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19 July 2007 Edition

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The Matt Treacy Column

Psy-ops in Croker

I suppose, given that Dublin’s performance was almost as good as could be expected and left little room for nit-picking, it was inevitable that many pundits’ attention would be diverted instead to the alleged “antics” of some of the Dublin players. If it hadn’t been that then it would probably have been the pitch invasion and the audacity of Dublin supporters in celebrating winning a third Leinster in a row when they should have been hurrying home to a meat tea. No-one else ever comes onto the pitch of course.
Specifically singled out for the tiresome radio phone in nonsense were Mark Vaughan’s curious hand signals to Darren Rooney after the first goal and Alan Brogan and Kevin Bonner’s pointing towards the scoreboard near the end when Fergal Byron and two of the Laois defenders engaged in some reversion therapy, like three year old girls trying to push the other girls off the swings.
I think the whole scoreboard pointing thing originates with Tony Hanohoe who in one match during the 1970s took virtually no part in proceedings other than to drag the opposing centre half back out towards the sideline thus allowing free passage for Mullins and Brogan to bear down on goal and supply the ammunition for the inside forwards.
Dublin won easily and as the whistle sounded Hanahoe’s marker informed him with glee that he had held him scoreless. Hanahoe’s response was to advise him to peruse the scoreboard. Not perhaps put so politely.
Anyway, my point is that the correct response to the last minute outbreak of hissy fits in theory ought to have been just to walk away. The Laois players only looked ridiculous acting the hard chaw after being soundly beaten and singularly lacking hard chawedness when faced with the inconvenience of, well, a Dublin player actually facing them. Brogan and Bonner instead chose to simply point out that it was all too late. Game over. Oh, and sorry to disappoint you but I am not going to respond by smacking you one in the gob and missing the All Ireland quarter final. Good luck now.
Vaughan’s “taunting” of your man is also not nice to see but many forwards now engage in this sort of thing. Ironically it did however turn the tables on a player who spent the entire match attempting to provoke Vaughan into retaliation through various means. Unfortunately for Rooney he showed considerably less grace under pressure himself and was hoisted by his own petard when the jitters caused him to fumble an easy catch that led directly to Dublin’s second goal. Dear oh dear. Back to the psychological warfare workshops boys.
Last weekend’s results in both provincial and qualifier matches means that only 12 teams remain in the football, and eight in the hurling. The two big shocks were Mayo exiting at the hands of a Derry team who I thought looked dreadful against Monaghan but who are now a force to be reckoned with and Tipperary beating Cork.
Possibly even more disappointed than Cork were Waterford who now have to play them again in the quarter finals. They are well capable of doing so and will probably be slight favourites but I doubt it was something that they would have chosen themselves.
The two quarter finals being played this week, Tipperary v Wexford and Kilkenny v Galway on the face of it seem predictable enough. I would see it as virtually impossible for Galway to overturn the Cats but the other match might be closer. Wexford usually manage to raise their game at least once every year and if nothing else will be attempting to salvage some pride following their humiliation at the hands of the Cats. But unfortunately that is probably the best they can hope for and Babs will be with us for another while at least.
The football qualifiers are between Cork and Louth, Laois and Derry, Donegal and  Monaghan and Meath and Galway. It is always a dangerous business trying to pick the winners of qualifiers but sure I’ll have a go. If you’re betting just pick the opposite.
Cork should be too strong for Louth. Meath and Galway is a difficult one to call but Meath may reap the benefit of their earlier games while Galway looked totally disorganised against Sligo. Even their dismissal of Mayo has to be called into question in the light of the latter’s tame exit at the hands of Derry. So we’ll plump for the Royals. Both of the above matches are in Portlaoise on Saturday.
Donegal and Monaghan will be an intriguing encounter. Monaghan were by no means embarrassed in their defeat by Tyrone whereas Donegal haven’t really built on the promise of the league success and their win over Armagh. Again, a victory that no longer perhaps looks as impressive as it did at first sight. I’ll go for Monaghan here.
The remaining qualifier is between Derry and Laois. I saw the Monaghan Derry match and it was awful stuff. Apparently, of the last half an hour on the clock, almost 25 minutes were taken up by stoppages. Derry were savaged by their own supporters and pundits following this and have been impressive since, knocking out two of the first five in the betting.
Laois, on the other hand, will have to pick themselves up off the ground following their third successive defeat by Dublin. You just get the impression that Laois do not regard themselves as putative contenders beyond winning Leinster. Curiously that worked in their favour last year when they beat Tyrone and had chances of beating Mayo before exiting following a replay.
If Liam Kearns can re-instil confidence in them they have the football to at least give Derry a match. Derry, having watched the Leinster final, will probably feel that physically they have the measure of Laois. That might be deceptive and I’m going to plump for the outsider again.
The winners of the above will have Kerry, Tyrone, Dublin and Sligo waiting for them in the quarter finals. So we can see the way things are shaping up. No doubt there will be further upsets but you would imagine that the eventual winner will come from the first three above with Kerry favoured to repeat last year’s success. It is beginning to get interesting.
Oh, and COYBIB!

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