GAA Football

Hitting The Target: Monaghan deserved more time - before and during Tyrone match

Monaghan deserved more time to celebrate reaching the All-Ireland SFC semi-finals than the new football format allows.

TIMING was a legitimate issue for complaint by Monaghan after their gut-wrenching All-Ireland SFC semi-final defeat to neighbours Tyrone. Even if referee Anthony Nolan was technically right to signal only a minimum of three minutes of added time, that wasn’t in keeping with how much has tended to be played in recent matches.

Sure, neither side really wasted much time because of the close nature of the contest, but Monaghan undoubtedly merited a few more moments to endeavour to force extra time or even snatch a sensational victory.

Timing of another sort probably went against Malachy O’Rourke’s side too, though, and the other defeated semi-finalists, Galway.

Experienced as many of the Monaghan side are, this was the first appearance in football’s last four for any of their players. The same went for Galway, who hadn’t reached the All-Ireland SFC semi-finals since they last won the Sam Maguire Cup in 2001.

As their manager Kevin Walsh quipped rather ruefully after their defeat to Dublin, “I had black, curly hair then.”

Only the hardest heart from Tyrone wouldn’t have felt some sympathy for Monaghan and my sense of disappointment for them extended beyond Sunday, into the past.

No doubt a wonderful night was had by many Monaghan people on Saturday August 4 in Salthill, in Galway, in the Oriel County itself, and anywhere that blue and white souls found themselves in celebration.

Yet although the gap of just over a week to the county’s first All-Ireland SFC semi for 30 years may have been good for the players in the short term, it wasn’t when you look at the bigger picture.

Monaghan are good enough, with enough emerging talent, to get back to the semi-final stage in the near future – but they might not achieve that place again, at least not with most of these players.

Success should always be enjoyed when it arrives. Malachy O’Rourke’s predecessor as boss, Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney gave a revealing insight in his excellent weekend interview with our own Neil Loughran when he spoke of his delight for the players who won Ulster in 2013 – but disappointment for those who had recently retired and missed out.

Dublin have virtually got one of the semi-final slots in their pocket for years to come, and the likes of Tyrone, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, and Mayo, as well as some others, will all be pressing hard for one of the other three next season.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that this year was Monaghan’s ‘Leicester City’ scenario.

Unlike the Foxes, though, it was all over far too quickly for the Farneymen.

Admittedly the build-up to All-Ireland Finals was arguably too long in the past, but the change in the calendar has gone too far, too soon.

One week between the end of the All-Ireland football quarter-finals and the semi-finals is far too short. It wouldn’t be accepted in hurling.

Yes, it can be argued that Galway had nearly three weeks to prepare for their semi-final, having secured their place in the last four by beating Kildare on July 22.

However, they didn’t know for certain who they would be meeting until two weeks after that. Factor in that most of their players started both the Monaghan and Dublin games and there was no benefit of rest for the majority.

Obviously Monaghan didn’t really require any research on the Red Hands but the latter know far more about being in an All-Ireland semi-final than their opponents did, and the same goes for Dublin compared to Galway.

Monaghan will have plenty of time now to be feted for reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals - but they’d have been better off with more time before their last four match rather than after it.

ANYONE sensible accepts that the light blues really should – and most likely will – beat the red and whites to the top trophy.

After all, the light blues are the reigning champions, have the best and deepest squad of players, and play the most attractive form of football. The red and whites have been there or thereabouts in recent seasons but it’s quite some time since they actually enjoyed the ultimate triumph.

Just as it is in Gaelic football, so with English soccer.

Manchester City remain strong favourites to retain the title, rather than Liverpool winning it for what would be the first time in 29 years.

The Reds have a chance, sure, but that’s all it is. The idea that they ‘should’ win the title this season because they spent the most over the summer is simply silly.

It’s akin to suggesting that a Ford Focus should be able to overtake a Ferrari, on the basis that the Ford has got some fancy tyres and a new spark plug while the Ferrari only added a new wing mirror.

Those who have suggested that Liverpool ‘should’ finish top now conveniently ignore the fact that City still have a (much) more expensively-assembled squad, as do Manchester United. City have added Riyad Mahrez and have the brilliant Benjamin Mendy available again, augmenting their record-breakers from last season.

Over the past five seasons, City have spent more than £737m on bringing in players, United £626m – and Liverpool £600m. Transfer fees paid a few years ago would be even higher now too, given that there’s more money available to spend.

If you consider net spend, then the difference is even starker: £504m for City, £429m for United – and around £196m for the Reds. Even Everton spent more net over the last half-decade (£210m), as have Chelsea (£235m) and, yep, Arsenal (£222m).

There’s been some fuss too over Spurs not signing a single player this summer, the first time ever a Premier League club has done (or not done) that.

Yet why would Mauricio Pochettino bring anyone in unless they’re going to improve the squad? That’s not to say his panel can’t be made better, but Spurs have built a top class panel with some very clever dealings.

Indeed, they’ve spent only £238m over the past four seasons – with an astonishing, admirable net spend of just £19m!

Sure, it may be a worry that the window is still open for transfers to Europe’s others top leagues getting their stars to sign longer contracts is good business by Spurs.

Managers are judged by their dealings in the transfer market to an extent, but their ability is also assessed in terms of whether or not they can improve the players available to them.

Pochettino, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have all shown they can impress in both regards – but the City boss still has the strongest hand available to him.

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