1. Dublin’s attacking lynchpin is a familiar face
Dublin’s whirlwind start to the new season under Jim Gavin’s guidance has been characterised by the batch of youngsters that the new manager has funnelled through from the underage ranks.
That has been expressed in attack where Ciaran Reddin, Philly Ryan and Paul Mannion have all been offered game time while for Dublin fans there was the exciting sight of Ciaran Kilkenny back in senior inter-county action on Saturday night after his sojourn in Australia.
Yet their victory over Mayo was defined by the performance of Bernard Brogan. He had chalked up 0-13 in Dublin’s first two games this year and then took the Mayo defence for 1-10. For all the young prospects in Dublin’s side, it is the 2010 Footballer of the Year who remains the main man.
2. Yet discipline a cause for Dublin concern
As they basked in the glow of their third successive league win on Saturday night, the only dark cloud hanging over the Dublin camp was the fact that they had incurred their third sending-off in four games. After previous dismissals for Denis Bastick and Michael Darragh MacAuley, centre-back Ger Brennan was embroiled in a second-half flashpoint that saw him shown a red card.
Brennan is a key figure in the Dublin side but has had previous disciplinary problems, notably being sent-off early on in the 2009 Leinster final loss to Kildare. Yet he has ironed out that crease in his game to become highly influential at the heart of his county’s defence. Jim Gavin will be hoping to stamp out the recent trends to ensure it does not become a serious issue for his team.
3. Leinster’s Big Two on a collision course next Sunday
It’s been a smooth start to 2013 for the two primary forces in the eastern province. Dublin and Kildare both boast flawless league records to date after three games. It’s something for Dublin to be pleased about given their change of management while for Kildare their easy adjustment to life in the top tier is a cause for satisfaction.
But something has to give next Sunday in Croke Park when the two teams meet in what will be a key game in determining who is on course for the knockout stages. Their O’Byrne Cup final clash in late January was an engaging and feisty clash. The repeat should follow similar lines.
4. Tyrone make a statement
Having bossed Ulster for so long, Tyrone have been forced into the unusual position of being usurped in recent years. Donegal have been their nemesis in dumping them out of the provincial championship for the past two seasons and the counties rematch on May 26th is a huge game.
To chisel out victory in yesterday’s league tie in Omagh was then a significant step for Mickey Harte’s side. Granted the game turned on Michael Murphy missing a penalty and being sent-off in a quick period in the first-half. But given Tyrone’s transitional phase this was a success they needed in a tie which contained enough needle to suggest their May showdown will be heated.
Tyrone’s Stephen O’Neill and Donegal’s Neil McGee
5. The Munster resurgence
Tough times for the Munster football heavyweights in recent weeks. Cork and Kerry were pointless and rooted to the bottom of the table yesterday morning. Kerry are still in that position while there was a huge dollop of fortune to Cork’s win in Newry as they finally got off the mark.
Yet there were signs of a renaissance yesterday. Cork developed the knack of squeezing out league wins on route to picking up the last three Division 1 titles and yesterday was that type of dogged victory. Kerry may have slumped to another defeat against Kildare but their performance contained greater life and vitality. The performances of Aidan Walsh (Cork) and Johnny Buckley (Kerry) were further sources of encouragement.
6. Down for the drop?
The Mourne men were plenty observers favourites to suffer relegation before this Division 1 campaign commenced. Opening defeats against Tyrone and Donegal made for a rocky start but the cruel nature of their loss to Cork yesterday when the success was snatched away from them has compounded their woes.
Down were superior to Cork, produced good passages of play and racked up 1-17 yet still could not win. Cork simply have become a hurdle they cannot overcome as they suffered their sixth successive defeat between league and championship to the Rebels.
With a fixture list featuring home ties against Mayo and Kildare along with trips to Croke Park and Austin Stack Park to come, Down’s task is getting harder.
7. The plight of Meath
If the knives were out for Seamus McEnaney during Meath’s torrid league campaign last year in Division 2, hopes that things would get brighter under a local man have quickly evaporated this season.
It’s hard to blame Mick O’Dowd for their state that sees the Royals with one win from their first three games. A lack of underage success has affected the quality of personnel filtering through to adult levels and Saturday’s loss to Cavan was similar to their defeat to Monaghan for the shock and awe value.
Could they suffer the drop to the basement division? Don’t bet against it considering they still have to face table-toppers Fermanagh and travel to meet Roscommon and Antrim.
8. The Cross factor in the Orchard county
Having the greatest club team in the country has not lead to Armagh prospering on the county stage in recent years. There have been questions as to why the Orchard have not utilised more Crossmaglen players but manager Paul Grimley has hinted at the club having greater representation.
On Saturday night against Longford they displayed their importance as they helped Armagh win their first league match of the season. Tony Kernan nabbed a goal when introduced, Aaron Kernan put in a good shift in defence and Jamie Clarke glimmered with class up front.
Armagh’s Aaron Kernan and Longford’s Aidan Rowan in action
Pic: INPHO/Presseye/Russell Pritchard
9. Derry’s rewarding trip
It was quite the trek for the Derry footballers over the weekend. Their county home in Celtic Park is a 500 mile round trip from Wexford Park, the location of their Division 2 tie yesterday against the Model County.
Yet the distance did not prove an impediment as they fashioned a splendid 0-19 to 0-10 win and they could have won with more to spare only for firing 15 wides. Derry were only one of two away teams, Cork being the other, to triumph in the top two divisions in the Allianz Football League and interestingly it was the two counties who faced the greatest distances that succeeded.
10. Conor Lehane has a spring in his step
UCC’s Fitzgibbon Cup victory on Saturday was shrouded in emotion after the sad passing of their 2012 winning manager Paul O’Connor last year. That was a clear motivation for their success yet a major feature of their ability of retaining the title was the performances of Cork’s Conor Lehane.
The man-of-the-match in Saturday’s final where he shot 1-9, Lehane maintained his stellar attacking showings after striking 0-9 in Friday’s semi-final against UCD. He’s currently in great form and the 20 year-old will look to maintain those standards for the Cork hurlers in the coming weeks.