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blue wave Cavan and Tipperary are now in bonus territory - but Dubs look untouchable


Con O'Callaghan of Dublin leaves the Meath defence trailing in his wake

Con O'Callaghan of Dublin leaves the Meath defence trailing in his wake

Con O'Callaghan of Dublin leaves the Meath defence trailing in his wake

Cavan rounded off the weekend with an almost unbelievable result against heavy favourites Donegal and will now take on the Dubs in a couple of weeks’ time.

I can’t remember a weekend like it and we have to be very grateful for the GAA for running the competitions in this extraordinary year of years.

This result was built on a foundation of hard graft, a good game plan and an unwillingness to give in despite the quality of opposition. Donegal, like Cork, will be absolutely devastated, but Tipperary and Cavan fully deserved their victories and will now welcome the two-week break after what must feel like an avalanche of games in the last few weeks.

Both teams are now in what’s known as bonus territory - but one feels that they won’t be satisfied with their historic provincial triumphs.

All-Ireland semi-final weekend will be one to really look forward to and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another shock or possibly two before the end of the 2020 championship.

Dublin won their 10th Leinster title in a row and their 15th in 16 years, with the only blip coming in 2010. Since then the two teams have gone in the opposite direction.

There are many, including this columnist, who thought that Meath had closed the gap over the last 12 months but the result would suggest that the gap is actually widening.

Last year Meath copped a 16-point defeat but Saturday’s 21-point difference will have many in the county scratching their heads and wondering where they go next.

Dublin, on the one hand, know exactly where they are and where they want to go. It was their best team performance of the last ten previous Leinster final victories and it is important to emphasise the word ‘team’.


Cavan players celebrate their Ulster final win

Cavan players celebrate their Ulster final win

Cavan players celebrate their Ulster final win

They are masters at looking after the basic skills of the game, rarely making the type of mistakes that are all too common in every other championship game you watch. They play the game in the best spirit and rarely give up possession. I think it was about seven years ago that Ciarán Kilkenny was last turned over!

The opposite is the case for all the Meath forwards, who were wasteful in an attacking sense and were turned over on far too many occasions.

There were too many Royals playing for themselves. You cannot expect to beat the Dubs, on their own patch, if you play that way.

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The other thing that separates this Dublin team from their Meath counterparts is the ferocious and unselfish work-rate by the six players up front. When the Dublin attack breaks down, the forwards are the first unit to engage and the work doesn’t stop until an error is forced.

The same cannot be said for the Meath forwards, who allowed the champions to move the ball down the field without any contact whatsoever. In the modern game and against this Dublin team, that is fatal.

Dublin were able to move through the gears and typically finished the game with a three-pointer from Niall Scully, who had a terrific game on Saturday.

The evening started and finished with poignant tributes to the woman, men and children who lost their lives in and around the ground exactly 100 years ago. The Dublin players and back room team were terrific and classy throughout. One would expect nothing less from this group.

For Tipperary, the Munster final yesterday was also hugely significant but somehow, the Premier men were able to keep their emotions intact long enough to bridge an 85-year gap.

There can be no argument over the result. Tipp bossed the game right from the throw in and the margin of victory flattered Cork in the end.

David Power would have told his players this week about the importance of starting the game well and his players took the game to Cork, with no inhibitions whatsoever, and had three points on the board before Cork had time to settle.

A game plan can be dictated by the type of players you have and Tipperary have some of the best forwards in the game at present so it’s just good management to try and get the team to play an attacking brand of football with emphasis on getting the ball inside as often as possible.

Conor Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan are excellent footballers and are game winners if given the supply. Sweeney gave a man-of-the-match performance, while Quinlivan was involved in many crucial moments in the game.

He intercepted Michael Martin’s kick-out late in the game and very nearly chipped his shot into the net. It would have been a terrific goal and one that would have been talking about for many years to come.

It turned out to be a very important point however and kept their opponents at a safe distance with time running down.

There were other huge performers on the day but perhaps the stand out was the return of the prodigal son, Colin O’Riordan, who plays professional football in Sydney. From the outside, this would have been seen as a gamble but it was a gamble worth taking, as he produced a towering second-half performance.

His interview with Damien Lawlor after the game was certainly a break from the normal mundane stuff we have become used to and the emotion and the pride came pouring out.

It was a great occasion and a fitting end to what must have been an emotional week for everyone involved.

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