Mayo's Rory Brickenden and Galway's Damien Comer. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Mayo-Galway drama, Dublin shooting, and delight for the Rossies

Some of the talking points from the opening weekend of the Allianz Football League.

1. Mayo-Galway drama

For a late January Saturday night, Mayo and Galway packed in plenty to produce fireworks in Castlebar. Kevin McStay’s first major test as Mayo boss, Padraic Joyce into his fourth season with Galway after a campaign that came up short on All-Ireland final day. James Carr’s rocket to the net, his latest sensational strike in a fixture between these counties. Galway pouncing for opportunist goals from Matthew Tierney and Seán Kelly.

The absorbing individual duel between Kelly and Ryan O’Donoghue. A finale that seemed to instal Damien Comer as match-winner, only for O’Donoghue to sling over a shot from distance to level it. The atmosphere intensified and the volume heightened as the game progressed, the 13,654 spectators treated to a fast-paced spectacle that will have heartened them at the return of big-time football.

2. Cavan’s bright start

The inaugural Tailteann Cup was by general consensus a success, players and managers alike investing in the new structure last summer. It culminated in Westmeath celebrating and Cavan left dejected, which meant the re-match today in Mullingar, between a pair who are at the head of the Division 3 promotion market, had an extra layer of intrigue to it.

Cavan made the stronger statement. A victory was a positive, winning away even more so. They restricted Westmeath to just three points in the opening three-quarters of the game and then coped with the late blast of pressure from the home team. The return of Dara McVeety, who chipped in with two points is a real boost. Mickey Graham will be pleased.

3. Dublin’s shooting

An opening night win is not to be scoffed at. Given Dublin’s struggles this time last year, the ransacking by Armagh of their defence in the first game was a sign of spring things to come, they will be glad to get up and running in Division 2. Kildare’s late charge was stifled, the neat interplay that yielded a crisply finished goal by Brian Fenton in the first half, proved the difference between the teams.

glenn-ryan-and-dessie-farrell Glenn Ryan and Dessie Farrell after Saturday night's game. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

And yet Saturday night in Croke Park was a performance pockmarked with rust. Dessie Farrell didn’t need reminding of their issue in front of goal. Twelve scores from 30 attempts is a glaring statistic, that 40% conversion rate will need to be bumped up. They snatched at chances as the wides mounted, other times attempts popped short into Mark Donnellan’s arms. It all meant Kildare were never fully gone away during the second half. Plenty road ahead to iron out those kinks.

4. Delight for the Rossies

Roscommon’s yo-yo existence in the league has been well-documented. A sense of stability is something they crave. The top tier challenges facing new manager Davy Burke will be fierce, starting out with a victory against the 2021 All-Ireland champions is an impressive way to go about things.

ben-ocarroll-celebrates-scoring-his-sides-third-goal-with-enda-smith Ben O'Carroll celebrates his late goal with Enda Smith. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The manner of today’s success against Tyrone should embolden them. A five-point interval lead morphed into a three-point deficit, the gale in Dr Hyde Park playing its’ part. To respond with three goals illustrates their attacking verve, the Smiths and the Murtaghs again to the fore, while newcomer Ben O’Carroll, a product off the U20 team two years ago, top-scored with 1-2.

5. High stakes in Division 2

The high stakes at play in Division 2 with the Sam Maguire and Tailteann Cup implications, will weigh heavily on the minds of those involved. There’s seven steps along the spring route but the opening one can shape mindsets. For Dublin and Clare it was big to squeeze out one-point wins, particularly the Banner with their injury-time scoring spree. Derry were ruthless yesterday in front of goal and Meath’s capacity to hit the net served them well today.

Newly-promoted Louth and Limerick were hit hard in different ways, Mickey Harte’s team overhauled late on and Ray Dempsey’s dismantled by Derry’s power. If you told Kildare beforehand they’d only concede 1-11 and told Cork they’d score 0-19, both would have been optimistic. Instead defeat visited both and they meet in a crunch game in Newbridge next Sunday.

patrick-mcbrearty-celebrates-scoring-the-winning-point Patrick McBrearty hit Donegal's winner. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

6. Boost for Donegal

A fresh face in charge on the sideline and their iconic captain now watching on in retirement. The scale of change in Donegal football is apparent to all, no harm then giving the locals in Ballybofey something to cheer about. The opponents were vastly different to the side that claimed Sam Maguire last July, Kerry are still feeling their way into a new campaign.

Yet Donegal trailed by three points at the break and in that respect it will do them good to have turned this game around, holding Kerry to three second-half points and launching over a late winner courtesy of Patrick McBrearty. Nice tallies of 0-3 apiece as well from Conor O’Donnell and Caolan McColgan.

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