Tuesday 16 July 2019

10 of the football league’s talking points - No time to panic in Mayo but Dubs on record trail

Dublin's Brian Fenton has been close to flawless. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Dublin's Brian Fenton has been close to flawless. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Dublin perfection - With considerable stealth, Dublin have hit double figures yet again for a sequence of unbeaten games, 10 wins in succession secured in MacHale Park on Saturday night since losing last year's league final to Kerry.

Their most successive wins in the middle of their 36-match unbeaten run was 16 between the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final replay against Mayo the following year's drawn All-Ireland final against the same opponents. Win on Saturday night against Kerry and they're well placed to pass the 16-win mark in this year's Leinster final.

Raheny's two Brians, Fenton and Howard, have been close to flawless and while Jim Gavin has given starts to 20 players he hasn't touched his middle eight in the four games or, naturally, his goalkeeper.

Leinster's woes

A familiar theme. There are six teams relegated from the various Allianz football leagues and right now Leinster teams are occupying five of them, Kildare bottom of Division One, Meath and Louth occupying the two Division Two spots and Offaly and Wexford propping up Division Three. After four rounds only Meath, with three, have points from that quintet. On the plus side, Laois and Carlow have maximum points in Division Four and are poised for promotion.

Should it stay as it is the 2019 Division Three will resemble a Leinster round robin with six teams - Meath, Louth, Longford, Westmeath, Laois and Carlow, more than half the teams from the province in operation.

Refs in the firing line

Waterford manager Tom McGlinchey is the latest, following the words of Longford counterpart Denis Connerton and Cian O'Neill among others who have been withering in their criticism of refereeing standards through the divisions this spring. Maybe it's a common soundtrack but the volume just seems that little bit higher recently.

Eoghan Kerin has helped tighten Galway’s defence. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Eoghan Kerin has helped tighten Galway’s defence. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Galway parsimony

Four rounds in and only Antrim in Division Four have conceded less than Galway who, with Monaghan, are the only teams in the top flight not to concede a goal despite a 25 per cent lift, from 21 last year, in the number of goals scored by the top eight teams. The common consensus is that Paddy Tally's arrival as a coach has prompted such parsimony, but it has been a work in progress for some time under Kevin Walsh to make Galway sounder defensively. The addition of Sean Andy Ó Ceallaigh and Sean Kelly the development of Eoghan Kerin as a waspish defender and Gareth Bradshaw's stability at half-back have seen them cough up precious few goal chances.

Mayo exactly where they normally are

Stephen Rochford has been in charge of Mayo for three league campaigns now and in each campaign slow starts have been a recurring theme. Their cumulative wins from the first four rounds in each year stands at four from 12, Monaghan in round four in 2016, Kerry (round two) and Roscommon (round three) last year and Monaghan (round one) again this year. So it's nothing new for them to have so many teams ahead of them on the league table at this stage of the year. What is concerning for them though is the impact, or lack of it, being made by fringe players that will inevitably draw them back to the tried and tested this summer. Nothing wrong with that but another year down the road and those players would surely like some sight of the cavalry riding over the hill to support them.

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Paddy McBrearty's majestic run

So far from his four league games with Donegal, Paddy McBrearty has amassed 30 points - 18 from frees, an average of three points from play per game, 7.5 points per game. In three of those games, being on the losing team hasn't hindered his flow.

But those odds and statistics are quite common for the Kilcar man. Go back to last year's championship and you'll find similar resistance, four points from play in three of the four championship games they played (against Tyrone, Meath and Galway).

Conor McManus has been part of Monaghan’s successful start. Photo: Dáire Brennan/SPORTSFILE
Conor McManus has been part of Monaghan’s successful start. Photo: Dáire Brennan/SPORTSFILE

He scored the winner against Meath and tormented Tyrone and Galway's defences, despite the scale of their defeats. Only against Longford did that return rate dip - five points (four frees).

Outside the Donegal Championship, McBrearty has played 10 games from the 2017 Championship, including two Ulster Championship games for Kilcar when he scored 0-8 (four frees) against Scotstown and 0-10 (five frees) against Slaughtneil to bring his total to 72 points, 34 from play.

Work out the averages for yourself but it's a run of form that casts him among the best finishers in the game. Without a real goalscoring touch though a little of the shine depletes.

Monaghan's range of free-takers

Twice in their opening four league games, Conor McManus has just been on the field as a replacement when he has won a free, taken it himself and converted. It has underlined his quality as a free-taker but in his absence Monaghan have managed just fine. In fact, their range of free-takers is quite something with a candidate, it seems, for every distance and angle. Six different free-takers - McManus, Rory Beggan, Jack McCarron, Conor McCarthy, Niall Kearns and Shane Carey - have scored 1-22 from frees out of 2-50 bagged so far. Against Kildare five different players converted place balls.

Paddy McBrearty has continued his superb form for Donegal. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Paddy McBrearty has continued his superb form for Donegal. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Carlow's time for elevation has come

This is the 11th football league since the divisions were redrawn into four according to merit after 2007 and in that time just four counties have remained rooted in the same division - Kerry and Mayo at the top, London and Carlow at the bottom. Carlow's highest finish in the last 10 years was third in 2017 but building on the relative success of last year's five-match championship run, they are now well-placed to make the long-awaited step up to Division Three after four straight wins.

Kildare's consistency of selection remains

They may have lost their opening four games but once again Kildare manager Cian O'Neill and his management have not been prone to knee-jerk selections, maintaining much the same consistency of selection as they had last year through the league.

In 2017 the first 12 places were filled by the same names for the opening five games, this year 10 of those first 12 positions have not changed hands, one midfield spot which Luke Flynn and Tommy Moolick have shared and centre-forward, which has been between Chris Healy and Niall Kelly, the exceptions. Eleven players have started all four games to date with just 19 starters in all.

Kerry's goal vulnerability

In each of the last two years that they have reached the Division One league final Kerry have conceded five and seven goals respectively. Already this year they have conceded seven.

There is much to admire about Eamonn Fitzmaurice's team selections, with their emphasis on youth, and their willingness to press on and have a go as they did with an extra man against Donegal on the opening day. But the trade-off is being so open to goals to such an extent that only Limerick on eight at the foot of Division Four have conceded more than them after four rounds.

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