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8 Weekend GAA Talking Points

Unfamiliar names in relegation trouble, Kerry’s cause for scoring concern and the renaissance in Paddy Andrews career.

1. Unfamiliar names propping up the table

Both the Kerry footballers and Kilkenny hurlers have demonstrated the serious approach they take to league fare over the last decade. Kerry have reached four finals, winning three of them, while Kilkenny have contested seven deciders and carried off the silverware on five occasions.

It’s a strange state of affairs then to reflect on both currently rooted to the bottom of the table in this year’s spring campaing, the only teams in their respective divisions to be pointless.

Kerry have a scoring difference of -27 after four games in Division 1 while Kilkenny have lost their opening two encounters, the latest against Tipperary yesterday, in Division 1A. The two powerhouses will hope to recover from unfamiliar positions.

2. Kerry’s cause for scoring concern

Kerry’s situation is the more urgent as the grim spectre of relegation looms large after yesterday’s loss to Donegal. Their concession totals are not out of kilter with the rest of the division as for instance both Cork and Kildare have conceded more than the Kingdom.

But clearly it is problems in front of goal that are afflicting them most. Kerry have registered 31 points to date which is the lowest scoring total, not only in Division 1, but across the four football divisions.

Down with 51 points are closest to them in Division 1 while Limerick, who are incidentally top of Division 4, have the second lowest scoring total of 41 points. In the 1-28 that Kerry amassed to date this spring, only 1-16, 1-10 from play, has been registered by their starting attackers.

Clearly an attack lacking Colm Cooper, Declan O’Sullivan and Paul Galvin is obviously going to suffer but Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice must hope his players soon discover their scoring touch in front of goal.

Kerry players before yesterday’s game against Donegal.
Pic: INPHO/Kieran Murray

3. Clare bounce back

The first day out in Division 1A was a tough learning experience for Clare when they lost out to Waterford. But that loss proved an instructive experience for Davy Fitzgerald’s side as they chiselled out a two-point win over Galway yesterday.

The win was all the more admirable given the busy diary of some of Clare’s players. After their third-level commitments have ceased, the local U21 championship – which traditionally starts in March – commenced on Saturday.

Seadna Morey, Tony Kelly, Shane O’Donnell and Padraic Collins all started in Ennis yesterday after playing club games the day before. Morey’s tie with Sixmilebridge had gone to extra-time yet those endeavours did not hinder them in helping the Banner claim two vital league points.

4. Paddy Andrews Dublin renaissance

Four years ago Paddy Andrews was corner-back, shadowing Colm Cooper on a grim August day for Dublin football as they were annihilated by Kerry in Croke Park. Pinning down a regular inter-county starting berth has been a struggle for Andrews in the interim period.

He has demonstrated an ability to flourish on other stages since then, captaining DCU to win the 2010 Sigerson Cup and was the attacking star of the St Brigid’s side that won the Dublin title and reached the Leinster club final against Garrycastle a year later.

This spring he’s been back in the limelight with a series of attacking showings. Yesterday he kicked 0-3 against Kildare to bring his recorded scoring total to 0-13 from four league outings. Dublin’s emerging youngsters have commanded headlines but Andrews represents another notable addition.

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Dublin’s Paddy Andrews. Pic: INPHO/Donall Farmer

5. Quagmires and hurling do got hand in hand

The images from the Fraher Field yesterday demonstrated just how difficult a day it was for hurling. Cork and Waterford had claimed opening day wins on excellent playing surfaces in Páirc Uí Rinn and Cusack Park but yesterday was a markedly different stage.

The sight of the mud-splattered players leaving the pitch after frequently being embroiled in scrums for possession in a pitch that resembled a quagmire was telling. Pressures on scheduling may be a factor at this time of year yet the wisdom in playing the game had to be questioned.

6. Food for thought for Kildare and Tyrone

Both Kildare and Tyrone would have had a pep in their step entering yesterday’s games yet they slumped away from Croke Park and Healy Park respectively after suffering their first competitive defeats of the year.

Kildare had lifted the O’Byrne Cup, Tyrone had won the Dr McKenna Cup and the pair breezed through their opening three league games with unblemished records.

But yesterday was different. Kildare crashed into the Dublin juggernaut as they were ripped apart in a chastening second-half experience in Croke Park.

Tyrone welcomed Cork to Omagh but failed to defend their fortress as the Rebels secured a convincing victory. It’s the first major setback in 2013 for Mickey Harte and Kieran McGeeney, and they’ll need to coax their players back to form this week.

A dejected Kildare team after the game
Pic: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

7. Westmeath and Longford on opposite sides of the scoring divide

Near neighbours Westmeath and Longford have endured vastly different Division 2 league campaigns despite all their respective games being tight affairs. After four matches  Westmeath have racked up 4-43 with Longford matching that total with a figure of 7-34.

Yet Westmeath have claimed three victories (two by two points and one by a single point) as well as drawing against Galway. Longford have lost all of their four games but by margins of one point, two points (twice) and four points.

The margins have been fine but after tight battles, Westmeath are chasing promotion whereas Longford are battling relegation.

8. Cork’s football complexion changes

Arriving at conclusions about the state of teams can be a fickle business in March with the hectic schedule of league games facing teams. Consider the closing stages of last Sunday week’s tie in Newry when Conor Laverty fisted over a point for Down that saw Cork facing the prospect of a third successive loss and a potential relegation battle.

Yet they fashioned a late attack, Ciaran Sheehan bundled the ball to the net and grabbed two vital league points. Then yesterday they produced their best display to date this year in triumphing away to Tyrone.

In the space of a week they have gone from relegation candidates to starting to believe that a place in the knockout stages and a challenge for a fourth successive league title is possible.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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