Championship talking points
By Cian O'Connell
Gripping all Connacht clash
It started with a flurry of goals and ended in a welter of excitement - turnovers, missed chances, and just sheer Championship drama.
Few will complain about the fact that the football mad folk of Roscommon and Mayo will get to sample another occasion at Croke Park.
The debate will continue out west until the next instalment at GAA headquarters next month: Should Mayo have converted one of their late opportunities? How did Roscommon fail to build on such a blistering start? Can Lee Keegan tame Enda Smith to such an extent again? Can Roscommon’s inside forwards make a bigger impact?
Kevin McStay deserves the utmost respect for remaining patient with a Roscommon team stuffed with footballers, who performed in the underage ranks.
Translating promise into senior success can be a difficult process, GAA history is littered with cautionary tales.
Still while some of Roscommon’s work didn’t go according to plan, there was plenty to admire about how McStay’s charges competed.
In several interviews this year McStay has referenced the need for his panel to become physically stronger, but they thundered into the match.
John McManus and Sean Mullolly were gritty and gutsy, Tadhg O’Rourke moved plenty of ball, while Fintan Cregg enjoyed one of his most productive outings in the primrose and blue.
Roscommon had players carrying the fight to a seasoned Mayo team, who overcame a shaky start.
That was chiefly due to the sheer will and brilliance of Lee Keegan. The versatile Westport clubman was the dominant figure in a dramatic game, scoring 1-3.
Another Championship match beckons for Mayo, who don’t appear to be able to operate in anything other than an edgy and raw environment. Galway, Derry, Clare, Cork, and Roscommon have all troubled Mayo in different ways this summer.
Ultimately, the Green and Red are still standing, though, and the replay with Ros promises to be similarly fascinating.
Comfortable for Kerry as Donaghy stars
The pre-match worries which existed in Galway centred on a powerful Kerry full forward line. Kieran Donaghy and Paul Geaney duly obliged by delivering the first half scores which always had Galway chasing.
For a while Galway were moderately in the hunt, but the reality is that Kerry’s early Sunday afternoon was fairly comfortable.
Eoghan Kerin, Sean Armstrong, Damien Comer, and Ian Burke battled for the Tribesmen, but there just didn’t seem to be the requisite conviction or belief in the Galway ranks to post a shock result.
Donaghy gathered plenty of possession in the opening period, planting a goal that flattened Galway.
Johnny Buckley’s relevance to the Kerry cause shouldn’t be underestimated, especially now that the crucial part of the campaign has arrived.
Paul Murphy buzzed forward to good effect, while Stephen O’Brien and Barry John Keane were lively when introduced.
There appears to be good depth in the Kerry panel so Eamonn Fitzmaurice will be satisfied that a place in the last four has been secured with the minimum of fuss.
Options exist in most areas of the field, but the one worry was how Galway burst through for a string of goal chances, but they weren’t clinical.
Kerry are back at the penultimate stage and for now that is enough.
Armagh generating momentum
Fermanagh, Westmeath, Tipperary, and Kildare have all been beaten by Kieran McGeeney’s evolving Armagh outfit.
Saturday evening’s triumph over the Lilywhites was the latest encouraging victory for an Armagh team that are gaining confidence.
It was a high scoring and attractive encounter against Kildare, who were unable to contain the splendid Jamie Clarke, especially in the second period.
Clarke was prominent throughout for Armagh, but the Crossmaglen Rangers forward set up and took some vital scores.
Andrew Murnin bagged a vital goal, while Gavin McParland was another to cause Kildare problems during an eventful encounter.
At centrefield Armagh restricted the influence of Kildare’s Kevin Feely, who was accurate from frees.
With Kildare unable to claim sufficient possession at midfield, Armagh had the runners and an emerging goalkeeper in Blaine Hughes, who varied his kickouts smartly.
Young players have been introduced to the senior inter-county arena by McGeeney, how they are faring augurs well for the future too.
A demanding All Ireland Quarter-Final against Tyrone will determine precisely how far Armagh have travelled, but they will enter that match optimistic.
Monaghan finish with a flourish
The Ulster SFC Semi-Final loss to Down hurt Monaghan, but the response has been efficient and admirable.
Wexford, Carlow, and now Down have been defeated so Monaghan will return to Croke Park heartened next Saturday.
One of the main sources of encouragement for Monaghan throughout 2017 has been the impact made by their substitutes.
That was the case once more during the Down triumph with Conor McCarthy (0-4), Jack McCarron (0-2), and Owen Duffy (0-1) all delivering scores when Monaghan took command.
Connaire Harrison did cause Monaghan significant hassle, but Monaghan were sufficiently crafty to cope on this occasion.
While the opening period dripped with scores and quality, Down just couldn’t cope when Monaghan’s replacements were introduced.
Kieran and Darren Hughes also contributed handsomely with Conor McManus in typically polished and prolific form.
Now Monaghan face Dublin in the last eight. Getting beyond that stage is what Monaghan crave to do. Monghan are completely aware that the best performance of the Malachy O’Rourke era will be necessary to realise their objective.