JOHN FOGARTY: This season’s top 10 hot trends in the Championship

Limerick manager TJ Ryan attempts to diffuse a row at the end of the first half in last Sunday's Munster SHC quarter-final clash with Clare at Semple Stadium.  Picture: Dáire Brennan/Sportsfile

As sure as night follows day, the opening of the championship prompts the usual suspect collection of talking points. The structure of the competition.

Overbearing referees. Just what players will skip the qualifiers and head to the US for the summer? Different year but the same old story. However, two weekends in earnest into this year’s competitions and the hot topics of conversation are varied and plentiful. Here are just 10 of them:

Time-keeping

There was confusion in Thurles last Sunday when the fourth official showed the number 4 on his electronic board as the Munster SHC quarter-final approached additional time.

A moment earlier, the figure 1 had been shown on the board, which tallied with what was mentioned over the tannoy. However, the Clare management and the players clearly felt much more injury-time should have been played. Clare may feel they were due an apology but the controversy raised the issue of the vanquished clock/hooter once more. Why was it jettisoned again?

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Hurling’s advantage rule

Mentioned by Anthony Daly in this newspaper last Monday and highlighted by Ger Cunningham after Dublin’s Division 1 semi-final defeat, there have indeed been teething problems for the new measure introduced at the tail-end of the league.

No two referees are the same but on what has been seen there doesn’t appear to be much consistency in how the rule is implemented. Colm Lyons used it freely in Thurles last Sunday. Will James McGrath or Barry Kelly be as liberal with it in Croke Park this weekend or Semple Stadium on Sunday week?

Half-time bust-ups

For Ballybofey, read Thurles. For Thurles, read Ballybofey. The fines dished out to Donegal and Tyrone in light of their half-time row were justified although Tyrone should have remained on the pitch, as indicated by Mickey Harte’s actions. The half finished with a physical exchange just as it did in Semple Stadium seven days’ later. Were referees to blow for the interval when the ball was out of play, it would likely avoid such scenes. However, this idea was dismissed by Croke Park and then Congress as part of the clock/hooter proposals.

Team Ulster

Dónal Óg Cusack was again beating the drum for Team Ulster after Antrim’s relegation to the 2016 Christy Ring Cup last weekend. Such an idea, which has the backing in principle of high officials in the GAA, is too drastic. Antrim last year topped the Leinster qualifiers. Five years ago, they beat Dublin in a qualifier. Two years ago, they reached an U21 All-Ireland final. The county can return to the top level and quicker than some may imagine. But there are challenges: Belfast, for one, is a hurling wasteland. If Antrim and hurling truly is the concern then focus must be on the county, not the province.

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Punditry

Sky Sports have yet to make their championship debut but rather than steal a march on them RTÉ have been shipping criticism about their analysis be it Joe Brolly’s crass remark about Marty Morrissey or how Cavan, Carlow and London have been portrayed in the first two weekends. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest the GAA fan has become a more discerning creature. Sensationalism is quickly becoming a turn-off. RTÉ, to be fair, seem to realise that.

Referee-players communication

At the end of last Sunday’s Ulster quarter-final in Cavan town, the home side’s Martin Dunne shot for a point and it appeared there would be enough time for them to launch another attack having cut the gap to one point. However, referee Pádraig Hughes blew for full-time almost as soon as Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan restarted the game.

Should Dunne have been informed of what was left? It’s not as if we haven’t been here before — Cillian O’Connor and Colm O’Neill’s cases come to mind. Again, that phrase — clock/hooter.

HawkEye in Thurles

Anyone who saw the small construction site between the Old (Kinane) Stand and the Town End in Semple Stadium last Sunday would realise the installation of HawkEye at the stadium is still some way off.

But recent disputed scoring decisions involving Bill Cooper and Shane Dowling will do nothing but exert pressure on the technology to be put into operation in Thurles as quickly as possible.

Sledging

It was all the rage last week but there was little or no mention of it this past weekend. Don’t let that fool you: Verbal abuse will again be an earnest matter before the end of the summer.

If the games wasn’t before the watershed, RTÉ might turn up their microphones to 11 when Armagh and Donegal face off in the Athletic Grounds on June 14.

Davy Fitzgerald knows only too well the power of the national broadcaster’s technology.

The black card

A failure in the opinion of Mickey Harte. That might be pushing it.

Nobody said the black card was going to be the answer to all cynicism in football but when it’s not even being shown for clear-cut offences therein lies the problem.

Just as much of a difficulty is when they shouldn’t be shown.

For example, Martin Reilly’s last Sunday when Colin Walshe as much helped himself to the ground. Simulation, which is also a black card offence, is something referees have yet to begin to flush out.

Persecution (complexes)

One week Tyrone, the next week Clare, just who will be next to claim or hint at claiming they have been the victims of gross injustice?

Whether true or not, both counties will adopt “us against the world” attitudes.

Siege mentalities can be pretty useful things but feeding them from the outset of the championship until September can be taxing if not unsustainable.

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