Monday, May 10, 2010

Football Championship 2010 Preview

There’s some talk in the corners of bars and public houses that this year will be a “down year” for Kerry. It is a measure of just how dominant Kerry have become since the introduction of the back-door qualifier system that what qualifier as a down year for Kerry would qualify very much as an up year for nearly every other county in the Championship.

What’s understood by a Kerry having a down year is that they will only get to an All-Ireland semi-final or final, instead of stomping the snot out of everyone in sight. There are GAA men up and down Ireland who would sacrifice their first born on Moloch’s smoking altar to have the county team still kick football when the pilgrims come down off the Reek. For Kerry, that sort of stuff doesn’t register.

The worst thing is, of course, it’s true. Anyone who doubts Kerry’s ability to get over retirements and emigration issues is someone who is deeply unfamiliar with Gaelic Football and the Kerry ethos. When Darragh Ó Sé retired, he simply remarked that the jersey would be there after him. The struggle goes ever on for them.

Tommy Walsh and the Slugger Kenneally may be upside down on the other side of the world but Kerry’s hopes have not gone down the dunny with them. The fact that Mike McCarthy has been coaxed back into the lists indicates that both he and Jack O’Connor think Sam is within their grasp once more. Why else would McCarthy bother?

Cork are favourites with the bookies, fluttering between 2/1 and 5/2, slightly ahead of Kerry at 11/4 or threes in spots. But there is a profound lack of value in betting on Cork because we have no evidence to say that Cork have dealt with their choking issues.

Kerry getting ambushed some sunny Saturday evening in Derry or Omagh mightn’t even save Cork, because it’s only by slaying the demon that Cork can truly purge their issues. That is the single biggest thing they have to face. Cork are spoiled with players, but the best team is not always the best players. There is no value in betting on Cork until we are sure their heads are right.

It’s hard to have full faith in Tyrone, who have lost the lean and hungry look that brought them those three All-Irelands in the last decade. There are good minors on the way, but they’re not there yet and football has become so physical that minors tend to get smashed to bits if they’re brought onto the senior Championship team too early. It’s hard to back Tyrone with any degree of confidence.

Dublin are never a good price because of the population that back the Dubs even if they were playing the New York Yankees at baseball. The price is always skewed by money on come what may. But when it comes to choking, Dublin are right up there with Cork and Mayo and Derry. No value here.

And then the prices start getting big, and you think: God, it is looking like a weak Championship this year alright. Cork, Kerry, maybe Tyrone, then the rest. But the Championship is still a knockout competition come August, and anybody who’s still alive come the last eight is in with a chance.

In recent years, there’s been a semi-final team who were not expected. Meath last year and in 2007. Wexford in 2008. Mayo 2006. Being in the last four is not an impossible dream for anybody. The problem is being sufficiently big-time to seize the day.

With Kerry and Cork locked in their own private duel there’s a chance for a team to sneak into that semi-final spot and after that they are only 140 minutes away from Sam. Of the contenders, it’s hard to put money on Derry, Donegal or Down as they flattered to deceive in the past. Down and Armagh played a fantastic Division 2 final and Armagh have, in Steven McDonnell, one of the true giants of the game.

But as far as An Spailpín is concerned, the best bet to blow the Championship wide open is Joe Kernan’s Galway.

The poor mouth emanating from New York last week is to be taken with a pinch of salt. No reason to believe that Galway couldn’t smush New York any time they wanted; which is exactly what happened in the end, of course, as Padraic Joyce did what he does.

The hammering suffered by Galway in the first game of the League in Castlebar is the most foolish gold of all. There was a profile of Galway in the Sunday Times of March 21st that was very instructive.

Galway have a very scientific training regime going on at the minute, using a Stat Sports GPS tracking system to monitor heart rate, distance covered, pace and hits taken. They cared very little for that game back in February. But come June and a game against either Sligo or Mayo, Galway will be roaring like bulls. If they can get enough possession to feed their forwards, they will do damage. And at 18/1 best price for Sam with Boyle sports, they are not a bad bet to find that semi-final sweet spot and who knows what may happen then. Other than laying off on Cork and Kerry, of course.

Mayo preview coming up tomorrow. Dia is Muire linn.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,