Wednesday 22 November 2017

Dublin's power, Kerry's dilemma and Galway woe

Colm Keys identifies 10 things we've learned at the halfway point in the football league

Kieran Donaghy fields a ball against Dublin but Kerry looked one-dimensional during parts of last week's game
Kieran Donaghy fields a ball against Dublin but Kerry looked one-dimensional during parts of last week's game
Galway have been spiritless in their opening three games, but blaming manager Tomas O Flatharta would be shortsighted
Cork's Aidan Walsh is redefining the role of the modern midfielder
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The halfway point in the Allianz Football League has been reached and already a few clear patterns are emerging.

Dublin are on course for a first Division 1 title in 12 years, Laois are resurgent in Division 2 and Galway football has found itself in quite a mess with spirits flagging badly.

Here are some observations on what has happened so far:

1Dublin now match Cork as the strongest squad in the game

Three games, three wins, eight goals for Dublin. Pat Gilroy may point to deficiencies in defence but when he gets everyone back from club duty, studies abroad and injury, he'll have close to two players for every position.

That may not be the panacea for everything but when you see the rejuvenation in players like Declan Lally, Paul Casey, Mossie Quinn and Barry Cahill, there is an intense level of competition that probably only Cork can measure up to now.

2 Kieran Donaghy could do with some reinvention -- again

Some 23 minutes into last Saturday night's league encounter at Croke Park, Aidan O'Mahony hoofed a delivery into Kieran Donaghy's domain from just outside the 45-metre line.

It reached the airspace of its target comfortably, but the defenders around were in tune with what was happening and nothing accrued.

At that moment you got the sense that Kerry had become far too one-dimensional in their style. They can be much more flexible, as they showed in the second half.

Darran O'Sullivan's deployment at centre-forward since the start of the season has provided plenty of food for thought in Kerry. His pace suits the centre, where more space abounds.

When Declan O'Sullivan returns there is the option to restart him at full-forward -- where he was used to devastating effect for the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final, semi-final and final -- and release Donaghy to midfield, something that Jack O'Connor is against on a permanent basis.

It's not that Donaghy isn't functioning at full-forward. His performance against Cork in the opening round illustrated that he's still the biggest threat around the square.

But Kerry have the movement and skill to approach it in a different way.

3 Galway's troubles go beyond Tomas O Flatharta

Galway have been poor and spiritless in their opening three games, but blaming the manager for all their woes suggests a bout of amnesia has hit the west.

Remember, they were heading the same direction last season under Joe Kernan until a timely win over Tyrone.

Padraic Joyce then bailed them out in New York before Sligo and Wexford cut them down in the championship. Without Joyce and Michael Meehan, relegation is inevitable.

4 The profile of the midfielder is changing, but Aidan Walsh can establish himself as the best in the position over the next few years

A decade ago, midfield in Gaelic football resembled boxing's middleweight division in the 1980s. There were champions in every province, from Darragh O Se in the south, Kevin Walsh in the west, Anthony Tohill in the north and John McDermott and Ciaran Whelan in the east.

Midfield is a much different landscape now and there are few if any of that late 1990s/early 2000s prototype.

Cork's Aidan Walsh will buck that trend. He's looks every inch the best midfielder of the next decade once he knocks off the few rough edges in his kicking. It's hard to believe he's still an U-21.

5 Kildare still concede far too many scorable frees

Don't get Kieran McGeeney started about the consistency of referees! Or the tackle! McGeeney's desire for solutions is such that the former referee John Bannon is now part of the backroom team and regularly referees in-house games at training.

But there's still much work to be done. Kildare's defensive record is the best in the top two divisions and in seven games in 2011 they have conceded goals in just one (two against Louth) game.

Their average concession is just over 10 points per game, which is quite an effort in parsimony. But there is room for improvement. In three games against Antrim, Derry and Donegal they have yet to concede a goal, but 19 of the 32 points they have coughed up have been from frees. Add in the O'Byrne Cup (when 2-32 was conceded) and that rises to 43 frees from 64 points, just over two from every three.

6 Meath are powerless outside their own home comfort zone

At Pairc Tailteann, Meath can be imperious, but on the road, they have been awful, underlining a real weakness that the new regime have been unable to iron out.

Meath have won just one of their last 14 away games in the league, against Wexford in 2009. They drew with Roscommon in '08, but have lost 10 to Cork, Armagh, Tipperary, Donegal, Down, Westmeath, Dublin and Monaghan before topping it up against Laois and Antrim this season.

It's a dismal record for a team with designs on competing with the best.

7 Promoted teams from last year are struggling

Life in a faster lane hasn't been so easy for five of the six teams promoted to a higher division last year.

Only Down have kept up momentum, with five points from six. Armagh are second bottom in Division 1, with one win from three, while Antrim and Sligo occupy the relegation places in in Division 2. In Division 3, Waterford and Limerick are bottom, with Limerick pointless.

8 Handpass controversy? What handpass controversy?

Remember the handpass controversy that dogged so much of last year's championship?

Human nature being as it is, players and referees have adapted to find common ground in the opening rounds of the league.

9 Beware All-Ireland winning minor teams

This should have been the league where the Galway 2007 All-Ireland winning minor team and the Tyrone team of 2008 should have really started to make their mark.

But last Sunday only Colin Forde, Paul Conroy and sub Damien O'Reilly featured for Galway. Others like Michael Martyn, Anthony Griffin, John Joe Greaney and Damien Reddington have drifted in different directions.

Tyrone's team of 2008 has been slow to develop too, with just Peter Harte making his mark so far and Niall McKenna to a lesser extent. Kyle Coney has injuries; Gavin Teague, Ronan Tierney, Ciaran Gervin, Ronan McNabb, Paddy McNiece and Mattie Donnelly have yet to make their mark.

10 There hasn't been a bad league game under lights at Croke Park

Dublin have now played four league matches at Croke Park under lights over the last four seasons and each has been very high in entertainment value.

Irish Independent

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