plunkett, Rory Brickenden and Enda Hession in all positions.
Depending on their fitness, will there be dates for Paddy Durcan and Oisín Mullin next summer? And Eoghan McLaughlin could well make the championship trio.
The result was that Mayo never pierced Kerry with great speed or regularity. They turned the ball over and didn’t win a single Kerry kickout until the result was announced.
Pádraig O’Hora was left with a deadly combination of David Clifford and a huge space to fight with and when the game came off Mayo they never showed the will to get it back.
All in all, only the return of Cillian O’Connor can be seen as a positive development for Horan.
Previously, Anthony Cunningham had been left to campaign for Galway.
His home country, defeated Division 2 finalists and the team for which he had achieved two very different types of wins in the space of a week had finished the league on a poor note.
But Galway, Cunningham claimed, would not be particularly troubled by the way their league campaign was going – an overall job that looked so impressive before they faced Cunningham’s Roscommon on consecutive Sundays.
When asked if they might find it hard to rise from the disappointment of it all, Cunningham wasted no time with the reply, “I don’t think so.”
“I think they have some very talented players. Maybe some of them weren’t quite fit… but I think anyone who takes Galway lightly will suffer.
“They are a first-class team,” Cunningham said, “they have some great footballers, they will be a serious team to beat in the league.
“If we get through our next lap we’ll have to go to Salthill or McHale Park so we’d like to fight one of them. They work terribly hard and are a team that will definitely succeed.”
Still, it was an odd ending to the league for Galway.
Pádraic Joyce’s team had all their heavy work done early but didn’t stay for the decoration.
They had, despite a five-point loss in Dr. Finished Hyde Park after securing promotion with the highest points tally of any team in each division (12) and best goal difference of any 32 teams.
They also scored more goals than anyone (14).
Their sin on Sunday was a slight drift from the pace of play early in the second half as Roscommon quietly carved out a five-point lead and then a total lack of defensive authority for Diarmuid Murtagh’s goal that undid all their good work made to get level again.
There were, as Joyce pointed out, worse things in life than losing a Division 2 Finals.
But all one could be sure of was that the Galway and Mayo hype as it was before had been dampened by their Sunday efforts at Croke Park.
“That’s true, but there’s no hype coming from our side,” Joyce said.
“We know we’re going to Castlebar in three weeks and we’re going to play one of the best teams in the last eight or nine years.
“We know Mayo are an impressive team. We will go into this game as underdogs and we have a big task ahead of us,” said the Galway coach.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/no-fresh-clues-about-connacht-semi-final-unearthed-in-croker-41520954.html Croker has found no new clues about the Connacht semifinals