Familiar GAA storylines quick to re-emerge in new season

Kerry shape up for Dublin while in hurling Galway end Limerick’s long unbeaten run

It never takes the GAA long to get its storylines up and running again.

The new season is still taking its first steps but already the intriguing themes and possibilities are emerging. In Tralee on Saturday, the Kerry footballers delivered a thumping 4-21 to 0-11 win over Galway to send an oblique message to Dublin. David Clifford bagged a hat-trick in a performance that suggested that Kerry are fed up of the colour blue.

In turn, the All-Ireland champions came into Hyde Park on Sunday and took up where they left off with a sauntering to a 1-22 to 0-16 win over Roscommon.

In Ulster, Michael Murphy gave a stunning Saturday evening display to lead his county to a 0-16 to 0-14 victory in the latest instalment of the Donegal-Tyrone power-sharing disagreement. So already, the football sky is filling up with potential meteorite collisions.


Meanwhile, in Salthill, All-Ireland hurling champions Limerick met Galway for what RTÉ's John Mullane, one of the sharpest evangelists in the game, described as "a proper game of hurling".

It finished 0-26 to 1-17 with plenty of attendant sparks and clatters to make the public hope that these two meet for real again later in the summer. The defeat won’t cause outright worry in Limerick but a point from two games is not the ideal start for John Kiely’s team.

It was in Galway that the Treaty revolution started with a famous comeback league win against the then All-Ireland champions in 2018. Here, Galway demonstrated muscle and skill.

Evan Niland gave a silky exhibition of free-taking, Cathal Mannion looked a class apart and Joe Canning came in to to excel in a midfield role as Galway emphasised that they have the height and physique to compete with Limerick. Whether this was the phony war remains to be seen.

Earlier in the afternoon and a 40 minute spin down the road, Davy Fitzgerald brought his Wexford team into his old stomping ground at Ennis Park. The frozen tundra that defines his relationship with his former Clare fullback comrade Brian Lohan, the current Clare manager, is well-explored territory at this stage. So the sideline personality added to the occasion.

Wexford fell into an eight-point hole with little over 15 minutes remaining and then, in keeping with the extreme drama which follows Fitzgerald, battled to forge a late, late win through a Rory O’Connor free. But Fitzgerald declined any opportunity to rub salt into Clare wounds afterwards.

Three penalties

"If you looked at us on the sideline, there was no roaring and shouting. We actually knew we were creating the opportunities, we just weren't taking them. We got the result and I thought they showed tremendous character, which is great. I know Clare lost Tony Kelly there through injury and were missing David [Reidy] and Shane [O'Donnell] and I suppose we were missing six or seven lads that think they are going to start as well. So what we are both trying to do is see what we have in our panel."

The first outing for the Dublin footballers was boosted by the awarding of three penalties in their win over Roscommon. All were for the contentious black card/foul rule, which left the local constituency vexed and Mick Galvin, deputising as manager for the suspended Dessie Farrell, highly doubtful about the benefits of the latest bit of tinkering with the game.

“I’m not sure, to be honest. We definitely benefited today. If that’s the case there could be six, seven penalties next weekend in Tralee [actually the game is in Thurles] so I’m not sure. Straight off I wouldn’t be a fan of it but it worked in our favour today and so we can’t have any complaints.

“I didn’t really get to see them all so I don’t know was there a defender there or the possibility for a defender to get back so I’ll have to have a look at them again. But it is going to be very hard to police, to be honest. They have a tough job as it is and that is just making it very hard for them.

"Anthony Cunningham certainly wasn't happy about being on the wrong end of them today and I can feel sorry for him. It's a forwards' game now. Once you get the ball and stick it under your arm you go direct at goal but I'm sure teams will come up with a way to combat it."

If it's a forwards' game, then Dublin will keep singing. Cormac Costello finished with 1-13 here and Ciarán Kilkenny closed the afternoon with an ominous display of movement and score-taking.

Anthony Cunningham was pleased with the creativity his team showed. But its basically impossible to beat Dublin if you cough up three penalties and the Roscommon manager didn’t pretend to be a fan of the new rule.

“I can’t give out about the referee but I can give out about the guys who made that rule. I don’t think it was needed in the game. I think the rules committee are trigger-happy to be changing the rules every year. I don’t think there was a need in the game. It was harsh as well.

“The rule is if you have no players back but I definitely think we did in two instances. Look, it is unfair. It is unfair that the rules committee in Croke Park who, interestingly, don’t have any top class referees on it, would go and make these decisions. It is messing around with the game.”

So it’s early and it’s a compressed season but one thing is clear; if teams don’t find a way to pressurise the Dubs, their composure and decision-making in possession will make them extremely hard to beat.

The Dublin-Kerry show moves to Thurles next week, the venue for a famous old game between the two rivals. One of them has to blink.

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times