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Foul Play: Matters Of Life And Death
Beware The New Northern Dreadnought
The Hot Press Newsdesk, 29 Aug 2012
Dublin may be champions, but Donegal are looking increasingly like they might be the team of 2012...
Eagle-eyed readers may have noted that we have reached high summer without Foul Play, as yet, writing a single word about the unfolding All-Ireland series. I make no apologies for this, having been extremely distracted by events many hundreds of miles away in Poland – and yes, before you ask, of course I would have happily traded in the Sam Maguire in return for a triumphant (or even semi-decent) showing from Ireland at the Euros. If this means I’m deemed to be something less than a true GAA fan, so be it. And if you feel differently, more power to you.
For better or worse, that chapter is now closed, and we must now seek fresh worlds to conquer. Another All-Ireland seems as good a place to start as any. Dublin have captured another Leinster title, their seventh in eight years, and now stand only three more wins away from repeating last September’s heroics (though obviously, there is no way they could ever hope to surpass that occasion in terms of pure drama).
Their displays to date have been reasonably efficient but hardly blood-curdling, with especial alarm bells sounded by the way Meath almost mounted a ridiculously unlikely comeback from a ten-point deficit in the Leinster final, leaving the shaken Dubs hanging on for dear life. Aside from the champions’ brilliant two-goal salvo in the minute immediately preceding half-time, the sides were disturbingly evenly-matched for long spells. Dublin were repeatedly careless and sloppy in possession – the scorching weather only excuses this up to a point, and had it not been for some wayward shooting from the resurgent Royals, Dublin might easily have been staring at a replay or worse. They survived, but can’t afford to be this lethargic in the knockout stages.
Kerry’s ominous showing against Tyrone the previous evening (having been wholly unconvincing up until that point) is beginning to stir up echoes of 2009, when the Kingdom also looked like something of a spent force in the early Championship skirmishes before timing themselves to peak at exactly the right moment. They will feel that they owe Dublin one after the stunning conclusion to last year’s Final, and I can’t say I’d be thrilled to face them in the quarter-finals (assuming they don’t trip up against Clare in the interim, a fairly safe assumption).