GAA’s strongholds waste no time in marking their territory

Football’s provincial champions emphasise status by claiming early-season silverware

The GAA's football hors d'oeuvres – if that's not overestimating their nutritional value – were scoffed at the weekend by a variety of familiar diners. Dublin's development team recaptured the O'Byrne Cup after a two-year gap after an impressive second half before about 3,000 spectators in Drogheda left Louth trailing in their wake.

Galway repeated last year's success against Roscommon in the Connacht league final, which set alongside Tyrone's sixth consecutive McKenna Cup in Ulster and Kerry's victory in the previous week's McGrath Cup final, means that all of last year's senior provincial champions have emphasised their status by winning the various secondary competitions in each of the provinces.

Dublin's acting manager Paul Clarke and his players are probably the county's happiest ever O'Byrne Cup winners and he said that he and his management would be briefing Jim Gavin in advance of next week's opening of the football league.

"There's a number of things have to be done, so I'll sit down with Jim Brogan and Jim Gavin and Bryan Cullen to discuss all these sorts of things. We'll discuss everything about them. Bryan Cullen will discuss the gym work they did and how they've improved there. We'll discuss the performances and positions and how they did when they came in. I'll be telling Jim about when we brought lads in as subs, the instructions they were given and how they were able to follow those instructions."



His Louth counterpart Colin Kelly had reacted irritably to suggestions that his players would be facing Dublin's understudies and looked resigned to the direction the post-mortem might take.

"Disappointing. I'm going to have to listen to a load of stuff now about the Dublin third team.

“For 35 minutes we had serious domination – possibly should have turned 1-10, 1-12 to four or five points ahead. There lies the problem. We didn’t and when Dublin got their period of domination, their skill-set shone through. Some of their shooting was very, very good.

“They had a period of domination straight after half-time where they killed the game, whereas in the first half we were getting attack after attack after attack, and five points to show for it. Not good enough.”

There were inevitable questions about what it all means for Leinster in the year when Dublin set off for a 12th provincial title in 13 seasons. Kelly believes that it’s all cyclical and that the province is currently in a lull. Overall though, he’s not getting carried away with the implications.

"Will they produce another Diarmuid Connolly? I don't know. Will they produce another Bernard Brogan? I don't know. Is Stephen Cluxton replaceable? All these questions and when these guys step away, then all of a sudden we'll see will it level out. That's the reality, it will come again.


"As I said to you, last year could Mayo have won the All-Ireland and would we be having this conversation? So as I said to you, Dublin is not my concern."

“Where do you go to from here?” he was asked.

“Down to Portlaoise next Sunday,” came the glum reply.

Clarke was asked was he sure that was it for his managerial involvement.

“I’m done now, thank you.”

But a 100 per cent record in competitions entered?

"Better than Sam Allardyce and no money involved! I can ride off into the sunset."

In hurling, Cork won the Munster league final with an exciting win against Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds. Alan Cadogan's last-gasp goal brought up a 1-21 to 1-20 success. That represented a big improvement for the home side who lost by 21 points when the counties met a fortnight ago.

In Leinster's Walsh Cup final, Galway will face a Kilkenny side that just about survived their first brush with David Fitzgerald's Wexford in New Ross. Having levelled the match late on, the home side endured the frustration of going down to an injury-time free, pointed by Kilkenny's Alan Murphy.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times