Football league talking points: Kildare and Cork left worrying over Sam Maguire status

GAA can surely live without adding VAR to the mix for marginal calls

Kildare’s lack of punch up front must be a big concern for Glenn Ryan after three consecutive low-scoring returns from three defeats in Division Two. There have been injuries, Jimmy Hyland missed the loss to Armagh while Daniel Flynn and Niall Kelly both came off the bench, but Kildare’s paltry return of 0-8 was the lowest put up by any team across the four divisions on Sunday (Fermanagh also registered 0-8 on Saturday).

Kildare scored 0-12 in their opening game against Cavan, and also 0-12 against Fermanagh. Their total of 32 points after three games is the lowest tally of any team in Division Two. Their scoring difference of -22 is the worst of any team across the top two divisions. They had five different scorers against Armagh but Kevin Feely – operating at full-forward – was the only player who managed to split the posts on more than one occasion.

And their inability to score goals continues to hang over the misfiring forward unit. In 17 league games under Ryan they have scored only five goals, and they were netted in three games – one v Donegal in February 2022, one v Dublin in February 2022, three v Limerick in March 2023. They failed to score a single goal in the other 14. Kildare’s most recent league goal was March 19th of last year. Gordon Manning

GAA can surely live without adding VAR to the mix


Roscommon had a goal disallowed on Saturday night against the Dubs which, at first glance, looked a very simple decision for Sean Hurson and his umpires. Daire Cregg got in on a backdoor cut behind Seán McMahon and as the Dublin defender caught up with him, Cregg’s attempted fist pass dropped into the net. It seemed like a relatively straightforward call – you can’t handpass the ball into the net, so no goal.

Cregg wasn’t having it though and implored Hurson to look up at the big screen. He got nowhere with that one – the Croker riot-prevention protocols kicked in and the replay wasn’t shown. Had it been, Cregg might well have had a case. Once the footage was slowed down, it was clear that McMahon got a touch to the ball. It was marginal stuff – you could argue that Cregg and McMahon both connected at more or less the same time. But it was probably a legit goal.

Afterwards, when we put it to Davy Burke that this could raise the question of VAR once again, he wasn’t so sure. “I said this up in Tyrone when [a similar] situation went against us – I certainly wouldn’t want the game to slow down any further. But I want those two goals given for us.”

At which point, Irish Times busybody in the room ventured that VAR wouldn’t have made a big pile of difference in this case anyway, since the margins were so tight and it wasn’t a clear and obvious error. Didn’t go down overly well with the Roscommon manager, that one. Fair to say Davy Burke did not appreciate the intervention of The Irish Times busybody.

“Hang on, VAR wouldn’t overturn it?!” Burke spluttered. “It was a goal, why wouldn’t they overturn it? Jesus Christ, I don’t know lads. I thought VAR came out with the right result. Like, the Dublin hand was the last to touch the ball and the ball went in the net. Where I come from, that’s a goal.”

Well, it is and it isn’t. The point is, it wasn’t a slam dunk. Maybe VAR would have given it and maybe it would have made no difference. But if soccer has taught us anything, it’s that there will still be disputes over decisions, regardless of how many camera angles we pore over. The game can surely live without adding VAR to the mix. Malachy Clerkin

Cork’s spot in Sam Maguire under threat

On a miserable Saturday afternoon, with fewer than 4,000 spectators scattered around the vast emptiness of Supervalu Pairc Ui Chaoimh, the Cork footballers took another turn on the road to God knows where. Three defeats leaves them alongside Kildare at the bottom of Division Two – the only two teams in the top two divisions without a point.

There was a time when league performances were as reliable as horoscopes for predicting the future but there is so little experimenting in the league now that poor results are much harder to dismiss. Of the 19 players that Cork used against Cavan on Saturday, for example, 13 of them started in Cork’s victory over Mayo in last year’s championship and two others came off the bench.

Apart from a couple of injury absentees, and Sean Powter only being fit enough to come on as a replacement, it was as strong a team as Cork can muster.

Last summer seems like another galaxy. Remember? They took a pair of Division One scalps – Mayo and Roscommon – ran Kerry to a couple of points, and hung tough with Derry for most of the All-Ireland quarter-final. It seemed like platform to kick on again.

Now what? For a decade Cork football has been haunted by inadequacies and inconsistencies. Losing their spot in the Sam Maguire Cup is a looming possibility now. Denis Walsh

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Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times

Denis Walsh

Denis Walsh

Denis Walsh is a sports writer with The Irish Times