Our writers pick out the main talking points from the weekend’s Allianz League action.
Kiely: 'Leave hurling alone, please'
Throwing his eyes to heaven as the question was asked, you knew before he uttered a word John Kiely’s thoughts on the black card possibly being introduced to hurling.
“Ah, no way. The game is fine, lads, the game is absolutely 100% fine. Nobody is giving out about the game, really, apart from one or two and they're going to be giving out anyway. I think the game is fine. Leave it alone, please.”
Kiely was also forthcoming with a view on what could be done to alleviate the current college versus county situation.
“I do still think this is the right time to play the Fitzgibbon Cup. I probably would still like to see the League played a little bit later. Then again, with the club month that's a challenge.
“We have a good working relationship with Jamie Wall and Gary Kirby and all the lads involved with the colleges. They phone me, I phone them, and we look after the players. That's all we can do, really.
“Listen, their (Fitzgibbon) competition is a principal competition right now so that takes precedence over us. That's the way I look at it.”
Tyrone's strength in depth dwindling
Usually by this time of the league, there is always one 'crisis county' story across the papers. It would be a stretch to say that Tyrone are in that bracket and this weekend's results blew the top two divisions wide open, but this performance from the Red Hands was most unlike them.
In the eir sports coverage of Mayo and Dublin, analyst Andy Moran talked of Dublin's ability to hit the 'sweet spot' with every pass, so that players did not have to check back or pause their momentum. Tyrone's pass accuracy here was criminal and their fine-tuning needs a lot of work.
All that said, they were also ponderous in their build-up, key figures such as Peter Harte having little or no influence on the game, while the work-rate in tracking runs upfield was alarmingly shy.
Despite all the faults being shown up, their response on the line was slow. A few different match-ups were tried, but still they could do nothing about the Monaghan runners pouring into the gap between the half- and full-back lines.
Without captain Mattie Donnelly, last year's top scorer Cathal McShane, All-Star Padraig Hampsey, and Richie Donnelly, Tyrone's strength in depth appears to be on the wane.
Unfortunate red cards a growing hurling trend
Blink and you'll miss something in hurling - even at this time of year with the pitches so heavy and the quality so impaired by winds like the gale that blew in through Chadwicks Wexford Park on Sunday.
The game moves at such a speed it takes only a split second for a mistake to mushroom into a consequence of major proportions. So it was for Clare's John Conlon who caught Wexford's Kevin Foley high with a 29th-minute challenge and paid for it with a red card.
Westmeath's Aonghus Clarke got his marching orders for a similar incident involving Galway's Joe Canning the week before. It's tough on the player involved but such is the way of life in a world where concussion is finally, thankfully, being afforded the attention and care it needs.
“Everybody knows that anything around the helmet, it kind of is a straight red,” said Clare manager Brian Lohan after the league game in the south-east.
“So it’s very unfortunate when there is something. Maybe if there is a player that falls to the ground or yanks his head, sometimes it can look worse than it actually is. Disappointed for John that he was gone. But the rules are the rules.”
McEntee onto 11th stopper as Meath goalkeeping saga continues
Meath's goalkeeping saga continues to rumble on.
Having started Dominic Yorke against Tyrone in Round 1 of the Allianz Football League, only to replace him at half-time with Barry Dardis, best known as an outfield player, veteran Marcus Brennan was between the sticks against Donegal on Sunday.
It's in line with a consistent turnover of 'keepers in the county with Andy Colgan the apparent number one but injured for several more weeks. In all, Meath manager Andy McEntee has handed game time to 11 different goalkeepers in the O'Byrne Cup, League or Championship competitions since taking over for 2017.
Brennan, in goals for Meath in the 2002 All-Ireland minor final, at least looks a safe pair of hands and couldn't be faulted for the goals he conceded against Donegal. He saved a penalty too and fared well generally, meaning he's likely to start again when they play Mayo on Sunday.
"I'd imagine he will," said coach and selector Colm Nally of the 35-year-old. "With Andy injured, our other 'keepers are quite young so Marcus is there to kind of help them and guide them along. He's a good mentor to them so now he's got a dual role as such."
McCarthy demands Páirc statement from Cork
Having taken the maximum number of points from their opening two league games, there is no question that Cork have put themselves in pole position for promotion from Division 3 and slamming the door shut on any potential involvement in the new Tier 2 championship come summertime.
Ronan McCarthy is confident 10 points will get them promoted and so his charges have somewhat eased the pressure on themselves by having already banked four. But instead of looking at the wiggle room their fine start has afforded them, McCarthy wants his players to make a statement of intent by finishing out this opening block of games with a third straight win. A performance and further points are the targets as Down travel south on Sunday.
“These two wins bring us closer to that magic number [of 10]. But we must do it week-to-week and do it in blocks. We are going into week three of this block, a home game, and we are going well. There is a good team coming down to play us, but we should be really up and ready for it.”
One-on-one penalty a game-changer
When Tipperary won their late penalty on Saturday night, the bat signal went up for Brian Hogan to come upfield. The Tipp keeper duly trotted up and put his considerable power into the shot, beating Patrick Collins with a rising effort for the goal that made the closing stages interesting.
Earlier in the game, Cork captain Patrick Horgan had produced a drilled penalty into the corner of the net to help his side to a four-point lead at the break.
It’s funny how quickly the one-on-one penalty made a goal the only real option. Even when there were three on the line, teams tended to view the penalty as a goal opportunity, but the odd time a point was acceptable, particularly late on to safeguard a lead.
Now, the green flag is the only acceptable option, and given the array of takers available at inter-county level, that’s no surprise.
No doubt a study is being conducted even now, though, on the damage done to a team’s confidence when theyconvert one of those penalties. If you don't get a goal you’re fully expecting, then it has to be harder to refocus on the game at hand.