PATIENCE is a virtue. That was certainly the case for the 81,624 attendance at Croke Park last Sunday.
Eventually, they witnessed Dublin come good to beat Donegal by 0-8 to 0-6 in the second All-Ireland Football Championship semi-final. And the one thing everyone can be certain about is that the final against Kerry -- Dublin's first since they won in 1996 -- is going to be an awful lot better.
It, very definitely, could not be much worse. Credit must go to a 14-man Dublin for coming good to snatch a deserved victory but this was a semi-final that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Chief amongst them was Donegal's ultra-defensive approach. Manager Jim McGuinness makes no apologies for getting as many men behind the ball as is possible.
He has, after all, led Donegal to the Ulster Championship and an All-Ireland semi-final after many years in the wilderness. Following Sunday's clash McGuinness commented that he structures his team to suit the talent available and to win.
Quite remarkably, they looked like doing just that for much of the semi-final. Who, for example, have imagined that Dublin could only muster two points in the first half?
Unfortunately for McGuinness, however, it was impossible for Donegal to maintain such a workrate for the entire match. They simply ran out of gas and Dublin's patient approach brought them a hard earned victory.
If ever there was a case for saying that semi-finals are for winning, this was it. In the case of Donegal, they didn't care about what the pundits thought, entertainment didn't come into it, they were out there to get a result.
As for Dublin, they were completely at odds against Donegal's defensive, short passing approach, until the second half. Even then, they could only mange two points from play in the entire match.
Besides Donegal running out of steam, there were a number of factors that turned the game. One was the introduction of Kevin McManamon as a half-time Dublin substitute, another was the fact that the Dubs showed considerably more composure after the interval.
In a strange way, the sending off of Diarmuid Connolly in the 58th minute may have helped. Connolly was red-carded after an altercation with Marty Boyle.
One thing this Dublin side is not lacking is character and from there on Dublin were in control.
Part of that was down to their ability to lift their game but another factor was Donegal's inability to use the extra man.
They just weren_t geared to change their system and attack. Dublin, although not at their best, had that extra bit of craft that brought about the vital scores.
Possibly the less said about the first half, the better. It was that bad. Still, Donegal weren't complaining as they led by 0-4 to 0-2 with Kevin Cassidy and Colm McFadden getting the pick of the points.
Dublin were all at sea. Their policy of trying for long-range points didn't work with the normally reliable Alan Brogan hitting four wides.
Half-time and the introduction of McManamon undoubtedly changed matters. That said, Donegal could very easily have made life considerably more difficult for the Dubs had their most effective forward McFadden not seen his shot fly just over the bar instead of going into the net at the start of the second half.
A goal at that stage would have put Donegal 1-4 to 0-2 clear. Instead it was 0-5 to 0-2 and Dublin begin to cut into the Ulster champions' lead, mainly through the free-taking of Bernard Brogan and goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton.
Brogan finished with 0-4, all from frees, while Cluxton with 0-2, also from placed balls, was Dublin's second top scorer. The remaining two points were to come in the final 10 minutes from the impressive McManamon and Bryan Cullen.
In both cases, Bernard Brogan made important assists, particularly for the second effort that saw him deliver a great pass to Cullen. At the finish, Dublin were just happy to come away with the victory.
Manager Pat Gilroy wasn't about to get into a battle of words, instead preferring to stress that it was up to Donegal to decide their own tactics. He admitted that it was a very difficult match.
"We knew that it was not going to be pretty. Donegal really put their bodies on the line. I think we had to keep probing and eventually we started to fine some space.
"Every point was going to be at a premium today and you just had to be patient. The only thing to do with semi-finals is win them and that is it," he said.
But the win did some at a cost with the sending off of Connolly and injuries to Rory O'Carroll and Paul Flynn. Connolly, the star of the quarterfinal success over Tyrone, now looks set to miss the final although Dublin could appeal on the basis that Boyle made a meal of the incident.
McGuinness, quite rightly, stressed that Donegal's chances were dealt a blow with the loss of their experienced defender Karl Lacey in the 46th minute. But he added that Dublin deserved their success.
A for his team's tactics, he was unapologetic. He said: "The pundits can have their opinions, but my job is to try and put medals in our players pockets. We have a young team and we need to go away now and see if we can make our squad stronger.
"We never said we were the finished article at any stage. We said we are work in progress and we are very early in our development," McGuinness said.
