Our writers round-up the biggest talking points from the weekend's League action...
It’s a toss-up who benefited more from the glamour clash of the football weekend in Tralee. Kerry’s talented youngsters passed a rigorous test of their mettle against the All-Ireland champions. In doing so, however, they’ve also given Jim Gavin’s season a proper leg-up. Kerry are coming, that seems pretty certain. I’m getting excited at what their forward line will look like come championship time.
Might they go with four out-and-out forwards and two grafters? Clifford, Geaney, O’Donoghue, Sean O’Shea, and Stephen O’Brien might have seemed in pole position at the start of the year, but suddenly there’s a different conversation kicking off.
Will Cork stick with their defensive-oriented setup and style of play when it has yet to win them a game in this year’s league as well as the hearts of any purist?
Ronan McCarthy made it clear after his team’s loss in Ennis yesterday that they would, alluding to the fact they had conceded just 0-8 (against Fermanagh) and 1-10 (against Kildare) before being hit for 3-13 by Clare.
“It’s disappointing to see what we did after being so defensively sound for the first two leagues.
“But we’re not going to go away from what we’re doing and we’ll try and keep it going and we have two weeks to get it right for the Meath game.”
The priority, obviously, is to be hard to score against and hard to beat ahead of being easy to watch. But if it’s hard to play that way — as in it’s not much fun to do so — can the players have the enthusiasm and verve to play well enough to win?
In trying to catch up with how football has evolved post-2010, Cork with this defensive system may be behind the times again.
After setting the example of how to use the offensive mark against Dublin, Monaghan only managed two in Inniskeen yesterday.
Conor McManus caught the ball for both of them but none produced scores. Despite a strong wind in the first half which one might think would have given more cause to use the experimental rule, Galway virtually ignored it.
None of the new rules made this awful game of football any better, which will be some cause for concern given they are leading teams.
Division 2 has proven to be the most competitive and closely fought of the four tiers.
Three points is all that separates Meath (four points) at the head of the table and Cork (one) at the foot of Division 2, while there are only two points between counties in the promotion and relegation spots (second-placed Fermanagh are on four, while seventh-placed Armagh are on two).
This is one division where it is absolutely certain that nothing will be guaranteed until the final round of games.
“This division is all over the place,” said Tipperary’s Liam Kearns. “Everything is still up for grabs, promotion and relegation. To me, we need three more points to do what we want to do, which is to stay in Division 2.”
Donegal, despite their first loss of the campaign, remain favourites to finish top of Division 2, particularly with three of their remaining four games to be played at home. “We have to be better and have to be more clinical than we were here (in Thurles). We can’t make mistakes like that again,” Declan Bonner said.
Many in Mayo were quick to slam the selection of Ger Cafferkey at full-back ahead of Saturday night’s game, with many taking to social media to express their ‘thoughts’.
The Ballina man has, arguably, not been the same player since a severe hamstring injury in 2016.
However, he left with the man-of-the-match prize on Saturday evening with a display reminding everyone why he is an All Star full-back. His manager James Horan was clearly aware of the criticism when he was asked about it afterwards.
“Those fans who give out about Ger Caff... I really don’t understand it.
“We’ve open sessions here every Tuesday and Friday and if they want to come down and see how he’s playing, it might give them a better idea of the type of form that he is in. I think it (Cavan) was one of his best games.
“We gave away so many turnovers and they had numbers back so they were attacking in numbers and they tried to isolate Ger in there.
“I just thought he was superb, he was simply outstanding tonight.”