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Wednesday 11 December 2019

King Con shows why he is key for Blue machine

Omagh ideal location for Connolly to make return

Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan played a leading role in Saturday’s comfortable victory over Roscommon in Croke Park
Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan played a leading role in Saturday’s comfortable victory over Roscommon in Croke Park

One group is already done and dusted, with just placings to be sorted, in the Super 8s with a game to spare but all to play for in the other group with three teams fighting it out for the top two spots.

Dublin and Tyrone meet in two weeks' time to decide who tops the group and it will be interesting to see, if Tyrone in particular, use the game to rest some of their more important players because they just don't have the strength in depth that Dublin have.

Mickey Harte is as shrewd as they come but he will also see this game as a great opportunity to get one over the Dubs and he will be well aware what a win against the five in-a-row chasers would do for team confidence going into an All-Ireland semi-final.

Tyrone struggled against Cork and were in real trouble at half-time but the changes were made in terms of both substitutions and positional switches and the tempo was increased and all this had the desired effect as Cork's five-point half-time advantage was wiped out within a short space of time.

Control

Cork, to be fair, tried hard to the final whistle but Tyrone are a more experienced team and once wheny they got themselves into a winning position they were able to control the game.

For Dublin it was a different story as they continue to dominate every opponent they play. Roscommon tried to play on the front foot but there was a serious gulf in class and once Dean Rock secured their first three-pointer the game was effectively over.

Roscommon's Conor Daly received his marching orders just before the break and Dublin were able to coast to an 18-point victory while in second gear right though the second period.

Con O'Callaghan has developed into a terrific senior footballer and athlete in the past two seasons and has now become a serious target man. His ball-winning ability from any type of delivery is another huge asset for the Dubs.

They will have tougher examinations ahead starting with Tyrone in Omagh in a fortnight's time and a last-four game after that but it certainly looks like they are all hungry and highly motivated.

It will be interesting to see if Diarmuid Connolly plays any part over the coming weeks.

Surely the Tyrone game is the ideal time to get him some valuable game-time against tough opposition?

In the other group Kerry, Mayo and Donegal will take their fight for a semi-final place into the last round of games.

Kerry are money-on to finish top spot but they will need another big performance against Meath, despite the fact the Royals are out of qualification contention.

It was no surprise that the Kingdom never got to the same levels they reached against Mayo a week ago but Donegal are a step up in quality and are extremely organised so it was always going to be a difficult assignment.

The pressure was on both teams to win this one and the game turned out to be a real contest between two potential All-Ireland champions.

It was a battle of contrasting styles with Kerry using the kick-pass while Donegal mainly preferred to move the ball through the hands.

Kerry obviously felt that the Donegal backline was vulnerable with high profile players missing and were unlucky not to have netted twice in the opening quarter.

Gavin White and Seán O'Shea found Paul Geaney and David Clifford with pin point foot passes but only one point came off both plays.

The game cracked along at a terrific tempo and with Kerry leading by the bare minimum at the break it was set up for a great second half.

Both sides had big opportunities to win the contest as it entered the closing minutes and that certainly added to the excitement.

Michael Murphy looked to have won it in injury time but Kerry managed two scores of their own from play until Murphy again pointed from a free to end the game.

It was a fair result and a valuable point for both teams.

Mayo are still alive after beating Meath in the first game yesterday but they have yet to find their championship form this season.

The scoreline flattered the Connacht men but they won't be too concerned about that.

Their interest in this year's championship will end in a couple of weeks' time if they fail to beat Donegal at their home venue. Donegal are the favourites but I wouldn't write this Mayo team off, particularly when they're backed into a corner.

PS: Congrats to Shane Lowry on his magnificent Major victory at Royal Portrush. There will be a huge party in Clara, in particular, for the next few days as Offaly celebrate one of its greatest sporting sons. His perfect temperament and attitude towards the event was very impressive and a lesson to every sports person when it comes to competition. Well done again Shane.

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