A sign of things to come?
Kerry’s title success was doubly sweet as no team in Division 1 experimented heavier than the Kingdom throughout spring. Eamonn Fitzmaurice handed game time to 34 different players in total across their eight games. To put that figure into context, Monaghan, who came within a whisker of reaching the final themselves, used just 27. That Kerry weren’t just competitive but actually claimed honours while experimenting to that level will please their supporters most. Jack Savage and Ronan Shanahan started seven of their eight games, one more than Jack Barry and Kevin McCarthy. Gavin Crowley and Adrian Spillane came on for precious final experience at Croke Park too. Fitzmaurice was under particular pressure to look to youth this year, partly because the same group had consistently come up short to Dublin, though mainly because of the county’s three-in-a-row of minor successes. That supply line of talent is already kicking in and we could be talking about another green and gold era of dominance within five years.
Green shoots in Blue
It’ll get lost in the wash after a stinging defeat but Niall Scully has enjoyed a quite incredible four months or so in the blue of Dublin. The Templeogue Synge Street man was the first person called upon when Diarmuid Connolly was black carded. That was no surprise as Scully was the only player who’d started every other game before yesterday for Dublin in 2017. That includes the annual Dubs Stars challenge way back on New Years Day. Scully then lined out for all five of their Bord na Mona O’Byrne Cup games and all seven of their group games in the league. Ciaran Reddin, who lined out yesterday for his fourth start of the league, also put in the hard yards on January 1 and managed to hold onto his panel place, proof that it is possible to impress early on and hold onto a Dublin jersey.
Too much, too soon
Former Mayo star Conor Mortimer tweeted after Kerry’s victory in yesterday’s Allianz League final: “Dublin will learn more have no doubt.” Even as Jim Gavin was busily shaking the hands of Kerry players in the aftermath it was obvious that the debriefing session had already begun in Camp Dublin. Perhaps he was sizing up the new men that Eamonn Fitzmaurice sprang for this latest Croke Park instalment. The Kerry boss will be delighted to have the Dublin monkey off the Kingdom back but is there a slight fear that he showed too much of his hand, too soon in the season?
So exactly who is the second best team in Leinster?
Westmeath were beaten by Dublin in the last two Leinster finals and Meath contested the previous three. Westmeath would like to think they haven’t lost any ground in the race to reel in Dublin despite featuring in Division 4 this spring. But based on pure league rankings and how teams will line up for the 2018 season, the Leinster pecking order is currently as follows; Dublin, Kildare (both Division 1), Meath, Louth (both Division 2), Offaly, Longford, Westmeath, Wexford (all Division 3), Laois, Carlow, Wicklow (all Division 4).
Don’t write off Carlow
Back-to-back All-Ireland champions Dublin are pencilled in to play the winners of Wexford v Carlow in the Leinster championship. The expectation has been that Wexford will win and that ‘Banty’ McEnaney’s side will host the Dubs at Wexford Park on June 3. Carlow finished just a point off the promotion places though and beat Wexford, albeit a weakened Wexford team, by 10 points in Round 7. Saturday’s performance from Wexford didn’t inspire much confidence either. “Carlow are a decent team, I think it might be seen before the summer is out that they’re not a bad team at all,” said Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin.
Just how good are Kildare?
It had been suggested in certain quarters ahead of the concluding weekend of league action that the impressive showings of various Leinster teams this spring meant a slight closing of the gap in the province between Dublin and the chasing pack. It should be noted here that it was by no means a case of Dublin going backwards rather incremental improvement on the part of the rest. You had Westmeath and Wexford returning to Division 3, Louth rising to the second tier, a second successive promotion handing Kildare a seat at the top table and Meath also showing well in Division 2. This weekend, though, hammered home the reality there is no standout team from the pack that will seriously challenge the Dubs during the summer. Kildare will be very disappointed with what they served up in the Division 2 final. The amount of schoolboy turnovers they were guilty of must have had Cian O’Neill pulling his hair out. Sure, Galway were set up defensively, but on too many occasions Kildare were guilty of misplacing a 20-metre kick pass in the middle third. They’ve work to do. As do the rest.
Premier’s dual debate
Croke Park is a pitch that suits the Tipperary footballers. The more they play there, the better they’ll get. It’s just a shame that more people don’t come out and support them. They have the loyal, hardcore following, for sure, but this is a team deserving of greater support. We might sound like a broken record banging this particular drum but from the outside looking in, it’s evident that Tipp’s footballers don’t even appear to have the backing of officialdom. Look at how delegates voted in the Super 8 championship format, despite fierce opposition from football management and players. Then we had the postponement of the Longford game in the group stages, when Semple Stadium looked fine for a double-header with the hurlers, and the staging of a club match that saw Emmet Moloney get injured two days before the visit to Armagh. Tipp’s county and divisional boards need to facilitate the team’s wishes more, and not put roadblocks in the way of further progress.
Galway’s Glynn gamble
There will be no 8,000km commute for Peter Acheson from Dubai to Tipperary. Johnny Glynn might be making a near 5,000km trip from New York to link up with the Galway hurlers but Liam Kearns ruled out something similar for Acheson, and well he might. Unless Glynn is coming home soon on a permanent basis, the idea that he can provide full commitment to the Galway squad while based in New York sounds ridiculous, quite frankly. Glynn’s already missed a heavy pre-season training schedule and all of Galway’s hurling so far in 2017. How is he expected to slot into a championship team against that backdrop, and when he hasn’t been training to the gameplan that manager Micheál Donoghue will want to employ? There’s no way Acheson himself would feel that he could be right for a championship game for Tipperary, even if he’s a player who prides himself on his fitness. There’s a huge difference between playing with local clubs abroad, and the white heat of summer championship fare.
It’s a good thing, from a player and manager viewpoint, that Acheson and Kearns understand this, and that the idea of a bit-part role was never explored.