INPHO/Morgan Treacy Galway's Niall Healy in action against Kilkenny's Tommy Walsh.
Weekend GAA Talking Points
Some of the areas of debate that emerged from the weekend’s action around the country.

1. Clean sheets are key for Galway

It lacked the passion and fire of last September’s showdowns yet there was no harm for Galway in posting an early season victory over Kilkenny yesterday.

And a cursory glance at the scoreline demonstrates that they did to Kilkenny what the Cats have done to others on untold occasions.

Three first-half goals – two in a quick blast from Davy Glennon and Niall Healy and the clinching third before the interval from Damien Hayes – created the cushion that Galway could rely on throughout the second-half.

But of critical importance was the shutout at the back. Galway showed a propensity for leaking goals in 2012, the nine conceded in Leinster stands out, and it’s something that needs to be addressed this year. Granted Kilkenny were missing the firepower of Shefflin, Reid and Walsh yet the clean sheet still represented a positive start for Galway.

2. Kilkenny and Tipperary’s clash now has extra spice

Kilkenny are league masters, as evidenced by the eight finals that Brian Cody has steered them to over the past 11 years. To repeat that trick, they will be looking for a smart response when they travel to Thurles on Sunday week against Tipperary.

Their opponents, after Saturday’s meltdown against Cork, are in a similar scenario. Whoever wins is back on track for the knockout stages and whoever loses may have to embrace a scrap at the bottom end of the table. There should be an edge to this Semple showdown.

3. No quick fixes for Eamonn O’Shea

Eamonn O’Shea issued an interesting line in the aftermath of Saturday night’s match against Cork. “A lot of our players are five years on the go and we’ve got to come up with something different, it’s quite clear.”

The Tipperary manager had just witnessed a game where his side were swatted away by 12 points as the task that he faces was crystallized once more. The first-half display was alarming with three Tipperary players whipped off before the interval and early in the second-half Brian O’Meara became the third forward to be called ashore.

It’s too early in the year to be pronouncing definitive judgements yet Tipperary’s lethargy, lack of ball winners in attack and misery in suffering a heavy defeat at the start of the year will not have gone unnoticed by their management.

4. Cork catch the eye

Cork entered Saturday’s game after a winter of personnel upheaval yet the rumours that had swirled up about ill-feeling in their camp were dampened by the exciting nature of this victory. By the 49th minute they had stormed clear by an astonishing 16 points, 0-19 to 0-3, and had put the game to bed.

New players stood forward and issued statements of intent with Christopher Joyce, Daniel Kearney and Stephen Moylan impressing in their auditions. Shane O’Neill and Patrick Horgan provided leadership at opposite ends of the pitch.

The dynamism of Cork’s play made it a satisfying night for Jimmy Barry-Murphy. He will be cautious given that it is only 12 months since Cork also started the league in blinding fashion against Waterford. Yet 2013 at least began on a good note.

5. Waterford’s youth bursts to the fore

Waterford could relate to their neighbors to the west over the winter as their squad was stripped of towering and charismatic figures. Life goes on however and no one has done a better job than Waterford in recent years of shredding notions that they are slipping back into the pack.

The bookmakers favorites from the drop in Division 1A and 11/4 outsiders for yesterday’s trip to Ennis, they edged a tight contest by a single point for a morale-boosting win.

On a day when Dungarvan Colleges swept to their second successive Dr Harty Cup title there was further evidence of promising youth in a Waterford team where Jake Dillon, Brian O’Halloran, Shane Fives and Stephen Daniels all acquitted themselves well.

Clare’s Domhnall O’Donovan and Patrick O’Connor tackle Brian O’Sullivan of Waterford.
Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

6. Clare discover the step up to Division 1A

The giddy air that had enveloped Clare after last year’s All-Ireland U21 win was something that Davy Fitzgerald was keen to address last week. His anxiety of expectations careering out of control before the start of the league were realized as they were pipped by Waterford in a game they would have identified as central to their hopes of avoiding relegation.

Clare discovered the virtues of experience and resilience that Waterford have accumulated in recent years. Cian Dillon and Conor McGrath are big losses but they will be sidelined for a while yet.

Rectifying the defending that saw them ship two goals yesterday will be a more immediate priority. Clare’s task does not get any easier with the onslaught of heavyweights in the coming weeks.

7. Digging out wins the key in Division 1B

Dublin, Limerick and Wexford – the trinity that would have high hopes of promotion from the second tier this season – all claimed victories in their opening league tussles over the weekend. There was a common theme though with none of them in sparkling form as Dublin had a point to spare over Offaly, Limerick came back from six down to defeat Antrim by three and 14-man Wexford overturned a four-point deficit to beat Carlow by five.

But the point is that gritty victories are essential in this division. The route teams take to Division 1A is irrelevant, just managing to reach those heights is what Anthony Daly, John Allen and Liam Dunne will be impressing upon their players. They started in the right fashion.

8. Neighbours Louth and Armagh mount a response

The weather wreaked havoc with the Division 2 fixture list a fortnight ago and when the postponed games got the green light to be played on Saturday, it was Louth and Armagh who bounced back from dispiriting opening days.

Aidan O’Rourke’s Louth side overcame a defeat to Westmeath as they got the better of Galway after a vibrant second-half display in Drogheda. Meanwhile Armagh mounted a remarkable recovery to rescue a draw against Wexford in the Athletic Grounds. The pair are in better shape as they head for round three this weekend.

9. Sigerson signals for season ahead

Dublin IT were celebrating on Saturday their first ever premier triumph in the third-level Gaelic football arena. If the Sigerson Cup is a springboard to better things, it will be interesting to see who from the winners side can achieve that.

Aidan O’Shea and Darran O’Sullivan are established figures with their counties who have All-Ireland final day experience. But perhaps Saturday’s win over UCC can help Cavan’s David Givney, Meath’s Bryan Menton, Mayo’s Jason Doherty and Cork’s Mark Collins become more mainstream and established inter-county figures.

10. Interprovincial’s flagging interest

A shootout between Jamie Clarke and Conor McManus on one side, and Bernard Brogan and Joe Sheridan on the other, should be the type of Gaelic football attraction that draws enthusiasts of the sport. Not even the location of yesterday’s Interprovincial final could lure the crowds as the stands were empty in Croke Park for the battle of Ulster and Leinster.

The majority of fans at the stadium were present for the curtain-raiser in the All-Ireland junior club final between Kenmare and Ballinasloe, and they left after the conclusion of that game. The interprovincial final was a fine game of football but it’s difficult to know at this juncture if any methods can help to ensure bumper attendances.

Division 1A HL: Galway’s goalscoring power sees them past Kilkenny

Division 1B HL: Victories for Limerick and Wexford

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