1. Dublin flying high in Division 1
Dublin’s ascension to the top of the table after two games is unsurprising. With a new manager on board and after a subdued campaign last year, their established players are eager to make a mark and their copious amounts of young talent wish to impress.
The ferocity of their tackling, the durability of their defence and the potency of their inside attackers, Brogan and Andrews, shone through in Killarney yesterday.
2. And Kildare are matching them
Kildare’s presence at the top is a more novel sight. Having just graduated from Division 2, they have adjusted quickly to life amongst the elite. Saturday’s victory away to a Cork team that had plenty to play for was something to cherish, as was the continued contributions of their youngsters up front.
3. But Kerry are in unfamiliar territory
Let’s start by pointing out that Kerry will be challengers in this year’s championship, that they have a core of class to return to their ranks and that it is far too early in the year to be panicking.
Still it has been an arduous start to the league losing by six to Mayo and by ten to Dublin. The scoring stats that saw nothing registering in the second-half in Castlebar and just four points, two from play, yesterday in Killarney are the most glaring cause for anxiety. They will welcome the chance to smooth the creases over the next three weeks.
4. Cork have not exploded from the traps either
Kerry’s partner in the Munster Big Two can empathise with their current plight. Cork have made a name under Conor Counihan’s watch for league excellence but two successive defeats mean it is more consolidation in the division than contesting the knockout stages, that now consumes their thoughts.
There is a growing sense that their setup is viewing the bigger picture in 2013 and the dismissal of Damien Cahalane certainly influenced Saturday’s loss to Kildare. But just like Kerry, they could do with a response on the first Sunday in March with a trip to Newry representing their test.
5. Tyrone enjoying their return to the top tier
Mickey Harte has long extolled the virtues of competing in Division 1 of the league and utilising it as a springboard for strong championship assaults. He openly stated a few years back that Division 2 would not produce All-Ireland winners and it must have irked him that his own team were in that company last season.
But they claimed promotion last April and have begun this season in a bright fashion. The points they thieved yesterday against Mayo were redolent of the Tyrone of old, crafting a late victory through Stephen O’Neill’s penalty, sticking to their task to the death and claiming a rousing league win.
Mayo manager James Horan and Tyrone manager Mickey Harte. Pic: INPHO/Mike Shaughnessy
6. Michael Murphy is flourishing up front
It was quite the week for Michael Murphy. He snapped over 0-9 against Kildare in defeat last Saturday, matched that total with a magnificent display of football in DCU’s Sigerson Cup win last Wednesday and chipped in with 0-6 on Saturday night for Donegal against Down.
Murphy’s talents have always been indisputable. But during last summer there was doubts as to whether he was being deployed effectively. The thunderbolt against Mayo in the All-Ireland final hinted that he would thrive closer to goal and 2013 has reaffirmed that.
7. Dessie Dolan returns to assist Westmeath
Speaking of team’s benefitting from the presence of blue-chip forwards, Westmeath were glad to have Dessie Dolan at their disposal against Longford yesterday. After being absent for the 2012 campaign, the Garrycastle man is back in harness this year.
And he notched the crucial second-half goal that gave Pat Flanagan’s side their second successive win. John Heslin, Kieran Gavin and Callum McCormack may be emerging as some of Westmeath’s new leaders but they still benefit from an old hand.
8. The league can be a strange beast
Monaghan look supreme in their opener with a 12-point win over Meath. The following Saturday night they travel to face Cavan and lose out by eight points and finish with 12 men.
Meath endure that humiliating afternoon in Clones, when they trailed by 15 points at one stage. Yet they bounce back away to Wicklow and claim an eight-point success. Division 3 reflects the inconsistencies at this time of year.
Kilcormac-Killoughey’s Dan Currams celebrates scoring a goal. Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
9. Kilcormac-Killoughey prove that club hurling is a great leveller
Thurles Sarsfields were overwhelming favourites entering Saturday’s club semi-final with a teamsheet sprinkled with All-Ireland winners and emerging inter-county talents. They had performed brilliantly on route to the Munster title yet came unstuck in Portlaoise.
Kilcormac-Killoughey may be unfashionable and their players may be unheralded but the ferocity and quality of their play was terrific. Danny Owens possesses a well-drilled unit and the small Offaly club have emulated their neighbours Birr and Coolderry by qualifying for St Patrick’s Day. On the club stage, reputations count for little.
10. Liam Watson’s goal concludes a classic
Liam Watson’s contributions were eye-catching for Loughgiel Shamrocks on route to their All-Ireland win last year, 3-7 in the semi-final against Na Piarsaigh and 0-16 in the final against St Thomas. In Saturday’s semi-final his threat was nullified for long passages by St Thomas but then he stood up and smashed home the 20-yard free that saved his club. The definiton of a clutch score.
It was the denouement to a marvellous game. De La Salle and Clarinbridge conjured an epic two years ago at this stage and this tie matched it. 48 scores spanned over 80 minutes of action in a game where St Thomas Conor Cooney gave a magical performance as he chalked up 0-12.