Our writers analyse what we learned from the league...
Deegan gives Cats inside line a solid look
There would have been some reservations in Kilkenny when Paddy Deegan was switched to the corner given that he would be more acquainted with wing back in O’Loughlin Gaels. But yesterday was another affirmation that the player is acquitting himself to the position oh so nicely. Admittedly, the poor quality of ball Tipperary were putting into their full-back line helped his cause but he was winning so many 50-50s that it likely wouldn’t have mattered if there was more clarity about the opponents’ supply. By the second half, his tail was up and he continued to dominate the aerial tussles. Close to the end, he was given the largest compliment by Tipperary when John McGrath was switched onto him. A full-back trio of Paul Murphy, Pádraig Walsh and Deegan has a formidable look to it.
Limerick have another young gun in Flanagan
Compared against Aaron Gillane, his scoring contribution this spring looks rather ordinary. But then again, we knew very little of Seamus Flanagan before this league campaign began. The Feohanagh man was a three-year minor between 2013 and 2015 but was virtually unused during last year’s All-Ireland U21 winning campaign. He didn’t even leave the bench on the afternoon of their final win over Kilkenny.
Fast forward to January and John Kiely named him at full-forward for their Division 1B opener against Laois, Flanagan’s Limerick senior debut. There he remained throughout the spring, his confidence growing with each game. Critical to their promotion-clinching win in Salthill, he had struck five points from play when called ashore after 60 minutes, quite clearly spent. He backed this up with three white flags against Tipperary in the semi-final.
Tipp’s well of talent may not run as deep as they thought
Tipperary arrived in Nowlan Park yesterday with a full back, a centre back and a midfield. They departed, ears ringing, doubting most of their personnel.
True, Jason Forde franked terrific spring form. But new summer warriors? Hard to see. Kilkenny outscored Tipperary by 1-10 to 0-4 in the third quarter.
Big matches leave us thinking of those recently gone. Last Tuesday, we buried Noel ‘Lou’ Walsh, proud O’Loughlin Gaels clubman and wonderful to talk hurling. Walking behind the hearse, I met a friend who lives in Clonmel. He golfs with massive Tipperary supporters.
The vibe up there? “The exact same story from all of them,” he replied. “They reckon they have three men for each position, same as Kilkenny ten years ago.”
We smiled, imagining how Lou would have smiled. He would have enjoyed Paddy Deegan’s impact, enjoyed how that Tipp sentiment, like so many presumptions about hurling in 2018, needs to be revisited.
Rory O’Connor has added sauce to Wexford attack
Wexford in their first season under Davy Fitz were admirable. Enthusiastic, tactically imaginative, hard to break down, difficult to beat – and lightweight up front. Hence the dependence on defenders, in particular Diarmuid O’Keeffe, to get up the field and have a shot from distance in order to bulk out the team’s scoring returns. They needed something new in 2018, ideally a natural scoring forward. In Rory O’Connor they got him. Only 19, and a championship debutant at 18 last summer in the All Ireland quarter-final versus Waterford, O’Connor is fast, incisive, good off both sides and knows where the uprights are. Introduced at half-time against Clare he altered the rhythm of the afternoon, and put Wexford on the road to victory, with three points from play. He subsequently shaped nicely at Nowlan Park and was one of the stars of the quarter-final win against Galway. O’Connor’s best is ahead of him.
Deegan the real deal
On the night of the first league game under lights in Cork, I remember looking at Paddy Deegan lining out at corner-back and saying to myself, ‘What the hell is Cody trying to do to Deegan?’
Paddy got a bit of a scutching but I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t think he was a corner-back. I never felt he looked comfortable there but his display yesterday offered further proof of Cody’s understanding of the game.
He has been around but Deegan was one of the best ‘new’ players of the league. He had plenty to rival him though. Jason Forde was a massive story. So was Martin Keoghan. Limerick also had players step up to the plate —- Tom Morrissey, Richie English, Sean Finn. So had Wexford in Kevin Foley and Damien Reck.
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