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Dublin's perfect campaign, Cork pay the ultimate price — weekend football talking points

Lots to discuss after the final round of regulation fixtures in the Allianz Football League.

1. Dublin’s second string complete perfect campaign

The Dublin team huddle Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Jim Gavin rested plenty of Dublin’s leading lights but they still got the job done against Roscommon to seal their seventh win on the trot in the league.

The Dubs displayed their strength in-depth with a rejigged lineup which saw Tomas Brady, Conor McHugh and Paul Mannion given the opportunity to impress in attack.

It was a decent result, considering they played without regulars Stephen Cluxton, Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy, Diarmuid Connolly, Ciaran Kilkenny, Paddy Andrews and Bernard Brogan, while Paul Flynn was a second-half substitute.

Kevin O’Brien made his first start since 2013 after recovering from a cruciate injury, while Gavin will look to integrate Michael Darragh MacAuley back into his plans after his club commitments.

Even after losing Rory O’Carroll and Jack McCaffrey from last year’s team, Dublin comfortably had the best defensive record in Division 1.

Gavin clearly has the strongest panel in the game.

2. Kerry hitting their stride

Fionn Fitzgerald scores a point Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The people of Kerry would have slept well last night, safe in the knowledge that their five point win over Cork in Tralee sent their neighbours packing down to Division 2.

The Kingdom are motoring well and now have a league semi-final against Roscommon to look forward to next weekend.

Kerry had been experts at finishing neatly in between the relegation places and semi-final spots during the previous years of Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s tenure, but this year they’ll have at least one more game to play before they get the defence of the Munster title underway in June.

The competition for places in Fitzmaurice’s starting fifteeen is starting to hot up. Kieran Donaghy has been given a new lease of life in midfield and Colm Cooper is really sparkling in the forward line.

If Dublin have the strongest panel in the country then Kerry are a close second.

They kicked 20 points against Cork without the services of Darran O’Sullivan, Paul Geaney and James O’Donoghue. Ominous.

3. Cork suffer the drop

Michael Shields receives a red card Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Cork can count themselves unlucky to suffer relegation yesterday. They were the first team in eight years to get relegated on six points and their fate was only sealed as a result of Monaghan’s last-gasp win over Donegal.

It was a strange league campaign for Peadar Healy’s team. They performed only in fits and starts, and paid the ultimate price for that thrashing by Roscommon in Pairc Ui Rinn. Roscommon put 4-25 past the Rebels that day and the scale of that defeat cost them as they went down on scoring difference.

Cork will play in Division 2 next year for the first time since 2009, but it’s not all doom-and-gloom on Leeside. Tyrone would have felt they deserved to stay in the top flight last year, but they’ve built up some very good momentum in Division 2  this spring and will retake their place among the elite next season.

34 players were tried out by Healy in the league, with Luke Connolly and Peter Kelleher good additions in the forward line. Ian Maguire has made a successful comeback from a back injury and will be a fixture in Cork’s midfield for years to come.

4. Cavan back in the big time

Tomas Corr, Padraig Faulkner and Eugene Keating celebrate at the end of the game Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

In a straight shootout for promotion with Galway, Cavan wrapped up promotion to Division 1 yesterday. The top flight will have a distinctive Ulster feel to it in 2017, with four counties from the province in the mix next year.

Cavan’s return to Division 1 for the first time since 2002 was achieved today using 20 players from 20 different clubs across the county.

Five successive victories sealed promotion for Terry Hyland’s troops, who’ve won five of the last six Ulster U21 titles.

They beat Galway without the services of key forward Seanie Johnston, who has been a revelation in attack. Another player who has returned to the fold this year is David Givney, who’s been an intriguing presence on the edge of the square.

5. Anomalies of the league

Odhran Mac Niallais and Ryan Wylie Source: Andrew Paton/INPHO

Donegal qualified for the last four despite losing four straight games in Division 1. It makes sense that the semi-finals be scrapped from 2017.

Another interesting side note is that Cork were relegated despite scoring more than Dublin, who won all their games.

Clare wrapped up their second promotion in three years, while Westmeath have plummeted from Division 1 to 4 in three years.

We now know the pairings for Division 1 hurling and football league semi-finals

Roscommon GAA insist no Dublin fans were charged for ‘complimentary’ bus service

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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