Football

Kevin Madden: Kingdom scalp was there for the taking for Derry; Dublin showed their old ruthlessness in seeing off Monaghan

While Jack O'Connor has another All-Ireland final to look forward to with Kerry, Derry will have left Croke Park with huge regrets about how they let victory slip from their grasp Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
While Jack O'Connor has another All-Ireland final to look forward to with Kerry, Derry will have left Croke Park with huge regrets about how they let victory slip from their grasp Picture by Margaret McLaughlin While Jack O'Connor has another All-Ireland final to look forward to with Kerry, Derry will have left Croke Park with huge regrets about how they let victory slip from their grasp Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

The two Ulster teams in the All-Ireland semi-finals would have left Croke Park with very different emotions at the weekend.

In Monaghan’s case, I think they will have felt that it was a game they could have won. In Derry’s, it was very much a game they should have won.

Three points up at half-time was a great position to be in but even when Kerry brought the game back level in the second half, Derry kicked on with a massive purple patch of their own.

There were a few questionable calls during that period but the free awarded to Stephen O'Brien to make it a one-point game looked harsh, as did the free awarded to David Clifford to make it 1-14 apiece.

Niall Toner had a massive chance to put Derry firmly in the driving seat after great work by the impressive Gareth McKinless.

In fairness to Kerry, they put huge pressure on the Derry kick-out during that period and used that possession as a platform to get control of the game.

Those are the small margins at this level and while Derry played superbly and got most things right, they just weren’t ruthless enough when the opportunities arose.

A goal and 11 points was some scoring in the first half but they would have known, three points up at half-time, that a very minimum of seven would still be required to seal the deal.

Derry will take massive heart out of going toe-to-toe with the All-Ireland champions and can be massively proud of their efforts, but the overriding emotion today will be that a massive chance to be in an All-Ireland final for the first time since 1993 has been passed up. 

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Derry will take massive heart out of going toe-to-toe with the All-Ireland champions and can be massively proud of their efforts, but the overriding emotion today will be that a massive chance to be in an All-Ireland final for the first time since 1993 has been passed up     Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Derry will take massive heart out of going toe-to-toe with the All-Ireland champions and can be massively proud of their efforts, but the overriding emotion today will be that a massive chance to be in an All-Ireland final for the first time since 1993 ha Derry will take massive heart out of going toe-to-toe with the All-Ireland champions and can be massively proud of their efforts, but the overriding emotion today will be that a massive chance to be in an All-Ireland final for the first time since 1993 has been passed up Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

Those who predicted that Dublin would ruthlessly steamroll this Monaghan outfit haven’t been paying much heed lately.

With 60 minutes gone and the game level at 12 points apiece, the script was unfolding perfectly for the resilient Farneymen. Not just Monaghan people, but we all dared to dream at that stage.

But, at the back of my mind, I knew that in those clutch moments Dublin would have more go-to men, or match-winners to put it bluntly.

Conor McManus was magic for Monaghan. He just turns up every single day, always pivotal in the big moments.

But Dublin are littered with players who have that muscle memory and so it proved as they outscored their opponents 1-5 to 0-1 down the final stretch.

The points by Brian Fenton, Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey laid the foundations for the quickfire blitz which showed signs of Dublin from a few years ago.

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Even the magic of Conor McManus couldn't turn the tide for Monaghan against Dublin in Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final at a wet Croke Park    Picture: Philip Walsh
Even the magic of Conor McManus couldn't turn the tide for Monaghan against Dublin in Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final at a wet Croke Park Picture: Philip Walsh Even the magic of Conor McManus couldn't turn the tide for Monaghan against Dublin in Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final at a wet Croke Park Picture: Philip Walsh

IF ever you wanted a post-match insight into how difficult it is to referee our glorious game, then reading the comments on social media would have driven you mad.

I thought Brendan Crossan summed it up perfectly when he said; “I thought Sean Hurson was wrong numerous times until I watched the replays. A superb refereeing display.”

Who could argue with that? It was refreshing at last to see a referee call the too-many-steps rule more consistently.

The old mantra if you are going places with the ball, then steps are ignored, was called out and punished on both sides. Players like James McCarthy, Con O’Callaghan and Jack McCaffrey are a joy to watch but they play on the edge of steps rule especially in and around the scoring zone. Kudos to Sean. We need to see more refereeing of this standard.

IT'S easy to say after the event, but the simplicity of how Down dismantled Laois wasn’t a good way to enter the Taitleann Cup final.

In a sense, they exposed the best version of themselves offensively, which would only have intensified the scrutiny and preparations from a Meath perspective.

When you score eight goals in a game, then sometimes there can be an over-tendency to try and work goal-chances the next day out.

I felt on occasions that that was the case, but a greater issue for Down was the wastefulness in front of goal.

The conditions played a part in that but there were really good goal-chances coughed up which were huge momentum-shifters.

Perhaps the two by the impressive Ryan Johnston and Liam Kerr just before half-time hurt the most.

Having watched the trouble Antrim’s Ruairi McCann caused the Meath full-back line, Down followed suit with a similar approach and played with the talented Odhran Murdock on the edge of the square.

There were a few moments early in the game, but perhaps a combination of a poor supply and the difficult conditions dictated that it didn’t have the intended impact.

The flukey Meath goal definitely shifted the momentum and it really seemed to unnerve Down at a time when they looked the much better side.

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The old adage of size does matter also proved true when it came to the battle around midfield where Meath certainly had the edge.

The massive squeeze they put on the Down kick-out gave them a great platform to attack and at the same time deny Down those opportunities to build meaningful plays.

When both goalkeepers went long, the Royals certainly had the upper hand in gaining possession.

Going down the home straight it was the two Jacks, Flynn and O’Connor, who made the difference with 1-6 from play between them in the second half.

A disappointing day at the office for Conor Laverty’s men, but it’s fair to say progress has been made in 2023 and a platform is now in place to get out of Division Three in 2024.