John Divilly on the takeaways from the opening weekend of league action.
50 shades of man-marking
Ciaran Kilkenny was man-marked in the All-Ireland final by Lee Keegan. It was pretty successful for Keegan.
On Saturday night, Kildare captain and centre-back Eoin Doyle let Kilkenny roam free. He picked him up when he crossed the 45m line. Not the best policy when it comes to curbing a playmaker. David Byrne was assigned the man-marking duties on Daniel Flynn. In the first half, Byrne only marked Flynn when he was in the full-forward line. When Flynn wandered out to the middle third and picked up loose ball, David Byrne didn’t follow him. Bad move for Dublin as this was when Flynn was at his deadliest. When he’s allowed to build up speed, he usually gets a scoring shot off. In the second half, Byrne shackled Flynn wherever he went. Better move. Flynn scored a goal in the 72nd minute, but ironically David Byrne had moved off him in the 70th minute.
Blasting away — not in the finisher’s handbook
Goal-scoring techniques. Dublin created two great chances before they nailed two goals in a row. The two they missed? Scully and Rock tried to blast the back of the net. The two they scored? Well-placed shots by Rock and Fenton. Staying cool under pressure when faced with fulfilling childhood dreams in Croke Park — scoring a goal. Easier said than done. Practise, practise, practise. Luke Flynn hit a lovely daisy-cutter for the Lilies in the first half. However, his brother Daniel needs a little coaching with this. He ripped through the Dubs in the first half but riffled both shots over the bar. I know he buried a shot in the top corner deep into injury time on Saturday, but it looked a shot in frustration rather than a well-planned effort.
Uninspiring club fare
On TG4 on Saturday, Pádraig O’Shea was leading his An Ghaeltacht troops against the Cavanagh led Moy Tir na nOg. With both sides in chess mode — 0-0 after 15 minutes and only 2-2 at half-time — I flicked through the channels and found a replay of the 2004 Leinster final between Westmeath and Laois. Both managers were Kerrymen, Paidí O’Sé and Mick O’Dwyer. Thankfully, fast-flowing football full of thrills and spills. A great midfield tussle between Rory O’Connell/David Shaughnessey and Noel Garvan/Padraic Clancy. Classy forwards from both sides like Dolan/Glennon/Mangan and Beano/Wooly/Munnelly. Westmeath up by three points going into injury-time, Laois wing-back Kevin Fitzpatrick has an easy goal chance. Shoots. Wide. Micko on his knees in disbelief. Paidí punching the air. Westmeath claim the Delaney Cup for the first time. Back to TG4. What did I miss? Uninspiring football.
How long will the goal glut last?
Of the 32 counties in action at the weekend, 22 scored goals. Some cracking goals. Liam McGrath and Michael Quinlivan for Tipp. Damian Comer for Galway. John Heslin for Westmeath. Seamus Quigley with a brace. Sean Mulooly chips the Meath keeper. Donie Smith rescues a draw for Roscommon with a last-minute penalty. The majority of teams played a fast, direct and attacking style of football. How long will this continue? I say “Long may it continue”.
Game of the weekend
Toss-up between Kerry and Donegal or Roscommon v Meath. I’ll side with the Div 2 contest. The never say die attitude from Meath was back in full flow yesterday. Trailing by five points midway through the second half, they capitalised on the Rossies’ casualness. Meath took the lead down the home front but a lack of cuteness and experience allowed Roscommon to engineer a last-minute draw. The pitch wasn’t fresh either, as there was an NHL game beforehand. Grass pitches here aren’t designed for two consecutive games in January.
Marching orders tip the balance
Donegal got two — their latest recruit Nathan Mullins and Tony McClenaghan received their marching orders as did Kerry’s Paul Geaney in the first half. Donegal lost. Darren McCurry from Tyrone received his marching orders for flooring Galway’s corner-back, Eoin Keirns. Tyrone lost. Ryan Wylie and Barry Kerr got reds against Mayo. Monaghan lost. Three reds in Brewster Park, Ryan Jones from Fermanagh while Tiarnan Rossiter and Brian Malone from Wexford. Wexford lost. Derry’s James Kielt and from Westmeath. Westmeath held out, thanks to a last-minute penalty save from Eoin Carberry.
Harte lacks finishing touch
In 2003, Paddy Tally was on the coaching ticket with Mickey Harte when Tyrone secured their first All-Ireland. Yesterday, Paddy was on the Galway line helping Kevin Walsh mastermind a first Division 1 victory over Tyrone since 2010. Damien Comer and Shane Walsh pulled the strings for the Tribesmen.
A dour struggle for the majority of the game with mini-scuffles, pulling, dragging and 26 players behind the ball most of the time. Mickey Harte had six sets of brothers in the squad yesterday but what he really needs is six scoring forwards. Galway, who led from pillar to post, can’t afford to retreat into their shell next week against Donegal.
Connacht chilled by northern exposure
Antrim and Armagh had big wins over their Connacht counterparts Leitrim and Sligo. It was a tight affair in the first half between Antrim and Leitrim with Antrim only holding a slender two-point lead. However, Leitrim could only manage one point in the second half as Antrim kicked on to win by ten points. Meanwhile the Orchard county showed no mercy to the Yeatsmen and gave them a good walloping. Armagh led by eight at the interval and ended up winning by 13 points. Granted, both Sligo and Leitrim have extremely young squads at present, but it’s not very encouraging signs for a competitive Connacht championship.
John Divilly and Anthony Daly review the opening weekend of the Allianz League:
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