pat's enough | 

Ulster GAA final was so dull it made me switch channels

At least Connacht showpiece flowed but it was hard to watch Donegal's stale tactics
Stephen O'Brien of Kerry takes on Colm McSweeney of Limerick

Stephen O'Brien of Kerry takes on Colm McSweeney of Limerick

Pat Spillane

According to NASA a blue moon occurs every two to three years. The next one is due on August 31, 2023. So, it is a rare phenomenon.

Well, I had my own 'blue moon' experience watching the Ulster final. At times the game was so boring, I couldn't think of a single note to jot down.

I could describe the game as intriguing, tactical, enthralling - a fascinating game of chess football, but the readers of this column are a discerning bunch; they recognise bulls**t from a mile off.

If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

The Ulster final was the same - it was a stinker.

Regardless of what my critics suggest, I don't subscribe to the view that games from the past were better.

The current crop of players are far more skilful and better conditioned than their predecessors.

But don't try to tell me what we witnessed in Clones is part of the evolution of Gaelic football.

Evolution ought to be about improving the product.

The apologists for this dire form of football will argue it's an example of modern-day, innovative, cutting-edge coaching.

Heaven help us if at the end of this process all they can produce is what we witnessed in Clones: safety-first, cave-man tactics, with players crippled by fear.

Eventually, I couldn't take it anymore.

I switched channels. RTE1 were screening Paris When It Sizzles, starring Audrey Hepburn.

Despite the title, it wasn't much better than the football.

I tried other diversions to amuse myself. I solved Wordle at the fifth attempt - by the way the word was bayou.

By the end of full-time I had enough; I pressed the record button and went for a walk.

Of course, I get it. GAA teams are not in the business of entertainment - and the end justifies the means.

If Kerry win the All-Ireland on July 24 playing a similar style of football, I wouldn't complain.

I was one of the few pundits who tipped Derry to win. Everything I had foreseen actually happened.

We witnessed a tactical masterclass from Rory Gallagher, who got his match-ups spot on.

Defensively, they were solid, and their conditioning and fitness was superb - the longer the game went on, the more comfortable they looked.

They were by far the better team. Were it not for their overly cautious second-half approach, the game would have been decided long before the finish.

As for Donegal, I could rehash everything I wrote about them over the last three years.

They look a jaded side, stuck in a tactical time warp. They are so one-dimensional, it is beyond belief.

They appear to have a pathological fear of making a mistake.

The poverty of their game plan was exposed in the dying seconds of normal time.

Despite having possession, they made absolutely no attempt to even engineer a shot.

The players appear to have a pathological fear of making a mistake.

They got exactly what they deserved from the final - a big fat zero.

Now we go to Leinster - the final was a shooting fish in a barrel job.

Last year I criticised Kildare for being too cautious against the Dubs. They flipped the coin this time around - and appeared to have no defensive plan.

They opted, instead, for a shoot-out in the naïve belief that their forwards could outscore the Dubs.

Rest assured, no other team that plays Dublin during the rest of the championship will be so defensively naïve.

Having said that, Dublin have their mojo back. Their high-tempo kicking game, with superb support play, reminded me of how they used to play in the early days of the Jim Gavin era.

Their scoring stats were off the charts in the first half against both Meath and Kildare. They converted 18 (1-17) out of 19 chances in the semi-final and 12 (5-7) out of 14 last weekend.

I still believe Kerry have the edge over them in the race for Sam.

As for the Munster final - the less said about another non-event the better.

The game illustrated the gulf in class between the top sides in Division 1 and the top of Division 3.

The space and time on the ball that Limerick were used to in Division 3 disappeared in Killarney.

They couldn't match Kerry's speed of thought and action.

Still, Kerry's inability to break down Limerick's blanket defence in the first quarter will give hope to the other contenders left in the championship.

We only saw the Kingdom at their best when Limerick tired, and were forced to come forward and try to score.

The big worry for Dublin and Kerry is the four-week gap until the quarter-final where they could face a Division 1 team with two hard-earned wins under their belt in the qualifiers.

Cormac Costello

Cormac Costello

Managers love a two-week break between games - four weeks is problematic.

And Kerry don't need reminding what happened the last time they had a four-week break before a big game: Tyrone dumped them out of the championship.

Even though the game between Kerry and Limerick was a non-event, almost one third of the people watching television in Ireland last Saturday afternoon tuned into the game.

Maybe punters like to watch a top-class team in action, regardless of the quality of the game, but, by far, the best of the provincial finals was the Connacht one in Salthill.

Was it really that good? Probably not, but compared to the other three it was a gem.

It was a lovely, open game of attacking football.

Galway got all but three points of their 2-19 from play. By the 44th minute all six Roscommon forwards had scored from play.

But the physicality and intensity one associates with Galway v Roscommon ties was missing.

Galway carry a serious attacking threat and they have a good defensive structure in place, but I've a suspicion that if star forwards Shane Walsh and Damien Comer are held, they would struggle.

They are a work in progress, but I don't think there is an All-Ireland in them this year.

Kerry beat Roscommon by only a point in a challenge game two weeks ago.

Anthony Cunningham's side underperformed in Salthill.

Their forwards didn't link up well and they were uncharacteristically passive. There's a kick left in them. Watch out for the Rossies in the qualifiers.

Let's salute what was positive about last weekend.

There was a lot to admire in the quality of Kerry and Dublin's performances; we witnessed an entertaining shoot-out in Salthill and the outcome in Clones was in the balance until the last play.

And there was real positivity in the Tailteann Cup. Apart from the Cavan v Down games, the rest produced close games which demonstrates the value of pairing teams of equal merit.

Here's looking forward to the rest of the season!

There was real positivity in the Tailteann Cup. It mostly produced close matches, demonstrating the value of pairing teams of equal merit.


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