Tuesday 20 February 2018

Ten things we've already learned from the league

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

WE'RE not even at the halfway point yet but, with a three-week hiatus now in the Allianz Football League, it's time to reflect on the early evidence.

1 Dublin and Kildare's young guns look like the real deal

Paddy Andrews and Bernard Brogan may be leading the Dubs' unbeaten run, but another former All-Ireland-winning U-21 – Craig Dias – came off the bench to goal against Kerry on Sunday.

The fresh injection of youth in Kildare's attack also seems to be working wonders, with teenagers Niall Kelly and Paddy Brophy starring as they bagged maximums against Cork.

2 Kerry and Meath better strap on the crampons

It's too early to call it a crisis but, after rushing Tomas O Se, Kieran Donaghy, Declan O'Sullivan and Bryan Sheehan back, Kerry were even worse than their scoreless second-half performance against Mayo, managing a pathetic four points (one free) against Dublin in Killarney.

Colm Cooper, Eoin Brosnan and Paul Galvin are among those still to return but Eamonn Fitzmaurice has a mammoth task ahead as it looks like Kerry's lack of underage success in recent years has finally caught up with them.

Meath bounced back from that tonking by Monaghan to beat Wicklow by eight, but the Garden County have lost three marquee forwards this year, so the Royals need to have perspective.

3Northern heavyweights haven't gone away you know

Donegal bounced back from losing to Kildare by beating Down in Ballybofey and, although Tyrone still look to be in a transitional phase, they've won the McKenna Cup and taken full points from the Down and Mayo games.

4 Plus ca change in Mayo Having been set up to make a good start with two early home games, Mayo trounced Kerry but had fans tearing their hair out against Tyrone. An extraordinary comeback almost stole it, but victory would only have papered over the cracks. Mayo totally bossed midfield but lacked any substantial penetration. Andy Moran can't return quickly enough.

5 Cork miss their 'Duracel Bunny' Quite how interested the Rebels are in winning a fourth Division 1 title in a row is a moot point. They've reshuffled their pack and experimented a lot before each of their first two games, but it's surely no coincidence that they're winless while indefatigable link-man Paddy Kelly (below) is out injured.

6 Old enmities die hard in Ulster Monaghan finished with just 12 men against Cavan, with the Breffni men picking up two straight reds. A week earlier, Down finished with 13 players against Tyrone in a feisty game that attracted 15 yellow cards. Surely it's not all down to the referees, lads?

7 Six Nations is not such a threat to attendances after all

Only 926 fans turned up for the Division 2 Westmeath-Longford derby but, despite starting an hour before the Ireland-England showdown and having television coverage, the stand in Castlebar, which holds 10,000, was over three-quarters full to watch Mayo-Tyrone, while 5,400 watched Kerry-Dublin in Killarney.

8 Don't count your chickens Leitrim's season started promisingly with the FBD success, but they've since lost to Limerick and, hit by injuries, let a seven-point lead slip to Micko's Clare in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada. Laois clocked up 0-20 in the win over Armagh and had nine scorers against Derry yet still let a four-point lead slip.

9 Kildare's loss is Waterford's gain New Decies boss and ex-Lilies selector Niall Carew has scored Division 4 wins over Clare (in Milltown) and Tipperary to date, both achieved in the absence of suspended captain Gary Hurney.

10 Referees are only human TV replays indicated that Tyrone's Mark Donnelly was fouled after he'd shot wide in Castlebar, so kudos to James Horan for not crying about that penalty. Hawk-Eye will debut at next month's club finals but won't operate outside Croke Park, so everyone should just accept that referees, like players, are fallible and make honest mistakes – complaining won't change a thing.

Irish Independent

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