League talking points: ‘Kilkenny panel as serious as any in the country’

Goal drought continues

Cork's goalkeeper Anthony Nash clears the ball during the clash against Clare at Cusack Park yesterday. Picture: James Crombie

On these pages last week, John Fogarty detailed how goals are becoming less frequent where the Cork hurlers are concerned. At Ennis yesterday, they were non-existent. But it certainly wasn’t for the lack of chances. Donal Tuohy deflected a Seamus Harnedy first-half shot out for a ‘65, the Clare goalkeeper produced a fine double save in the second half when first repelling a Patrick Horgan 20-metre free before getting down low to push away Brian Lawton’s drive. Cork’s fourth goal opportunity was another Horgan 20-metre free which Tuohy tipped over the crossbar. While Cork didn’t deserve to take anything from this game, had one of the latter three chances hit the net, it would have made for a frenetic and unpredictable finish. Meyler addressed this subject afterwards, admitting it has been a problem in each one of their league outings to date.

Green shoots of another Cats era

Waterford manager Derek McGrath made a valid observation after yesterday’s defeat to Kilkenny.

“It serves to highlight the actual depth of the Kilkenny team as well. I made this point — a sincere point — during the week that Richie Leahy, Pat Lyng, Martin Keoghan, that if they were in Waterford, they’d be on the Waterford panel the last couple of years.

“The problem in Kilkenny is that they’re constantly compared to Henry Shefflin, Eddie Brennan, all those guys, but their panel is as serious as there is anywhere in the country. That was seen today.”

It’s not the first time McGrath, as close an observer of the supply lines as there is in Ireland, has signposted the quality coming out of Kilkenny. Whatever about this year, are we seeing the building blocks of another dynasty in black and amber being laid here? It’s only February and all the caveats apply — but the mindset and attitude were terribly familiar yesterday in Walsh Park.

Dublin’s blues deepen

As impressive as Limerick were at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening, they were undoubtedly helped by a listless Dublin performance.

Only Danny Sutcliffe came out with any real credit and Dublin manager Pat Gilroy admitted afterwards that his side’s intensity was nowhere near where it needed to be in the opening 35 minutes.

Dublin improved in the second half, but that was more down to Limerick taking the foot off the pedal than anything else.

Without doubt they are missing the Cuala contingent still on club championship duty, however Gilroy and his management team have to be concerned with how they have gone in this season’s league.

Offaly ran them ragged on the opening night and they struggled to victory against Antrim in their second game.

A huge improvement will be needed against Galway in Parnell Park this weekend if Dublin are to salvage anything from this season’s league.

Forde the Rolls Royce driving Tipp

Jason Forde has been long flagged as Tipp’s next superstar in waiting, but followers have grown impatient for his arrival at that level. Last season, his most memorable impact came in a tango with Davy Fitzgerald. So this has been tagged as a big season for the Silvermines man. And in Seamus Callanan’s continued absence, Forde is laying down his markers. He has hit 5-16 on UL’s path to the Fitzgibbon Cup decider and given the responsibility of placed balls, he has carried a purple patch into blue and gold. There was another near-flawless outing on the frees against Wexford plus two sharply-taken goals and a neat sideline cut. It should be remembered that Forde has just turned 24, around the age Callanan too kicked up a gear.

Ref gaffes make TMO case

Rugby has gone mea culpa mad of late, with referees admitting that Wales should have been awarded a try last weekend. GAA match officials have themselves put their hands up after making wrong decisions. David Coldrick, Maurice Deegan, and David Gough have all admitted they got calls wrong and after this weekend perhaps Derek O’Mahoney and Cormac Reilly would concede the same after the sending-off in Tullamore on Saturday and the penalty call in Inniskeen yesterday. How frustrating must it have been for Martin Farragher and Shane Murphy to be punished for what was in Farragher’s case an innocuous knock and in the latter’s case a genuine and successful attempt to win the ball from an opponent. A video replay in both instances would likely have changed the mind of the referees in question. As the pressure on them mounts in terms of fitness tests and being able to follow the play with absolute certainty of what they are seeing, the case for a TMO grows.

Other offenders get off lightly

There are times when referees and their officials spot something that everyone else seems to miss and then there are occasions when just about everyone sees a foul and it goes unpunished.

Joseph Cooney broke in on goal just before the break at Pearse Stadium but just as he dispatched a shot which goalkeeper Eoghan Cahill saved, an Offaly defender threw his hurley at him.

He connected with Cooney and injured him and yet not only was a penalty not awarded, the perpetrator went unpunished. Cooney got his second goal early in the second half but then had to hobble off from the injury picked up when the hurley was thrown.

Off the ball there was a grapple between Galway’s Paul Flaherty and Offaly’s Shane Kinsella and when referee Cathal McAllister held up play, most in the 5,355 crowd presumed he would book both of them. But after chatting to a couple of his umpires he dished out a red card to Kinsella and Flaherty did not face censure. No doubt, the ref felt he had just cause and his officials had probably spotted something that just about everyone missed. Gosh, you miss the big screen!

Slow start but Offaly show signs of life

You had to feel sorry for Stephen Wallace and his Offaly players. Seven days after making a fruitless trip to Celtic Park to find the game called off, it looked like the return trip had taken its toll in the early stages on Sunday.

Nine points down and staring a third mauling in the face, Offal looked finished but following a week in which Wallace found himself embroiled in a Twitter spat with ex-players concerning the commitment needed for the modern inter-county game, he couldn’t have asked for any more from his charges.

They battled for every ball and played like a team full of confidence but the start had beaten them and meant a second fruitless trip home.

However, if Wallace’s young team continue to show this level of performance and commitment, maybe relegation isn’t the foregone conclusion some think it is.


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