Our writers pick out eight talking points from the opening weekend of Allianz League action.
Cork's young spine let down
Nobody could blame Kieran Kingston for moving things around on Sunday. If there is a time to discover Mark Coleman can play midfield and Darragh Fitzgibbon is worth another look at centre-forward then it's at the end of January and not the start of March.
It was interesting after Sunday's defeat to Waterford how he pointed to the youthfulness of the spine. Referencing Robert Downey's solid display, he said: "Great for Robert, a 20-year-old playing full-back, first league game; 22-year-old centre-back (Tim O'Mahony), 22-year-old centre-forward (Fitzgibbon), full-forward (Shane Kingston). Young spine up the middle and they all acquited themselves well."
With the exception of the two defenders, the pair of forwards are big and bold enough to be able to take such responsibility in their stride but it shouldn't have been a day for others to neglect their duties. Aidan Walsh and Conor Lehane retiring early for tactical reasons certainly were not positives nor was some of Seamus Harnedy's shooting.
January isn't a time for coming to conclusions but when Sunday's performance underlines a lot about what is already believed of Cork's attack, it has to be considered in a dimmer light.
- John Fogarty
Sideline spoiling at kick-outs must end
Galway manager Pádraic Joyce said they would have a close look at how they failed to make the most of their kick-outs against Monaghan but close inspection might discover that the regular incursions of Monaghan maor fóirne Conor Laverty played a factor.
Laverty, who played for Kilcoo in the All-Ireland club final loss to Galway’s Corofin last weekend, regularly made his way onto the pitch in the second-half as Galway goalkeeper Connor Gleeson lined up kick-outs. Laverty always seemed to find open space and stand there, obviously in the line of sight of the Galway custodian who might have fancied a quick kick.
It was remarkable that referee Maurice Deegan or his officials didn’t intervene and equally incredulous that the Galway management didn’t create a fuss. And with goalkeeper Rory Beggan coming out as an extra man at one end, Laverty’s incursion was a clever tactic but you suspect it won’t be long before he is taken to task.
- John Fallon
Kerry captaincy, David Clifford-style
If we didn’t already have an idea how David Clifford was going to lead, we were provided a preview on Saturday.
There was the poise of that first-half goal that brought Kerry back into the game, how he managed to recover from an overcooked solo to shoot past Evan Comerford despite being put off balance by Eoin Murchan. And while his second half was less eventful, he still had the steel to draw the game.
Action remains the 21-year-old’s choice of leadership and it was interesting how he opted out of a melee in both halves, the latter one at full-time that was initiated when he and Brian Howard came together and left Clifford with a ripped jersey. The heated exchanges were still going on as he chose to walk to the dressing room, clearly seeing no point in turning peacemaker.
Clifford mightn’t have cajoled his teammates apart from signalling where to change the point of attack but he was prepared to mix it when required.
Peter Keane remarked that his feats - the goal and the equalising free - were what you would expect from the Fossa man. Captaincy doesn’t look like changing his approach. And why would Kerry want it too?
- John Fogarty
‘I was sorry I didn’t bring my slippers’
No more than the Cork footballers, the new surface at Páirc Uí Chaoimh passed its first test of 2020 with flying colours.
Both managers were nothing but complimentary, and rightly so.
“We were quick to criticise it in the past, we have to do the other side of it now and say, it is absolutely perfect for playing football on and a credit to everyone involved in it,” said Cork boss Ronan McCarthy.
Added Offaly’s John Maughan: “I was sorry I didn’t bring my slippers. I had a big pair of boots on me having read about Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It was immaculate, immense, wonderful.”
Tracey Kennedy, in her chairperson’s address in the match programme, noted the excellent job which had been done in the laying and maintaining of the new playing surface.
"Whatever fires the Cork County Board have to deal with in 2020, the pitch certainly won’t be one of them."
- Eoghan Cormican
Does every team go out to win every game?
