After last week’s game, a lot of people asked: “how good were Mayo”. But, Kerry proved on Sunday that they can back up one good performance with another one.
David Moran withdrawing before throw-in was a massive loss. It was well documented beforehand how good Donegal are in midfield, but I believe Kerry won 22 out of 26 of their own kick-outs which was a huge positive.
Guys like Adrian Spillane and his brother Killian really stood up, but it was heart-stopping stuff and the draw leaves the group wide open.
Game of the Championship
It was 100 per cent the game of the Championship so far, it was real end-to-end stuff. Both teams went at each other, especially in the second half and lads were out on their feet at the final whistle.
Stephen O’Brien ran himself into the ground again and he has to be in contention for Player of the Year.
He has added a clinical edge to his game in front of goal and he’s a nightmare to mark because of how he runs at lads.
On the other side, I wasn’t surprised to see Michael Murphy with his hands on his knees at times, because he was everywhere. He’s a real leader for Donegal. Ryan McHugh and Murphy were very influential in the game and they have been Donegal’s big two all season.
Donegal have to go to Castlebar now and that game with Mayo will be outrageous, because both teams have to win to stay in the Championship. That is a tough call, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mayo turned them over. Mayo are just that kind of team, they’ve had a slow burn in the last couple of games, but they can ignite here and grab a win.
Soft free saved Donegal
A draw was a fair outcome, both teams could have stolen it and had chances to do that.
Obviously, the ref gave Donegal a very soft free at the end to level it.
You see it in games, even at club level, where refs will always seem to give a losing team one last chance to get a draw. Fair play to Michael Murphy as well, he brought it in about 10 yards and got away with it.
Joking aside, it was a massive kick from him and that’s the calibre of player he is. There was contact for the free, but it was minimal and if referees are going to give them we might as well give up.
Urgent change needed on the black card
The black card is playing on the minds of referees these days. I struggle with how it is interpreted too.
You could say that Gavin White’s incident was a black card, but look at the timing of the game and the fact that Ryan McHugh was not even in the Kerry half of the field.
For me, the black card was brought in for players being pulled down when they were through on goal, not for incidents that are 100 yards from goal.
The black card for Donegal was just a clumsy challenge, it was never a black card.
That one also had me asking is the ref trying to even things up after giving Gavin White a black, it shouldn’t be that way. It’s very tough on some players to have their game over after 10 minutes.
I just want some consistency in the black card because some of them are very harsh.
As for the Tomas O’Sé incident, it looked to me to be more of a push than anything. That’s tough on a youngster who has just come on, to get a straight red for that.
Refs need to start looking at the context of the game when they make these decisions.
I’ve said all along that two refs on the pitch is the answer to all of this. Football refs need to be given the room to use their own discretion too, hurling officials do it.
Fans want a bit of bite in the game too, nothing over the top mind you, but a little is no harm. It’s something that needs an urgent look at.
Mission to Meath next on the agenda
Complacency shouldn’t be an issue for Kerry against Meath because guys like Jonathan Lyne and Jack Sherwood came on and did very well last Sunday. That will have lads looking over their shoulders and also players will know they have to play well against Meath because they’ll want to start an All-Ireland semi-final – if we get there.
I can’t see complacency creeping in because there’s a ferocious battle for places.
Andy McEntee will go into this game wanting Meath to win though, they were excellent against Mayo – even if the scoreline doesn’t show it.
When you are playing at home, it’s worth three or four points to you. But, Kerry need to go up to Navan and win this if they are to have realistic hopes of winning an All-Ireland.
Come out of Croker
It’s absolutely time for the neutral round of games to be moved outside of Croker.
Forget the debate on it, it needs some serious consideration. There would be better atmospheres for these games in provincial towns around the country. Croke Park was nearly empty on Saturday evening for Cork v Tyrone and it nearly as bad for Dublin v Roscommon.
We got our answer last weekend, the neutral games must be played in a neutral venue that suits both sets of supporters.
Croke Park for these games isn’t working.
Play them in venues that can take 15,000-30,000, it will bring a cracking atmosphere to the game and a much-needed income into the towns. You don’t want to be looking at masses of empty seats, especially when you are trying to promote the Super 8s.
People will say “the players want to play in Croke Park” and they do, but players want to play in a packed Croke Park and not the soulless one we saw last weekend.