The main talking points from this weekend’s Allianz League action.
Clifford to the manor born
Other than a promising first half that was never backed up, there weren’t many positives for Kerry to take from yesterday evening in Croke Park. What Éamonn Fitzmaurice did learn, he probably already knew.
David Clifford is ready for senior football, as is Seán O’Shea, and if either are not on the senior panel for the Munster semi-final against Clare or Limerick on June 2, then it will come as a surprise.
That means Jack O’Connor may start kissing goodbye his hopes of holding onto the pair. Clifford’s influence might have been curtailed in the second half by Jonny Cooper but the trouble he caused Cian O’Sullivan bodes well, and Croke Park is as to his liking at senior level as it was at minor.
O’Shea’s game ended at half-time due to injury but there was enough exhibited by the Kenmare teen to prove he will be good to go that Saturday evening in Killarney. It wasn’t a coincidence Kerry’s half-forward line disappointed after his departure.
What is the smart approach to sideline cuts?
The last couple of years have seen a growing market in converted sideline cuts in inter-county hurling, and yesterday in Semple Stadium we had two of the better exponents, Mark Coleman of Cork and Ronan Maher of Tipperary.
Neither man managed a point, however, and Maher cut two efforts wide. It revives a long- running argument — or at least as long-running as the sideline point has existed — about the efficiency of the sideline as a chance to score.
Ignore the blather about the skill being worth two points and wear your stat-hat. If you convert one in three, one in four sidelines you aim at the posts, wouldn’t it be far better to keep them in play rather than offering your opponent a free restart? (Feel free to bring this article up when Messrs Coleman and Maher hit five sidelines each over the bar next weekend, by the way.)
Limerick’s deep well of talent
Lest we forget, Limerick’s come-from-behind victory on the home patch of the All-Ireland champions was achieved without the 10 Na Piarsaigh players included in John Kiely’s 2018 panel over the winter.
Mike Casey, Peter Casey, David Dempsey and Shane Dowling, all of whom will feature for Na Piarsaigh at GAA HQ on St Patrick’s Day, were championship starters for Limerick in 2017. There’s also Kevin Downes to factor in.
Also absent was Seamus Hickey and the injured Darragh O’Donovan, the latter began the opening games of this league at centre-forward for Limerick.
Above all else, Limerick’s 2015 and 2017 All-Ireland U21 wins have brought much-needed depth to the senior set-up. Kyle Hayes was introduced as a sub yesterday, struck the all-important second goal.
Pat Ryan, introduced late on, showed a clean pair of heels to the Galway full-back line to land the insurance score.
Programme gaffe in Walsh Park
Walsh Park has come in for some criticism in the past over its pitch, but yesterday the grounds looked absolutely splendid. Walking across the turf afterwards, the field was in great condition.
What a pity they won’t be able to host their two home games in the championship against Cork and Tipperary come summer time.
Alas, despite a decent match programme being produced yesterday, the Waterford team that was named during the week was not the one that appeared in the programme.
There is a lot of talk surrounding the naming of dummy teams these days. But, this wasn’t the case this time.
It looked like a team from another day was the one pencilled in. We had to make seven changes to the starting 15. It seems a bit unfair to everybody, especially to the punters when you are charging €3.
Rebels rise but Royals not flush
Meath and Cork lit up the 1988 championship with a couple of ferocious All-Ireland finals.
The Royals eventually came out on top and much has been written about the two counties’ slide since then.
Cork are at least uncovering some new options around the field and are apparently making progress. If they went back up to Division 1 for 2019 they might even stay up.
Meath talked about promotion after beating Clare in round 2 but three defeats in a row shows they’re clearly not ready for it.
In fact, they look as far away from emulating their heroes of ‘88 as at any point since then.
Ref justice for Lilywhites
One week after Kildare manager Cian O’Neill was livid with the dismissal of centre-half back Eoin Doyle for two yellows, he was fulsome in his praise for Sunday’s referee Martin McNally.
Doyle was sent off for two yellow cards, the second of which was for not wearing a gum shield.
However on Sunday, O’Neill revealed how referee Martin McNally potentially helped them keep 15 on the field.
Despite playing well, and just after scoring a point, Kevin Flynn was taken off. O’Neill revealed that he had been informed via the referee that Flynn was on a yellow and a ticking.
“It was an example of good officiating whereby the referee got word to the linesman who got word to me that ‘one more and he’s gone’,” said O’Neill.
Quinlivan doing a Bergkamp
Dennis Bergkamp famously scooped first, second and third place in the BBC’s goal of the month competition back in 1997. Though the Dutchman did get all three in the same game.
Tipp’s Michael Quinlivan is spreading out his collection of wonder strikes, knocking in another brilliant goal against Louth yesterday after a splendid Tipp move that became with goalkeeper Ciaran Kenrick.
It followed similarly breathtaking strikes by the Commercials man against Cork, Roscommon, Meath.
The goal aside, he might have been quiet enough against Louth yesterday, but he has already put together an impressive body of work for any goal of the league competitions.
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