Championship Talking Points: Too early to say Meath can put it up to Dublin?

Shane Kingston of Cork is tackled by Shane McNulty of Waterford during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 4 match between Cork and Waterford at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Calculators at the ready

This much we know: Waterford are dead, Clare are on life support. To take the third qualifying spot next Sunday from the Munster Hurling Championship, the Banner must beat Cork and hope Limerick at least draw with Tipperary. That would knock Cork out on the head-to-head.

In other permutations, wins for Tipp and Cork would see them meet in the Munster final, with Limerick taking the third qualifying spot. A win for Cork and a draw between Tipp and Limerick would have the same outcome.

Wins for Limerick and Cork would see three teams tied on six points. Unless Cork register an enormous win over Clare (or Limerick maul Tipp), Limerick and Tipp would meet in the final. Tipp hold a 25-point advantage over Cork in scoring difference, and a seven-point advantage over Limerick.

- Larry Ryan

Cluxton the colossus sets the bar

There was a sort of symmetry yesterday that on the 83rd birthday of Gaelic football’s greatest manager, Mick O’Dwyer, the game’s greatest goalkeeper was making his record 100th championship appearance.

In delivering another clean sheet, Stephen Cluxton was tested on a couple of occasions. The first-half save from Ben McCormack’s shot wasn’t the most difficult in the world, but in denying Keith Cribbin in the second half, he once again illustrated both his relevance as a shot-stopper and his all-round game management.

Jim Gavin hailed his captain’s ability to treat every game the same, highlighting he attached no extra significance to yesterday: “From talking to Stephen, you wouldn’t even think of that (100th game). His application and preparation this week was again right on the money.

“It shows his dedication, his commitment to Gaelic games, first and foremost, to his club, Parnells, and, by extension, to Dublin GAA.

“I suppose he sets a great example for all of the players in terms of his relentless pursuit of trying to be the best he can be, on and off the field of play. That’s a great example to leave his fellow players.”

- John Fogarty

Munster attendances remarkably robust

On Saturday night in Cork there were 26,521 on hand in Páirc Uí Chaoimh for Cork V Waterford in the Munster Championship. Yesterday in the Gaelic Grounds, 29,611 saw Limerick beat Clare.

Attendances have been a hot topic since forever in the GAA — whether that’s because of people’s ongoing doubts about their accuracy, or for other concerns. Given the number of lopsided matches in the Munster Championship this year, those numbers are remarkably robust. Both games over the weekend weren’t the most competitive, for instance (don’t all raise your hands at once to say that that those attending don’t know how competitive the games will be ahead of time).

Given the demographics available in the province, the argument could be made that the figures compare very favourably with those in Leinster, particularly in Dublin, where Dublin-Kildare (36,126) formed part of a double-header, of course, with Laois-Meath.

A cause for complacency? No. But worth noticing.

- Michael Moynihan

Should Armagh stick with McGeeney?

Prior to the Ulster Championship, Armagh GAA’s chairman said that he would be quite happy for manager Kieran McGeeney to remain in the post beyond this season, which sounds like someone was taking advice from the FAI on guaranteeing managers their future prior to a major tournament.

Back at the end of 2014, McGeeney was told he had the job for five years, an unprecedented period of time within GAA managerial spells. Long-termism was at the heart of it of course, but the problem with that is, sooner or later the results have to come.

To date, only an extra-time winner in Newry over Down is in the credit margin. Will a long run in the qualifiers be enough to restore some credibility to Armagh? Some might be inclined to believe so, but for most counties, the backdoor can be a distraction. Few truly take it seriously anymore and the system is already tired.

For certain, Armagh are blessed with some magical footballers. But when a listing Cavan outfit are transformed in a matter of months since Mickey Graham finished up with Mullinalaghta, and Armagh are leaking 23 scores in a provincial semi-final, it all starts to get a bit ropey.

- Declan Bogue

Can we number Royals among standing contenders?

A few weeks into the football championship and already we’re wondering who is going to be the last team standing, the last county capable of actually giving Dublin a game. Tyrone can now add themselves to the list of counties tipped to challenge Dublin hard this summer that have already come up well short in their provincial campaign. Tyrone, Monaghan, and Mayo have all suffered surprise defeats and while we can’t be too hard on Kerry for going through the motions against Clare, they didn’t inspire a huge amount of confidence either. Peter Keane’s side, along with Galway and Donegal, are the three All-Ireland hopefuls still undefeated.

Perhaps we’re stretching it, but might we add Meath to that category? We will find out on Sunday when they reprise their old rivalry with Dublin in the Leinster final, admittedly a one-sided rivalry given that Meath last defeated them in 2010. So far this year Andy McEntee’s men have played 11 league and Championship games and won nine of them, losing twice to Donegal. They still haven’t played a Division 1 team, but if they can get within, say, eight points of Dublin on June 23, they’ll believe they can have a say in the All-Ireland race in the weeks that follow.

- Paul Keane

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