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‘I genuinely believe that Mayo can win’



Eamonn Fitzgerald speaks to former Mayo footballer John Gibbons about Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final.

No Kerry v Tyrone game on Sunday due to COVID problems in Tyrone, so the focus is on Dublin and Mayo tomorrow in the All-Ireland semi-final.

It seems like an eternity since Mayo won the Sam Maguire. You have to go back to 1951, in fact, and since then they have lost finals in 1989, 1996 (after a replay), 1997, 2004, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2016 (after a replay), 2017 and 2020. There is just one member alive of that last Mayo team to win the Sam Maguire and that is the powerful Paddy Prendergast, who has been living in Tralee for over 40 years. Glad to say Paddy is alive and in good health.

Many of our readers will remember Willie McGee, the red-headed full forward who really almost single-handedly beat Kerry in an U21 All-Ireland final by scoring four goals. McGee and the stylish centre-forward John Gibbons later teamed up as the central plank of the Mayo senior attack, meeting Kerry in two NFL finals in the early seventies.

EF: John Gibbons and I were working colleagues, but in direct opposition in those finals. During the week I spoke to John in his Louisburgh home and first asked him how Mayo are coping without the injured Cillian O’Connor.

JG: Mayo have coped reasonably well without Cillian, but you cannot lose a player of his quality without seriously diminishing your forward line. He has been Mayo's star forward for years: no other Mayo forward has come close to him with his forward play, his scoring ability from play and, very importantly, his free-taking.

Free takers win All-Irelands. There is a list as long as your arm, from Tony McTeague, Jimmy Keaveney, and a longer list in Kerry alone. Think recently of Michael Murphy, Stephen Cluxton even, Dean Rock, someone who is able to score frees under the biggest pressure. That's what Mayo have lost in Cillian. Young Ryan O'Donoghue has done very well but he is untried at this level.

What of the other younger players?

Tommy Conroy has great talent and played very well in the second half against Galway, but he was anonymous in last year's All-Ireland. Darren McHale, another newcomer, was taken off at half-time against Galway. That's what you get from young players: inconsistency. They are talented but inconsistent and with only two experienced players in the forward line (Aidan O'Shea and Diarmuid O'Connor), it's expecting a lot of the young players to step up to the mark and it took the introduction of 'old-timer' Kevin McLoughlin at halftime against Galway to change the course of the game. I believe that Mayo will really miss Cillian - that will be their first real test without him.

How do you rate the new kids on the block, John?

Of the other newcomers Pádraig O'Hora at full back – provided he has recovered from a shoulder injury – is a fine prospect. He is physically strong and athletic, not afraid to tackle and break forward. He should have Lee Keegan beside him and probably Michael Plunkett in the other corner. I would expect the half back line to be Paddy Durcan, and we all know his ability, Young Player of the Year Oisín Mullen at centre back, and probably Eoghan McLaughlin or Stephen Coen at left half back. That line has the attacking potential to trouble Dublin. It's how they can handle their defensive duties against the Kilkenny, O’Callaghan, Rock – forwards and others who may well decide the match.

At midfield Mattie Ruane is developing into one of the best midfielders in the country but if the real Brian Fenton turns up, Mattie will have his hands full.

Aidan O’Shea has been a huge player for Mayo but has had a disappointing record in Croke Park, scoring so little in 6 outings. Where would you play him?

The dilemma of where to play Aidan O'Shea is a head-scratcher. I thought he had a marvellous game against Galway. His work rate is always top class and if you examine his displays, he never gets the amount of frees that he deserves. He will probably be fouled twice while in possession and yet will have a free given against him for over carrying. I would play him at full forward but I think he prefers to roam around the centre forward spot so that he's involved more in the play.

Are Dublin on the wane?

They are they still a strong force. However, if Mayo play against Dublin in the first half as they did against Galway then the game will be over by half-time regardless of whether Dublin are on the wane or not. Mayo were sloppy in the back line and gave away two sloppy goals. Their forwards in that first half were wasteful in the extreme. You won't get away with that against Dublin.

Having said that I believe Mayo will put it up to Dublin and that it will be a close encounter, as I genuinely believe they can win.


I take a different view to my friend John Gibbons. Dublin have not been beaten in six years and I expect them to continue on their way tomorrow. Yes, there are signs that they may not be as sharp as heretofore and have lost a few key players, none more influential than goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton. There was a big hullabaloo in the media that he never announced publicly that he had retired. He departed on his own terms. He owed Dublin or the GAA public nothing after a marvellous career. Fear ann féin is ea Cluxton. As far as I can recall, neither did Maurice Fitzgerald make a public announcement about his retirement.