There's plenty of muttering about what teams want from the league but Saturday night Limerick boss John Kiely offered a keen rebuttal of the notion that sides pick and choose the games they want to win.
“I can tell you one thing, every team that goes out wants to win. Every match. That’s a fact. Okay, so are teams going to use a lot of their panel? Yes, they are, because they want to develop players, use players, they have players that have injuries and the Fitzgibbon (is on).
“You want to use the players across the panel. That doesn’t mean that you’re taking it any less seriously any week. Every team wants to win their game, no team is being sent out without an expectation of victory. It’s not a phony war. Every game is there on its merits and everyone is going out to win each game.
“The bottom line is that there are a lot of players who would be damn glad of a league medal when they finish their days."
Good enough for us.
- Michael Moynihan
Advanced mark remains up in the air
Confusion, uncertainty, and degrees of despair have accompanied the latest incarnation of the advanced mark, and Sunday at Healy Park the madness of it all was laid bare.
Andy McEntee and Mickey Harte vented their frustrations over the lack of certainty and definition of an increasingly complicated set of rules.
“Here we are talking about rules and this day last week we didn’t even know what the rules were, they weren’t even finalised at that stage,” said Meath boss McEntee.
“It’s frustrating. We were supposed to have someone to talk to us last Saturday about the rules and they said sorry, I can’t come down because we haven’t got them finalised yet.”
Tyrone manager Harte was equally bemused: “It was a bit disconcerting, all the confusion in the week leading up to the League about even the decisions that had been made earlier.
“Maybe we should take our time when we’re making these rule changes, maybe make them one at a time, and make sure we know all the implications of these individual changes.”
So much for the value of the mark – not a single claim was made through the duration of Tyrone’s five-point win over Meath.
- Francis Mooney
Time-keeping an age-old debate in Donegal
With rules changing as fast as the calendar years in Gaelic football, one thing that’s still irking players and management is that of time-keeping.
Last week on these pages, Oisín McConville noted of the All-Ireland club final between Corofin and Kilcoo, where five minutes injury time was put on the board: “It looked to be over but Conor Lane just kept playing and playing. We were left with a ridiculous situation in the 72nd-minute when Paul Devlin was standing over a free-kick.”
On Saturday night in Ballybofey, as Michael Murphy scored his eight-point in the seventh minute of injury time, supporters were headed for the gates. James Durcan goaled 90 seconds over the allotted time and afterwards, Murphy went straight for David Coldrick’s watch.
The last fixture Donegal played in Division 1 was a similar conclusion, being relegated after Kevin McLoughlin took a dozen steps to clip over the equaliser 20 seconds before injury time was to end. Donegal claimed injury time was cut short, while on Saturday they bemoaned it being too long.
“We thought it was over when Michael knocked over his last free,” Bonner said. “I felt he played too much time. We had a player down but was there two minutes?”
- Alan Foley
Cork’s Sheehan leading from the front
There were 2,356 paying customers Saturday night at Páirc Ui Chaoimh, but in the cavernous environment, it felt less. 23 minutes into Cork’s first-ever Division 3 tie against Offaly, it felt quieter still as full-forward Bernard Allen stretched the visitors’ lead to 0-7 to 0-3.
Cork’s young attack was struggling and possession was being handed back to John Maughan’s side with frustrating regularity. It had the whiff of opening night disaster about it.
Credit then to Ronan McCarthy and his players for the turnaround. Michael Hurley was introduced up front and turned the game with his pace and direct-running threat. There were other encouraging vignettes. Sean Powter looked hungry and sharp, ditto Sean White on the 40.
Most important of all, though, could be the reintroduction of Ciarán Sheehan into the fold. He kicked a lovely 10th-minute point and added two more later. He also showed a nice turn of foot and if he can stay fit and healthy, he may prove the decisive centrepoint of an attack that will need to learn on the hoof. Next stop Carrick-on-Shannon next Sunday, and another interesting gut-check.
- Tony Leen