Following the weekend’s Gaelic football action, we look at all the major talking points.
Is the Super 8s doomed?
Two years into the three-year trial of the Super 8s, the format is coming under intense scrutiny. With low crowds at Croke Park in recent weeks, many were questioning if the fans were fully buying into it.
This past weekend saw three games where at least one of the teams had nothing to play for.
On Sunday, All-Ireland contenders Tyrone and Dublin met in Healy Park, but with 28 team changes from round two, the dead rubber was never going to provide a spark. Similarly, Cork and Roscommon had nothing to play for, while pride was all that was on the line for Meath against Kerry.
Will the powers that be persist with the Super 8s? Or will it go down in history as an experiment that went wrong?
Mayo produce when their need is greatest
Mayo produced their best performance of the summer to oust a fancied Donegal team from the championship on Saturday evening. Despite struggling against Kerry and Meath in recent weeks, they delivered when their backs were to the wall.
What is it in the psyche that makes this Mayo team click? James Horan was able to summon a response to his side in this must-win environment, with intensity, work rate and tackle count all shooting upwards.
They now face Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final next Saturday. After coming so close to All-Ireland glory on several occasions throughout this decade, this Mayo side will be thinking to themselves – who better to bring down the ‘drive for five’?
They’re underdogs ahead of their trip to Croke Park, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The hard work starts now for Dublin
Amidst talk of a ‘drive for five’, it’s all been very straightforward for the Sky Blues thus far in 2019.
A routine Leinster procession was followed by facile wins over Cork and Roscommon, as they eased their way into the last four.
If they are to do what no side has done before in the GAA and win five consecutive senior All-Ireland titles, they’ll have their work cut out.
First up is the perennial thorn in their side, Mayo. Should they get over the Connacht side, one of Tyrone or Kerry will be lying in wait.
At the start of the year, many felt only a handful of teams could challenge Dublin. They’re now right there with the Dubs in the final four.
Where to now for Donegal?
The championship exit to Mayo will be a bitter pill to swallow in the O’Donnell County.
Declan Bonner’s side, for a second consecutive year, swept through Ulster to capture a provincial title, before losing a de facto All-Ireland quarter-final in the last round of the Super 8s.
What’s all the more frustrating from a Donegal perspective is that it was the first game they lost all year, while Mayo progress despite two defeats already this summer.
Their inability to make progress this season will be a source of frustration, but this is a young side. Bonner has introduced several stars in the last two seasons who have shown they’re capable of making the grade.
It’s no consolation to them right now, but they’ll be stronger for the experience of Saturday evening.
While their seniors ended their Super 8s campaign with a home loss to Roscommon, the Cork footballers have enjoyed a remarkable year of progress. Had Ronan McCarthy been offered a Super 8s berth following their relegation to Division 3 last March, he would have taken your hand off.
They were competitive in all three games against Dublin, Tyrone and Roscommon, and will feel they aren’t far away from competing for major silverware.
Saturday’s U20 All-Ireland final win over the Dubs copper-fastens the feel-good factor around the big ball in Cork right now.
The Sam Maguire wintered on the Lee-side in 2010. They spent much of the decade in the doldrums, but Cork football has finished on a high, and they look ahead to 2020 with renewed optimism.