Evan Comerford, the new Dublin keeper, is quite competent but has not yet perfected the skill of consistently finding teammate with the kickout. I wonder will Mayo press up on those kickouts. I believe they should because Dublin love to launch attacks from deep. They are superbly fit and are quite content to inter-pass and hold possession 50 yards from goal. They will not attempt Holy Mary kicks, with a high chance of failure. Hold the ball until a chink appears in the opposition’s defence and the ball is delivered to the player in the best position to score. This is usually predicated by the runner coming from deep. It could be anyone, not just running, but galloping at high speed. It may be Fenton, James McCarthy, Ciarán Kilkenny, Johnny Small, Con O’Callaghan, take your pick. Kerry folk will remember Eoin Murchan doing just that and scoring the goal that deprived us of the All-Ireland we should have won.

In the Leinster final Brian Fenton was largely invisible. He will be influential tomorrow.

For Mayo, Aidan O’Shea has to be a leader; he must lead from the front tomorrow, to inspire the young cohort playing with the big boys on the grand stage for the first time. I have been impressed by the progress of the young ones on the Mayo team and wish them well tomorrow.

Mayo bridesmaids once more? Unfortunately, I think so.


Ladies’ Semi-Final Preview: Armagh stand between Kerry and a third shot at glory



LGFA All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final

Kerry v Armagh

Saturday 7.15pm

O’Connor Park, Tullamore

Live on TG4

The Kerry ladies are just 60 minutes away from their third All-Ireland final in a row but they will have to bring their ‘A’ game to overcome the challenge of Armagh at O’Connor Park in Offaly later today.

The Kingdom have been installed as competition favourites after beating Meath (and after champions Dublin lost to Galway) in the quarters and they should be in confident form following that victory over the Royals in Tralee a fortnight ago.

However, they are unlikely to have it all their own way against an Armagh side who have beaten them twice already this season, in the league in March and then in the league final in Croke Park in April.

Losing star player Aimee Mackin to an ACL injury in the Ulster final came as a tremendous blow to the Orchard County. Mackin scored 2-6 (2-5 from play) and 1-4 (1-2) from play in the two games against Kerry this year so her teammates will have to make up the difference in her absence.

Kerry, meanwhile, have been buoyed by the return from an ACL injury of Síofra O’Shea, who scored 0-3 off the bench against Meath. The skilful trio of Danielle O’Leary (1-28, 3f), Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh (2-15, 9f) and Emma Dineen (4-5) have accounted for the bulk of the team’s scores this season with Hannah O’Donoghue and team captain Niamh Carmody also capable of finding the target.

Managers Declan Quill and Darragh Long will be hoping that this attacking threat coupled with the teak tough defending of Eilís Lynch, Deirdre Kearney and Aishling O’Connell will be enough to see them over the line. With the dependable Ciara Butler between the sticks, Kerry have kept three clean sheets in their last four games which is a record they would love to improve upon today.

Armagh, who haven’t played in a senior ladies’ football All-Ireland final since 2006, arrive at the semi-final stage on the back of wins over Meath and Mayo. Eve Lavery is their top scorer to date with 0-11 (7f) to her name. Blaithin Mackin, younger sister of Aimee, has chipped in with 1-5.

Kerry v Armagh will be preceded at O’Connor Park by the other All-Ireland semi-final between Galway and Cork. The Rebels last made the final in 2020 while The Tribeswomen are aiming to reach their first decider since 2019. Both counties lost to Dublin in those respective finals.

Galway v Cork starts at 5pm. Both matches will be shown live on TG4.

Kerry team to play Armagh: C Butler; E Lynch, K Cronin, C Murphy; A O’Connell, D Kearney, A Dillane; M O’Connell, A Galvin; N Carmody (captain), D O’Leary, N Ní Chonchúir; H O’Donoghue, E Dineen, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.

Armagh: A Carr; G Ferguson, C McCambridge (captain), R Mulligan; C Towe, L McConville, D Coleman; N Coleman, C O’Hanlon; E Druse, A McCoy, B Mackin; E Lavery, N Henderson, K Mallon.

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Jordan Lee vows to bounce back as injury ends 2024 Paralympic dream



Killarney high jumper Jordan Lee is determined to bounce back stronger than ever after announcing his withdrawal from the Paralympic Selection Process due to injury.

The Killarney Valley AC athlete, who represented Ireland at the Tokyo Games in 2021, was hoping to wear the green singlet again in Paris in August/September but he was forced to pull out “due to an injury that had developed over the past couple of weeks”.

“[To say that I’m] absolutely gutted is an understatement considering the season that we’ve just had and being ranked number 6 in the world rankings on the lead-up,” Lee said via Instagram.

“This is sport at the highest level and unfortunately this is an injury that couldn’t turn right in time for Paris which is only a few weeks away.”

The local lad went on to thank Killarney Valley and his coaches Tomás Griffin, Alan Delaney and Shane O’Rourke for their support, as well as his sponsors PTSB, Puma, Toyota, Kellihers Garage and Output Sports.

“To my family and my friends, I’ve always repped that Irish vest with the utmost pride, not just representing myself and my beautiful country, but my amazing family and friends that I have too. I love ye all.

“Wishing my teammates within Paralympics Ireland all the very best in Paris.

“Roll on 2025 for the Europeans. I’ll be back better and ready for vengeance. Believe that.”

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