GAA weekend that was: Galway are happy to lurk in the shadows
Meanwhile, Waterford will be slow to get going; Monaghan hold Indian sign over Kerry
Waterford’s Barry Coughlan challenges Walter Walsh of Kilkenny during their Division 1A clash on Sunday. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Micheál Donoghue will be happy for Galway to keep a low profile until All-Ireland time. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Limerick’s Diarmaid Byrnes and Danny Sutcliffe of Dublin jump for the sliotar during their Division 1B meeting on Saturday. Photo: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Obscurity suits Galway
While Division 1A of the hurling league settles into the predictable scrap for relegation, there has been precious little talk about the league and All-Ireland title holders. Galway haven’t really been seen or heard from since the night they brought the MacCarthy Cup to Salthill. That will suit Micheál Donoghue just fine. Sean Loftus was among the new players who enjoyed a comfortable home win against Offaly in Pearse Stadium yesterday. The television cameras are elsewhere; the senior players are slowly being reintegrated and promotion to the league quarter-finals has already been achieved. An away match against Dublin precedes a home tie against Limerick which may well be a promotion clincher. Both teams will be keen to return to the top tier but Galway have thrived in the quiet life of Division 1B.
For Waterford, it may get worse before it gets better
No team has used the ‘league-as-springboard’ tactic as spectacularly as Derek McGrath’s Waterford. They raced from the scrubland in 2015 to claim a league title from Division 1B and have been one of the most consistent forces in hurling since then. The emotional and physical fallout from last September’s All-Ireland final defeat seemed to put a full stop on that hectic burst of productivity. If Waterford are to challenge for provincial and All-Ireland honours, then a low key start to the league was always on the cards. McGrath admitted as much after Sunday’s subdued defeat to Kilkenny. Struggling for scores and form just now, they face a tough and vital assignment in Cork next weekend in a bid to get their league season up and running.
The restart holds the key
Clare got on top of Cork’s puckouts in Cusack Park on Sunday and kept John Meyler’s team under the cosh for a full 35 minutes. Not once did they leave Anthony Nash with a handy target for a quick restart and when the Kanturk man sought to find a team-mate through a long delivery, the Clare halfback line and midfielders were there in numbers. Clare sent 0-16 points fizzing over the bar but more significantly they held Cork to just 0-2 from play, with Patrick Horgan the only forward to score from play in the opening half hour. They were able to re-organise at half time and won plenty of second half possession but by then had left themselves with a mountain to climb. But even without Alan Cadogan and Conor Lehane, Cork put up 0-19 and created two goal chances despite being under the cosh for half the game.
Dublin hurling is a big project
Pat Gilroy is one of the chief architects of the Dublin football revolution and his appointment as manager of the senior hurling team created a wave of anticipation. It was never going to be an overnight thing and Dublin’s lacklustre opening phase of the league underlines that. Limerick’s Aaron Gillane was considered doubtful prior to Saturday night’s game only to then play and fire 1-9 (in 47 minutes) could be seen as indicative of Dublin’s luck just now. They just couldn’t live with Limerick, they failed to create a single goal chance and are lurking with dangerously close to the bottom of Division 1B. The visit of All-Ireland champions Galway next week will bring an atmosphere but it may be the wrong time to face a team in flow.
Kerry leave no stone unturned
On what was nominally a hurling weekend, Iniskeen hosted a humdinger of a Division One match between Kerry and Monaghan. Once again, the Farney men showed that when it comes to this time of the year, they have the Indian sign over Kerry. But Éamonn Fitzmaurice has been good as his word in giving youth its chance in this league. Half the players he used on Sunday have yet to play a second of championship football and players like Paul Murphy, Peter Crowley and Paul Geaney suddenly looked like the grizzled veterans of the age. 40 minutes – broken by half time – without a score from play was one of the resulting stats on a mixed day for the Kingdom. Expect them to field more seasoned teams going down the home stretch and finish the spring strongly.