What’s trending in Gaelic football right now?

Blanket defence? Hand-passes a-go-go? Yes, but what styles or attitudes are unique to the protagonists as they shake up for the forthcoming championship? We analyse the top 10.

What’s trending in Gaelic football right now?

Cork's on-running goals

Mid-range kick-pass from Fintan Goold into Donal Óg Hodnett. Hodnett feeds the ball to Conor Dorman who's half-muffled shot falls to Jamie O'Sullivan. Goal. Brian Hurley recovers a long ball about to go dead. He sends a looping hand-pass across the square to an unmarked Tomás Clancy. Goal. Colm O'Driscoll kicks into Colm O'Neill who quickly offloads to the rushing O'Sullivan. He hand-passes again to an isolated John O'Rourke who gets the necessary touch. Goal. Dorman takes receipt of an overhead hand-pass and solos to within seven metres of the goal. He squares a hand-pass to Brian Hurley. Goal. Four league games (Dublin, Donegal, Kerry, Mayo respectively), four similarly executed goals by Cork - and there were more. For all the defensive attributes thrown at them, they are still committing numbers from their back-line to attacks.

Kerry's indifference

Never have Cork treated a victory with as much scepticism as their win over Kerry in Páirc Uí Rinn last month. As this newspaper demonstrated in the run-up to that game, what happens in the league between the neighbours traditionally isn't repeated come the summer. Eamonn Fitzmaurice may have been unhappy with the performance but Kerry weren't showing their hand as they indulged themselves in a first-half shoot-out with Cork before cooling the jets. Losing to Monaghan at home is the type of result we've come to expect from Kerry in recent league campaigns. For Monaghan 2015, read Derry 2014. Games they can and they should be winning they haven't. Manna for suspicious minds.

Donegal's tried and trusted

Last year, Jim McGuinness started just 16 players in Donegal's first five Division 2 games. Rory Gallagher has been a little bit more experimental but not much: at the same stage this year (after five Division 1 games) Donegal had started 18. Since then, Michael Boyle has got a run in goals and Anthony Thompson has come into the reckoning but the Donegal team is the nearest thing to a closed book. Guess which team will face Tyrone in Ballybofey in just three weeks' time and the chances are you won't be far wrong.

Dublin's blurred lines

The Derry and Tyrone games were contributory factors but Dublin's scoring rate was down in the league proper this year compared to Jim Gavin's previous two campaigns - almost 10% worse than 2014 and close to 12% poorer than 2013. At the same time, their concession return has much improved - over 25% better on 2014 and over 2% on 2013. Conceding just two goals is a proud record and, as Jim Gavin was keen to point out, while they conceded a goal against Cork, Brian Cuthbert's side had just two attempts at goal the entire game. On Newstalk on Thursday evening, James Horan made the valid point that an over-emphasis on minding the back will make the margins tighter for Dublin.

Mayo's profligacy

Keith Higgins offered a wry smile when it was put to him just after the commencement of the league that Mayo have a habit of sneaking into the league's knock-out stages. But they do: in the previous three seasons they finished fourth twice and third once. Donegal edged them out on score difference this year but Mayo can't glean anything from such a close-run thing. Their conversion rate was dreadful this spring. In that winner-takes-all clash with Donegal in the final round, they made less than 43% of their shots, 33% in the second half. They posted a whopping 15 wides against Tyrone. Chances are at least being created but aren't being taken.

Monaghan's main man

It is a compliment to Conor McManus that he looks as comfortable on his own in the full-forward line as he does with Kieran Hughes alongside him. The only thing is he is becoming more acquainted with being on his lonesome and there is no better footballer around who can win a free. No matter what managers might say, that is an art. Against Cork in Castleblayney, McManus won six of the eight frees he converted. Last day out in the semi-final defeat to Dublin, he was just as slippery. Opposition managers will be inclined to stick a sweeper in front of him but McManus is that elusive he would fancy his chances of winning a free with two defenders in close proximity as he would with one.

Tyrone's aging firefighters

It showed the level of esteem in Tyrone for Mickey Harte that there were few dissenting voices after he suffered a third consecutive Ulster SFC defeat to Donegal two seasons ago. He defiantly predicted shortly after that game in Ballybofey that Tyrone would still be around at the business end of the season: they made the All-Ireland semi-finals. However, Harte is now without Conor Gormley who he could assign to pretty much anywhere in defence to smother a flame. Part of Harte's success has been his coaching of players to operate sufficiently in several positions around the field. The problem is that flexibility isn't there anymore. Most of his jacks of all trades are in their 30s.

Armagh's special one

It's often said that Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson before him had such big personalities that they were able to take the pressure off their teams. Kieran McGeeney has the ability to do the same. It might have been McGuinness who epitomised the cult of the manager but the Armagh man wasn't too far behind him. While he demands absolute loyalty, players can at least be assured his presence on the sideline will alleviate the onus on them. Division 3 silverware, pardon the pun, copperfastens his status as Armagh's great hope of repeating 2002.

Down's DNA dedication

Jim McCorry may be an Armagh man but there appears to be a commitment to Down's brand of attacking football. In all but one of their seven Division 2 games they raised a green flag. In two outings, they found the net on three occasions. They mightn't have been all that convincing in Newry but on their travels they've also shown a discipline to their defensive work. Marrying those two opposing emphases is onerous but McCorry is clever enough to give Down supporters something of what they're accustomed to.

Roscommon's away day steel

Like Down, Roscommon fared better on the road this spring and actually won three of four fixtures away from Dr Hyde Park. In Division 3 the season before, they claimed two victories on the three occasions they were on their travels not to mention beating Cavan in the Croke Park final. It wouldn't be paying John Evans too much credit to suggest that he is attempting to replicate what they face in the Connacht SFC. On May 24, they travel to Ruislip. Win that and they face Sligo outside the county.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up