Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Element of surprise returns to All-Ireland Championship

Fans react during Saturday's All-Ireland Championship quarter-final between Donegal and Kildare at Croke Park

Nothing is guaranteed to detract more from the real appeal of any sport than its predictability.

For many years, the outcome of the race to the Sam Maguire Cup was viewed as a foregone conclusion, the name of Kerry inevitably cropping up when the final equation was being formulated.

But three losing teams — Kildare, Cork and the bookmakers — testify to the fact that Gaelic football, for all its perceived shortcomings, can still generate a level of intrigue that is nothing short of beguiling.

Within the space of just over 24 hours, lofty ambitions were left in ruins as highly-criticised Donegal and largely unsung Mayo wove their own mesmerising patterns on the All-Ireland canvas.

If Tyrone’s 11-point triumph over Roscommon was perhaps more extravagant than had been anticipated, then Donegal’s last-second extra-time clincher against Kildare was quintessential Roy of the Rovers stuff.

And while perennial title-seekers Kerry took up residence on easy street for much of their one-sided trot against Limerick, Mayo fashioned their best performance at Headquarters for decades to send mighty Cork, proud custodians of the Sam Maguire Cup, tumbling into oblivion.

And a repetition of Tyrone’s second-half performance against the Rossies will undoubtedly see off Dublin next Saturday despite the confident soundings emanating from the Leinster champions’ camp.

But both Donegal and Mayo must aspire to even greater levels of skill, courage and passionate commitment if they are to deal effectively with the demands that Tyrone or Dublin and Kerry will respectively now make of them.

The bookmakers’ odds on the two five-star quarter-finals as opposed to the two straightforward exercises were not so much off the mark as downright insulting — now just try getting generous odds on who will meet Donegal on Sunday, August 28.

Yes, the Dublin v Tyrone tie is not so much a hard call as a question for Mastermind.

The Red Hands have set down another marker that they are intent on capturing Sam for the fourth time although the Dubs’ hunger to take delivery of the biggest prize of all is if anything even more intense since they have not reigned supreme since 1995.

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