Sky Sports analyst Peter Canavan looks ahead to the weekend’s Gaelic football action.
We are more-or-less where we expected to be. And the good news is that I feel the era of the blanket defence is nearing an end.
Look at the scores from last weekend – 2-22 from Roscommon, 0-19 from Monaghan, 3-20 from Kildare, the same from Tyrone – those are some tallies. Obviously, teams are still employing a mass defence but it’s not as encompassing as it was a few years ago. Losing teams are still managing to put up an average of 15 points per game while winners are managing around 25 points. That is some going.
We’ve been looking forward to the Super 8s for some time now and I think those tallies will continue to be impressive as teams go out to express themselves and showcase their talent all over the field. It’s no real shock that the majority of the top eight teams in the land – Mayo would feel aggrieved not to be in this current bracket – are souped up and ready to go,
I genuinely feel we will have one or two surprises on the way to finding out who our All-Ireland semi-finalists are.
I think Dublin and Kerry will make it through, and I give Kildare a massive shot at getting into the last four. And ultimately, I feel it will all come down to Tyrone and Donegal at Ballybofey in the last round-robin game to see who takes the last spot.
So, it really promises to be an exciting few weeks.
Dublin haven’t been tested at all but they will be against Donegal on Sunday. Losing Paddy McBrearty is a colossal blow for Donegal and though they are motoring very well this year and are attractive to watch I think this game could be too much for them. Dublin will target their defence and though I think it will be a close game I would imagine that they will have a few points to spare at the end.
But I am looking forward to watching Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Ryan McHugh, Frank McGlynn all rampaging up the field. Anthony Thompson swinging over some points, Michael Murphy dictating the play from the quarter-back role. They are a fine team to watch and I think both teams will go at it from the start to lay down a marker.
We are showing the Tyrone and Roscommon game beforehand which is also at Croke Park. That will be another intriguing clash. Roscommon hit 2-22 against Armagh and they had seven different scorers which suggests the team shape is working. Enda Smith will come in for special attention and he will be hungry for goals again but the Murtaghs and Cathal Cregg will take watching too. Cathal McShane, Frank Burns, Niall Sludden and Connor McAliskey are faring well for Tyrone – though you couldn’t read too much into the challenge that Cork presented either. Tyrone may have the know-how to see out this game but no one will be under-estimating what Roscommon bring to the table.
Is there anyone in the land who wouldn’t be looking forward to Kerry and Galway? That’s on Sunday at 4pm in Croke Park and paying money to see players like Damien Comer and Sean O’Shea is worth the admission fee alone. Kerry will feel they have the firepower to win this one and they may well do but they simply haven’t been tested this year. They hammered Clare and hammered Cork. So whether they are out of this world, or Clare and Cork are well off the pace, I’m not exactly sure where the balance lies yet. If Comer and Shane Walsh go directly at the Kerry defence they might get change out of that. Overall, at this stage, you would feel, however, that Kerry are better poised.
I give Kildare a great shot against Monaghan. Again we are covering that game at Croke Park for Sky Sports and Kildare have provided us with fantastic entertainment in the past number of weeks and this should be no different. Will Daniel Flynn maintain the consistency? Will Kildare break down the Monaghan rearguard like they dismantled Fermanagh last weekend? Will they heed the warning signs that emerged when they emptied the bench and let their opponents back into the game? I think they will be well on top of all these issues.
They are on a roll now, they’ve got momentum and they really earned it. It’s hard to see how they have turned their season around after losing to Carlow but they have done it and credit to them for that. Monaghan probably felt they had the game wrapped up against Laois and may have taken their foot off the pedal. They have had a much easier route to the Super 8s than Kildare so they might be fresher. Equally, Kildare could be more battle-hardened.
The first clutch of round-robin games will tell us more. We’ll have a much better idea of where everyone is at next Monday morning.
(c) Sky News 2018: Peter Canavan says Era of blanket defences is almost over