The question now is whether Dublin are the finished article. We will find that out when they face Kerry in the All-Ireland final on Sept. 18.
Young Dubliners get past Galway
DUBLIN will be involved in both finals on Sept. 18 following their hard-earned 1-11 to 1-9 victory over Galway in a very hard fought All-Ireland Minor Football Championship semi-final at Croke Park on Sunday.
Galway proved much more difficult opponents than had been anticipated. Initially, things went very much as planned for the Dubs, a superb Scott Fulham goal giving them the lead in the opening minute.
But Galway, inspired by Conor Rabbitte and Shane Walsh, hit back to lead 1-8 to 1-5 in the second half before Dublin regained control. Much of the credit must go to duel star Ciaran Kilkenny who hit four of their last five points.
Dublin, managed by form senior star Dessie Farrell, will now face Tipperary in what promises to be a top class final.
Cork in women's final
CORK are though to the final of the All-Ireland Ladies Senior Football Final after beating Laois by 4-10 to 1-6.
The goalscoring power of Cork captain Amy O'Shea was a major factor in the semi-final. O'Shea hit a hat-trick of second half goals to set up a final against either Monaghan or Kerry on September 25 at Corke Park.
Warm-up loss ahead of WC opener vs. USA
THE Irish rugby squad left this week to prepare for the World Cup in New Zealand after a hugely disheartening warm-up campaign.
Saturday's final outing saw them lose 20-9 to England at the Aviva Stadium. While it is disappointing to lose at any time to England, the real setback was the manner of the Irish performance.
The truth is that they rarely gave the 48,523 crowd anything to cheer about. All of Ireland_s points came from the boot of Ronan O'Gara and they never really looked capable of scoring a try.
It was much to easy for an England side who scored two tries through their powerful centre Manu Tuilagi and substitute Delon Armitage. Jonny Wilkinson, with two conversion and two penalties, was responsible for the reminder of the scores.
To make matters worse, Munster flanker David Wallace is out of the World Cup after sustaining a knee injury 22 minutes into Saturday encounter. Conor Jennings has been brought into the squad as a replacement.
With Brian O'Driscoll and Sean O'Brien nursing injuries, the situation is becoming increasing worrying for Ireland. In addition, prop Cian Healy will travel out four days late to New Zealand because of an eye injury and could miss the opening match against the USA on Saturday week.
There were also problems with Jamie Heaslip (concussion) and Jerry Flannery (shin) but coach Declan Kidney feels they should definitely be okay for the USA match. It's probably a good thing that Ireland will be playing the unfancied USA first time out as they badly need to regain some confidence.
On current form, they have little or no chance of beating their second opponents Australia, conquers of the All Blacks last Saturday. Most importantly, Ireland have to get back to doing the basics well.
They could do precious little right against England. Outmuscled at the breakdown, ineffective in the line-outs and badly lacking ideas in the back division, they just never got going.
No doubt, the USA will take some encouragement but really Ireland, for all their difficulties, should still prove too strong. Their big problem is the second pool game against Australia just six days later.
Potentially the final pool game against Italy will also prove a major hurdle, leaving Ireland with the prospect of not making the quarter-finals. Of course, things can change very quickly.
At least that was Kidney hopes. He argues that the decision to go with four warm-up games was the right one, despite the injuries and results.
"We needed the games, to me that was apparent. We haven't got the results we wanted but we are the better for the games. There is obvious work to be done but I can see us coming together now.
Let's hope he is right. But Kidney does need his luck to change. Wallace will be a major loss and Ireland simply cannot do without O'Driscoll or O'Brien.
Irish move up in field hockey
IRELAND recorded their best ever position in the European Hockey Championships by beating Spain 3-2 in Monchedgaldbach, Germany.
They could thank Jimmy Cockram for finishing in fifth spot in the tournament. Cockham struck twice in the final six minutes to give Ireland the most dramatic of victories against their highly rated opponents.
Brave cricketers fail vs. England
THE Irish cricket team made a brave attempt to beat England in a one-day international at Castle Avenue in Dublin.
England, captained by Irishman Eoin Morgan, finished with 201 for eight after 42 overs. Morgan was the top scorer with 59.
Because of rain interruptions, Ireland were set a target of 87 runs in 10 over with eight wicket left. They made a decent go of it, Kevin O'Brien bring back memories of the World Cup by hitting a rapid 26.
But Ireland eventually finished 11 runs short on 117 for eight after 22.5 overs.