BBC BLOGS - Austin O'Callaghan

Archives for July 2010

Down face huge task against Kerry

Austin O'Callaghan | 15:42 UK time, Wednesday, 28 July 2010

When you have just watched your native county ship a 19-point defeat in the championship, you hope that your getaway from the ground will be swift and low-key.

Long before the final whistle at Breffni Park last Saturday evening, most Sligo supporters had already slipped into WB Yeats mode: "I will arise and go now...."

But no such luck for this hapless Sligoman. As the players were shaking hands at the end of the game, I bumped into a group of Down supporters. I say bumped - they spotted me and made a bee-line.

charlie harrison and benny coulter.jpg
Sligo's Charlie Harrison and Benny Coulter of Down in action in the last round of qualifiers. Can Down reproduce their impressive Breffni Park form against Kerry?

To their credit, it wasn't to gloat. Instead, one Clonduff woman gave me a sympathetic hug. It didn't ease the pain but I appreciated the gesture.

I have no excuses to make here about Sligo. The six-day turnaround from the Connacht final can only explain so much.

There was a complete system malfunction against Down. The Mourne men were impressive. Maybe Sligo made them look very impressive but the Ulstermen can be justifiably proud of the way they played.

Truth be told, the scoreline probably flattered Sligo in the end. The obvious question now is. can Down reproduce that sort of performance against Kerry? Will they be allowed to?

On our Championship Facebook page this week, you can watch a discussion about the Kingdom between three of Down's most famous footballers, Paddy Doherty, Kevin Mussen and Joe Lennon.

Each man captained Down to the All-Ireland during the 60s. And Kerry were beaten along the way each time.

As you will see, the argument that they might have won a fourth Sam Maguire in that decade continues to this day. I hope history repeats itself this weekend in Dublin. But it is a big ask, make no mistake. Kerry, even without the suspended Paul Galvin and Tomas O'Se, are formidable.

On balance, I would be more confident about Tyrone's prospects against the Dubs. It is not a foregone conclusion, but we are privileged to be watching the best generation of footballers Ulster has ever produced. And I have a hunch there is more to come from them.

Whether you are a neutral, or a supporter of one of the four competing counties, Saturday is a marquee day for the Championship. Both quarter-finals will be televised live on BBC2 NI from 1345 BST.

We are making a few team changes ourselves this week. Peter Canavan and Martin McHugh will be part of our match commentary teams at Croke Park.

Back in studio, Jarlath Burns will have Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney and Fermanagh's Rory Gallagher sitting either side of him.

What questions would you like me to put to the panel? Let me know and I will try to get through as many of them as I can during the programme.

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