Pádraic Joyce: Take it from me, the time for winning is always now
16 Aug 2016
I’ve been making my way to Croke Park most Sundays; watching the games, analysing the tactics, and I love it. Every game brings a different taste of modern football. I find it hard watching Galway though, I’d often be looking at our games longing to be out there, but the body wouldn’t be able to do it anymore. I enjoyed my time and I made peace with the fact that it was over the same day I retired.
Being honest, Tipperary blew us apart in the quarter-final. As I was heading up to Dublin on the morning of the game, I couldn’t believe that I passed out the team coach on the N4 just outside Athlone! I wouldn’t have thought that travelling up to Dublin on the morning of such a big game was a great idea. I’ve done it in the past and you’d be tired from it. Think about it, you’re getting up at maybe 7:30 or 8am, making your way into Galway, have a bit to eat, then you take the bus across the country and then eventually get to Croke Park — that’s a long day before you even pull up a pair of togs. Even for the sake of making it feel like more of an occasion, that you’re actually in an All-Ireland quarter-final, I’d want the team all up there together the night before. I mean, it’s serious stuff for us, there’s a lot on the line, and a night away also helps the camaraderie of the group and get away from all the idle talk around the county.
The team didn’t perform but they went 4-1 up early on had we taken our goal chance it could have been a different story. Once Tipperary got on top in the middle third of the field, the tide went against Galway. It is very hard to switch on during a game. Unless you come all guns blazing you are in deep trouble especially in Croke Park, where there is no place to hide. There’s no hiding away from this beating, nine points and it could have been more had Tipperary taken their goals chances.
We actually don’t even know how good Tipp are because our lads just didn’t show up. There could be more in the the blue and gold locker for the semi-final. Tipp will probably be happier that Mayo have come through rather than Tyrone because they’d probably have expected more of a dour, tight game against Mickey Harte’s men. The expectation is that Mayo will be there to play. In truth, the big thing for the Premier is dealing with the idea of their first All-Ireland semi-final.
I remember my first one back in 1998 and we actually weren’t in a position too dissimilar to what Liam Kearns’ side find themselves in now. We drew Derry in the final-four clash and were something like 6/1 outsiders to lift Sam Maguire, and I’d say it was something similar again in 2001. I was 21 years of age coming up that game 18 years ago, I remember it being a terribly wet day, it was lashing actually. We’d come through Connacht after beating Mayo, Leitrim and Roscommon after a replay, and sometimes you can get that far with some players at 60 or 70%.
What Tipp will find out about Croke Park at this time of the year is that there are no room for passengers. It is 100% all the time or it’s a single ticket home.
They have one of the best forwards in the country in Michael Quinlivan, and it’s not as if this is an overnight thing with him. There’s been more evidence than against Derry and a man-of-the-match display against Galway. Actually that was one of the things that struck me in his post-match interview, he was giving out about the chances he left behind him even after scoring 1-4. It’s the sort of winning mentality we saw when he dragged Clonmel Commercials all the way to an All-Ireland club semi-final earlier this year. He’s a natural footballer who doesn’t just depend on the athletic ability he clearly has, but on the skills of the game where he thrives. He’s good off both feet, in the air, on the ground, can finish, and he’s got a good dummy too. Between Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney, Stephen Rochford knows he needs to tie up this full-forward line.
The thing for Tipperary is whether they have learned from the Munster final where Kerry physically took them apart. Eamonn Fitzmaurice sent his team out to drop back and defend in numbers when they didn’t have the ball, and it worked perfectly. Tipp probably showed up expecting to play football against Kerry and it caught them off-guard, so they know that they could be in for the same sort of afternoon against Mayo — who have the ability to play either way.
I have to say I don’t have much sympathy at all for Tyrone complaining about the treatment of Sean Cavanagh who was sent off for a second yellow card. They had scoring chances at the end of the game to at least grab a draw. They need to find a reliable marquee forward like they had in the past to lift Sam Maguire in the next year or two.
Aidan O’Shea was getting plenty of abuse all game and had players jostling or roaring at him whenever he lost possession or committed a foul. You could say the same for Diarmuid Connolly who was targeted by Donegal, and I reckon his second one for a high tackle looked worse than it was. What stood out to me was Paddy McGrath running straight over to push Connolly 20 yards out the field after he committed the second foul, and after the Dublin man was sent off there was no punishment for McGrath. That’s not right, the third man in always causes more men to pile in for such ugly scenes and until the powers-that-be eradicate this, these schemozzles will continue to happen. I know people will say it was gamesmanship but not for me.
I honestly hope Cavanagh stays playing with Tyrone for another year or two as he’s been one of the outstanding footballers of our generation and won’t want to finish his career on that note. Rochford got all the right calls last Saturday, he introduced fresh legs at the correct time and took a huge gamble starting Lee Keegan – who was immense – at full-back.
Dublin are still favourites to win the All-Ireland but they haven’t truly had their mettle tested yet, because early on Donegal were driving wides and long balls in that never came close to Michael Murphy’s clutches. Any hope of a contest was ruined by bad finishing and bad deliveries. Donegal had eight wides in the first half and there were also six terrible deliveries into Murphy and Paddy McBrearty. So we don’t fully know yet what Jim Gavin’s side are like this year without Jack McCaffrey, though John Small played very well, and only time will tell if Rory O’Carroll will be missed.
With the exception of Kerry and Seamus Moynihan, it’s impossible to manufacture a full-back and this is something the Kingdom will look to test out in the semi. They’ll hope for a repeat of the 2009 ambush where they got a quick goal, but I don’t see it happening this time.
I expect to see Mayo join Dublin in the final because they’re building game-on-game. Kevin McLoughlin is improving in the sweeper role and I don’t see them conceding too many goals, but they need more from Aidan O’Shea, Diarmuid and Cillian O’Connor in front of the posts from play.
A warning though: we obviously don’t see much of Tipperary down in Division 3 and all we have to go on just now are the televised wins over Derry and Galway. Rochford won’t really know Tipp’s players, nor will the Mayo players. No matter who you play, it’s not easy to win in Croke Park and it’s amazing to think that the last time my own county won a championship game in that stadium was the 2001 All-Ireland final.
Take it from me, the time for winning is always now.