Kevin Cassidy

KEVIN CASSIDY: Then there were two

KERRY and Galway will contest the 2022 All-Ireland Senior Football final and I suppose no one can really argue that they deserve to be there.

This fixture takes me back to the days when I started to take football seriously as a young lad, watching these two teams contesting All-Ireland finals against each other.

When you go through those teams and think of the players that they had in both teams it brings a smile to your face. Pádraic Joyce, Micheal Donnellan, Sean Óg de Paor, Darragh Ó Sé, Seamus Moynihan…the list goes on. So let’s hope that these modern day stars can live up to that billing.

Let’s start with the first semi-final last weekend and, in truth, it failed to deliver on what I had expected as I really thought that it had all ingredients for an absolute cracker.

What unfolded was quite a boring to be honest, with both teams mirroring each other with very little scoring until the last 10 minutes or so.

We all knew what Rory and Derry were going to bring to the table, but it surprised us a little that Pádraic Joyce decided to set up like he did, and as a result of doing so this game was played at pedestrian pace for much of the evening.

When Derry sit down and look back at their season, they will have some regrets about the last day. Their defensive structure was immense in the first 20 for 25 minutes, but when looking back they missed a number of scoreable opportunities that would have put them five or six points ahead.

If that were to happen, I’m not sure Galway would have found the way back into the contest.

In the opening exchanges Galway opted to concede the Derry kick-out, giving Derry the platform they needed, but credit to Joyce during the half-time break – he completely flipped this on its head and Galway went with a full court press for the rest of the game.

For me this is where the game was won. Galway’s big game players also came to the fore in the second half with Walsh and Comer kicking important scores, so all in all you would have to agree Galway fully deserved the victory.

I have played in games like this and have been part of a team who invented this sort of setup so it be hypocritical of me to sit here and complain about the game, but all I can say is that I am glad that I was sat beside Joe Brolly because Joe kept us all entertained as the ball was moved slowly over back the pitch.

The second semi-final had more to it as the old aristocrats of Gaelic games served up a classic. I said here last week that given all the talent on display and given all the tactical awareness in both camps, that this game would be decided by a very simple element and that was whether Con O’Callaghan would play or not.

I said that if Con played Dublin would win and if he didn’t then they would lose. When you look at the game last Sunday then that’s exactly how the game panned out. I fully believe that if Con was wearing number 14, then Dublin would be looking forward to another All-Ireland final appearance.

Jack O’Connor and his Kerry team will be absolutely thrilled that they have reached a final and now the Holy Grail is within their grasp. Once again David Clifford did as he pleased in Croke Park and with each passing game this young lad is becoming unmarkable no matter who you put on him. He is a joy to watch.

Sean O’Shea’s kick at the death will become the stuff of legend down in Kerry and although it was an unbelievable kick, I wouldn’t have given the free kick in the first place and I feel that was a very harsh way for Dublin to lose.

We have a fantastic final to look forward to next weekend with some unbelievable talent on display and given the two teams that are now in the final, I fully expect to see an open expansive game of football played on the biggest stage on the biggest day. So that’s something that I cannot wait to get my teeth into next week.

From an Ulster point of view, there is work to be done in terms of catching those who now dine at the top table with the likes of Monaghan, Tyrone and Donegal slightly falling down the pecking order.

I’m sure plans are already in place in those counties to get their teams back to where they feel they belong. When the dust settles, Armagh and Derry will be happy enough with their seasons although for those two teams the hard work really only starts now.

Any team can come through and catch teams on the hop. Now, all eyes will be on Armagh and Derry as teams will invest their time to pick their game-plans apart over the winter. So those two teams must now raise their own bar and standards if they want to push on to the next level. Now that the county scene is over for this province, full focus will now switch to club football up and down Ulster and that itself takes on a life of its own.

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