1. Kildare’s youngsters shine brightly
Kildare’s team selections during the O’Byrne Cup have been notable for the youthful emphasis in attack.
That trend did not vary in their league opener on Saturday against Donegal.
Niall Kelly is just out of the minor ranks while last year Daniel Flynn was a schools star on the St Mary’s (Edenderry) team that won the Hogan Cup.
Yet both thrived on the senior stage with Kelly flighting over three points from play while Flynn processed plenty ball at half-forward. With another U21 player in Celbridge’s Paddy Brophy impacting when brought on, Kildare departed Croke Park with two league points and heartened by the promise their young players had shown.
2. Dublin demonstrate the depth of their panel
Two All-Ireland U21 titles and one All-Ireland minor crown in the last three years provide proof of the conveyor belt of talent that Dublin have coming on board at senior level. Half of the 20 players that featured during Saturday night’s win against Cork were involved in those underage wins. Some like Rory O’Carroll are already established figures but the sights of Jack McCaffrey racing forward for two points and Kevin O’Brien holding 2012 Allstar Colm O’Neill scoreless, will have pleased Jim Gavin. Now the headache starts in sifting through the personnel and forming a panel.
3. The return of Michael Meehan
A combination of persistent injuries and Galway’s short-lived summers have contributed to Michael Meehan not featuring prominently in recent years. It’s been a shame considering his status as one of the most gifted attackers in the game. Yesterday he started a league opener for the first time in four years and his team subsequently benefited. Meehan chalked up 1-5 in Galway’s success against Derry and illustrated just how valuable an attacking weapon he can be for the Tribesmen.
4. Donegal’s early season lethargy is unsurprising
Jim McGuinness was frank in his post-match assessment on Saturday of the intensity levels, or lack thereof, that Donegal produced. Yet that was hardly surprising given that they are still limbering up for the 2013 campaign after their extensive All-Ireland celebrations and the team’s holiday to Dubai. Donegal were listless for spells against Kildare but with McGuinness himself describing their fitness levels as at 65%/70%, that was understandable. Their second-half fightback, inspired by Michael Murphy, will have encouraged them. And let’s not forget that the losses in their opening two league games last year were the precursor to ultimate September glory.
5. The league specialists Cork look rusty
Only once in Conor Counihan’s five years in charge has he not acquired league silverware in April and that was in the truncated debut campaign of 2008. The hopes of maintaining that run of success were dented on Saturday as Cork slumped to defeat against Dublin in a display where their rustiness was brought into sharp focus.
The emergence of Carbery Rangers forward John O’Rourke was a rare bright spot on a night which Counihan accepted his team were sub-standard. Yet just like Donegal’s, Cork’s focus has not been on ball work in recent weeks. And the question has to be asked are Cork best off focusing on getting their summer challenge right rather than shining in the spring once more?
6. Laois welcome back Donie Kingston
In the 2012 championship narrative, Laois emerged as a team travelling on a upward curve. They got 2013 off to a bright start with a convincing victory over Armagh on Saturday night. And it was a game where the sight of Donie Kingston, absent from the panel last year, positioned in attack was something for Laois supporters to cherish. After a week where he scored a terrific goal for UCD in the Sigerson Cup, his 0-4 haul against Armagh was a reminder that he could bring a vital blend of physique and scoring power to the Laois forward line this season.
Donie Kingston in action for Laois against Armagh. Pic: INPHO/Donall Farmer
7. Westmeath and Wexford persevere and are rewarded
Amidst all the talk of how competitive Division 1 will be this year, the principle of getting off to a positive opening also applies in Division 2. Westmeath, who scraped clear of relegation last year, clawed back a three-point deficit with 14 men to defeat Louth by a point. And Wexford, freshly promoted from Division 3, trailed by nine points at one juncture in the first-half against Longford but they battled on and were rewarded with a 2-8 to 1-10 win at the final whistle.
8. Mayo overcome attacking absentees to triumph
The chief attacking story that was dissected after yesterday’s game in Castlebar was Kerry’s failure to score for 42 minutes and their lack of any score during the second-half. The absence of lynchpins like Cooper, Donaghy, Galvin and O’Sullivan was held up as a primary reason for those struggles. But there was another side who were missing key attackers yesterday. Mayo coped with that scenario as a forward line shorn of Andy Moran, Alan Dillon and Cillian O’Connor still managed to chalk up 0-15 with Jason Doherty and Michael Conroy particularly proficient.
9. Life in Division 3 begins badly for Meath
If Meath hoped that the turmoil of last spring was a distant memory, they began life in the third tier with a sharp jolt as they crashed to a 12-point loss to Monaghan. They got an early boost through a Jamie Queeney goal but then capitulated with Monaghan at one stage enjoying a 1-17 to 1-2 lead. A Royal recovery will be needed next week away to Wicklow.
10. Former Lilywhites start brightly in Division 4
Anthony Rainbow is a celebrated former Kildare defender. Niall Carew is recognised as one of Kieran McGeeney’s right-hand men in Kildare over the past five years. Now they are both cutting their managerial teeth elsewhere and both began life in the basement division in an enthusiastic fashion.
Rainbow travelled to Thurles with his Carlow team and overcame a six-point deficit and the sending-off of Kieran Nolan to claim a 1-14 to 0-16 victory. And the 178km distance between Waterford’s football home in the Fraher Field and the Milltown-Malbay venue for yesterday’s game against Clare, did not prove a deterrent for Carew’s Déise side as they succeeded by 1-9 to 0-11.