All-Ireland: Down, Dublin, Cork and Kildare in frame for Sam Maguire Cup
Now only Cork, Down, Dublin and Kildare remain in the battle for the Sam Maguire Cup.
Down and Kildare will go head to head at Croke Park next Sunday.
Ahead of that, Dublin face Cork tomorrow at what will be a packed GAA headquarters for the showdown between the Leinster and Munster rivals. What a tussle between adversaries who tick all of the ‘rivals because’ boxes — rival cities, counties and provinces.
So what, in real and tangible terms, are the four semi-finalists’ prospects and what causes do they have for optimism. Or concern, come to that....
Strengths: They have without question the 15 best footballers in Ireland.
Weaknesses: For some unknow reason they lack the killer punch when they have their opponents on the ropes. In last year’s All Ireland decider against Kerry they enjoyed a dream start with an early goal, but were unable to consolidate.
Key Player: Nicholas Murphy. Has had to be content with a few cameo appearances, but injuries permitting he can prove he’s the country’s top midfielder.
Best display to date: Didn’t cover themselves in glory in two games against Kerry and were only marginally better against Roscommon.
Strengths: They play with great self belief and commitment and very much as a unit.
Weaknesses: If captain Ambrose Rogers isn’t able to start against Kildare they will struggle to replace him with a player similar in terms of quality and leadership.
Key Player: Martin Clarke. Against Kerry last time out he was a constant inspiration producing easily his most impressive 70 minutes since returning from Aussie Rules.
Best display to date: It has to be the All Ireland quarter final win over Kerry, but they will need to surpass that if they are to overcome Kildare.
Strengths: Tactically manager Pat Gilroy’s game plan against Tyrone was spot on. The impressive emergence of both full back Rory O’Carroll and full forward Eoghan O’Gara was an unexpected bonus.
Weaknesses: They will struggle for scores in the event of Bernard Brogan being curbed.
Key Player: Bernard Brogan. Showed against both Armagh and Tyrone that he remains one of the most dangerous forwards in the game.
Best display to date: Dublin were rubbish in conceding five goals against Meath and only marginally better against Wexford. The display against Tyrone was easily their best of the season, possibly even the best in recent years.
Strengths: They never know when they are beaten and their attack is one of the most lethal in the business.
Weaknesses: They aren’t the quicket out of the blocks and often leave themselves with a bit of catching up to do.
Key Player: John Doyle. For years he has been the county’s best known footballer and he remains central to everything the Lily Whites hope to achieve. Once an out and out score getter he’s now a much more rounded player with the ability to cut opposing defences to shreds with the quality of his passing.
Best display to date: Against Meath in the All Ireland quarter-final they came back from being six points down, despite the loss of talisman Dermot Earley. Eventually carved out the most comprehensive of victories.