Football Team of the Week: Stand-out performers across the board as 10 counties are represented in our XV
It was a jam-packed weekend of football as three provincial championships, other than Connacht, reached their pinnacle and round two of the qualifiers moved some teams closer to Super 8s glory and eliminated equally as many.
Dublin, Kerry and Donegal were all comfortable in their respective provincial triumphs, as Laois, Cork and Fermanagh respectively fell to the dominant forces in their competitions. As the championship progresses, the teams likely to contest for an All-Ireland are becoming more clear, but there were also some stand-out individual performances.
Here is your team of the week:
1. Graham Brody (Laois)
Graham Brody was met with the unenviable task of keeping out a Dublin side who, for the first ten minutes, had goal on their mind. Six minutes into the game Ciaran Kilkenny managed to sneak one by Brody after his half-save wasn’t enough to keep the ball out. At that stage though he had already prevented what looked like two certain goals. Brody continued his impressive shot stopping, including a point-blank save from a Jack McCaffrey rocket, before he was replaced in the 55th minute because of a suspected injury, much to his own annoyance. His fly keeper antics were also effective.
2. Jason Foley (Kerry)
Kerry only conceded six scores against their greatest rivals Cork, in Saturday’s Munster final. While two of them were early goals, the Kingdom soon settled into the game and their defense was completely dominant. The 21-year-old showed experience above his years and kept the Cork full forward line very quiet. Ruairi Deane created both of the Cork goals in almost identical fashion and his black card for a challenge on Foley was a killer blow for the Rebels.
3. Stephen McMenamin (Donegal)
In for the suspended Neil McGee, McMenamin had a big challenge in front of him but showed the strength in depth in the Donegal squad with a solid performance from the defensive driving seat. McMenamin left an argument for his continuation in the green and gold number three spot.
4. Eoghan Bán Gallagher (Donegal)
Gallagher was part of a solid defensive effort in Donegal's Ulster final victory over Fermanagh. Not only did he help Donegal to frustrate Fermanagh forwards, but he was also a bundle of energy surging forward. He finished top scorer from play with an impressive 1-1 and deserved the Man of the Match award he received.
5. Brian Howard (Dublin)
Brian Howard’s performance will please Dublin supporters. Other than a long ball option, which Dublin adapted to after 25 minutes, Laois never looked like breaching the Dub’s tight-knit defence. Howard, as he so often is, was rock solid in Dublin’s defensive effort. He also got up the pitch for a score of his own to bury the knife further into the heart of Laois’ Leinster Championship hopes.
6. Paul Brennan (Donegal)
Won his first Ulster title in his first final appearance. Put in a great defensive performance and strode forward for two scores. The Realt na Mara man is solid at centre back for Donegal as they advance to the Super 8s with a first clash against Leinster Champions, Dublin.
7. Peter Harte (Tyrone)
Peter Hart’s ability to break from the Tyrone defense at pace and run at Turlough O'Brien's men was menacing for Carlow. In the second half, Hart earned himself Man of the Match when he killed off the game, setting up a goal for Niall Sludden, after he danced his way through the Carlow defense, and then bagging a goal of his own. Very polished performance from Hart who looked good in all aspects.
8. Damien Moran (Leitrim)
Scored seven points from play from midfield. Proved unmarkable for Louth and was the cause of James Craven’s red card when the Louth man, seemingly frustrated, hit Moran with an apparent headbutt. Leitrim will need another performances like this from Moran against Monaghan this weekend.
9. Darren Hughes (Monaghan)
A classy performance by Hughes saw him contribute two points to Monaghan’s 5-21 to 0-9 annihilation of Waterford. The Scotstown man was part of a dominant midfield and kept the fluidity of the Farney men’s attack while stopping Waterford from delivering playable ball into their forward line.
10. Rory Grugan (Armagh)
Armagh struggled to pull away from Sligo in the first half, trailing for most of it before going in at half-time ahead by the bare minimum. Three classy points by Grugan though helped Kieran McGeeney’s men to find their feet and send Sligo out of the competition. Man of the Match, Grugan shone and amassed 1-5 of Armagh's 1-19 in a stand-out performance by the Orchard captain.
11. Michael Langan (Donegal)
Though Langan only managed a point from centre forward, he was part of much more. In the first half he was involved in three scores in quick succession, scoring a point and setting up 1-1 for Bán Gallagher. This spurt of excellence from Langan was the eventual undoing of Fermanagh as they never managed to close the deficit.
12. Ciarán Kilkenny (Dublin)
Kilkenny is integral to Dublin’s devastating attack and the form he has exhibited so far in the championship would suggest a third All-Star is on the cards for the Castleknock star. His energy levels were second only to substitute Jack McCaffery as he notched up a tally of 1-4 to help Jim Gavin’s side comfortably see off Laois. Jamie Malone was also excellent for Clare, but Kilkenny was possibly to best performer of the weekend.
13. Eoin Cleary (Clare)
Scored six points in Clare’s narrow victory over Offaly. Cleary is proving himself a top performer for Clare this year. His link-up work with Jamie Malone was troublesome for Offaly as the pair were individually the two best players on the field.
14. Paul Geaney (Kerry)
Geaney was in unstoppable form as Kerry cruised to a Munster final victory over Cork. His 2-5 from play earned him Man of the Match as the Kingdom marched on to a Super 8s series where they look like the most likely team in the tournament to challenge Dublin.
15. Neil Flynn (Kildare)
Scored five points from play in a flawless performance that helped the Lillywhites to overcome Longford by three points. When Kildare were struggling, it was Man of the Match Flynn who dragged them up, surging out in front, looking for possession. He looked very dangerous every time he had ball in hand and Longford were lucky he didn’t pick up a few goals as they looked in trouble when he ran at them.