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5 debutants who shone, McManus the early star of advanced mark and major spotlight on referees

Lots to digest as the Allianz Leagues returned over the weekend.

Updated Jan 28th 2019, 5:09 PM

1. Conor McManus thrives with offensive mark

Conor McManus celebrates at the final whistle Conor McManus celebrates at the final whistle of Monaghan's win over Dublin. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

THE EARLY SIGNS were positive for Gaelic football’s new offensive mark on its first big weekend of action. It was used to varying degrees of success, but looked good in Clones, where Monaghan pulled off a three-point win over All-Ireland champions Dublin.

There was only one mark taken between the Mayo-Roscommon and Kerry-Tyrone games, but Conor McManus claimed three on his own yesterday.

It was no surprise to see the Clontibret ace take full advantage of the rule, considering he is a veteran of four International Rules series with Ireland and was the subject of interest from AFL club Essendon in 2013.

He had three attempts at the posts from advanced marks, scoring two points. The Farney have clearly been practising their deliveries into the full-forward line from outside the 45.

They could have claimed a further two marks in the second period, but McManus and Stephen O’Hanlon rightly played on after taking clean catches. Monaghan rattled the back of Evan Comerford’s net on both occasions.

While Dublin mainly employed their typical bounce pass into the inside forward line, Dean Rock did pop over a first-half score from his only mark. 

McManus and Rock are two of the game’s elite free-takers out of the hands and will only benefit over the coming weeks if Monaghan and Dublin can find ways to fashion advanced marks inside the scoring zone. 

The rule should also see more goal chances as defenders look to deny forwards collecting marks out in front. A very good start indeed.

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2. Officials in the spotlight

Seamus Flanagan tussles with Shaun Murphy and Liam Ryan Seamus Flanagan tussles with Shaun Murphy and Liam Ryan. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

There were a number of high profile officiating incidents across the country in both codes across the weekend worth discussing.

Donie Smith may be facing retrospective punishment after his apparent eye-gouge on Keith Higgins went unnoticed by the referee in Mayo’s home win over Roscommon.

Football’s experimental sin bin rule, which replaces the black card, had a testing afternoon on Sunday. In the Galway-Cavan tie, five players were binned in total. For a four-minute spell in the second-half, Cavan were briefly reduced to 12 men as three players sat in the sin bin simultaneously.

In Clones, Dublin had two players binned during the first period in John Small and Robbie McDaid, although both were borderline calls. Confusion reigned when McDaid, who came on as a blood sub for Michael Darragh Macauley, was given a black card but Macauley subsequently returned to the field.

Dublin were restored to their full complement as Macauley resumed play for over a minute before officials forced him to return to the line for the 10-minute sin bin period.

When the Dubs were reduced to 14 men, they tactfully took full use of goalkeeper Evan Comerford and ran the clock down by playing keep ball in defence. The concern is this will become commonplace across the board.

Derek O'Mahoney shows a black card to Peter Cooke and Killian Brady Peter Cooke and Killian Brady are sin binned by Derek O'Mahoney. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

On the hurling front, Referees Development chairman Willie Barrett earlier this week called on referees to clamp down on illegal handpasses and challenges to the head or upper part of the body.

On Saturday night, Clare’s Tony Kelly was sent-0ff in controversial circumstances following a high challenge on Padraic Maher. Both the Tipperary and Clare managers felt it was undeserved. In the first ten minutes of the game, two illegal handpasses were also whistled.

Then there was Limerick’s win over Wexford on Sunday, where Seamus Flanagan and Liam Ryan were sent-off in the 26th minute after a sideline clash, much to the dismay of Davy Fitzgerald.

“I just feel the referees are being put under way too much pressure,” the Wexford boss told RTÉ Sport.

“Stop this madness of sending players off for this kind of thing. If it’s blatant and it is dangerous then send them off, otherwise, let’s get back to what we’re doing.

“The game is in pretty good knick and I hear they’re coming out with one or two rules to improve it. I think last year was one of the best years I ever seen, so I don’t know what we need to improve. It just doesn’t make sense.”

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3. Five debutants who shone on opening weekend

pjimage Five young players who stood out on opening weekend.

Stephen O’Hanlon (Monaghan) - O’Hanlon made an instant impact after arrving off the bench against Dublin for his league debut. He bagged a goal with his first touch, fielding a high ball above Jonny Cooper and finishing past Comerford, before laying on Shane Carey’s goal with his second involvement.

Long touted locally as a future star, O’Hanlon recently threw his lot in with the county footallers after showing promise as an under basketballer. He played at U16, U18 and U20 level with the Irish hoops team, but Malachy O’Rourke eventually enticed him into the set-up. The Monaghan boss said afterwards he “couldn’t have dreamt of the impact” that O’Hanlon would have on his first competitive appearance.

Colin Guilfoyle (Clare) - Clare’s 6’6″ full-forward caused plenty of problems for Tipperary’s former All-Star Cathal Barrett in Thurles and won the 28th-minute penalty that Niall Deasy stuck into the net. Guilfoyle was in good scoring form during the Munster league and has arrived into the league high on confidence.

“There is a good heritage, he is (Clare legend) Tommy (Guilfoyle)’s nephew,” said Clare joint boss Donal Moloney. “He is a great honest lad, a very very clever guy. He really tried to make the most of every ball he got.”

Brian Reape (Mayo) - Amid the torrid conditions in Castlebar, Reape was one of the few Mayo players to emerge with his reputation enhanced. Making his debut at full-forward, the former All-Ireland U21 winner dispatched a superb goal five minutes from time. It was a clinical finish after a strong run and dummy solo by the DCU student to hand James Horan victory on his return to the job. Horan’s priority for the league is discovering one or two forwards, and Reape put his hand up in a major way on Saturday.

John Hetherton (Dublin) - Hetherton made his full league debut for the Dubs in their win over Carlow and stuck over four scores in the narrow victory. A big, physical presence in attack, the St Vincent’s man made a number of clean catches on a desperately poor night for hurling. He has scored 0-31 in his five games with Dublin in the 2019 season, including four Walsh Cup ties.

Dara Moynihan (Kerry) - One of three rookies in Peter Keane’s first league 15, alongside Shane Ryan and Diarmuid O’Connor, Moynihan stood out with two excellent first-half scores for the Kingdom in their win over Tyrone in Killarney. An All-Ireland champion in the past with St Brendan’s College and the Kerry minors, Moynihan’s appetite for work is looked on favourably by Keane.

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4. Stat corner

Jason Doherty scores a long range free Mayo's Jason Doherty scores a long range free. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

- Of the 12 new managers in inter-county football, just five presided over victories in the opening round of the league. They were: Peter Keane (Kerry, Division 1), James Horan (Mayo, Division 1), Padraic Davis (Longford, Division 3), Jack Cooney (Westmeath, Division 3) and Terry Hyland (Leitrim, Division 4).

100 - Mayo forward Jason Doherty made his 100th appearance in competitive football for the county against Roscommon. He clipped over three points in a fine showing for his landmark game.

2-20 - Aaron Gillane posted 2-20 in two games over the space of eight days for college and county. He ran up an incredible tally of 1-15 for Mary I against DIT in the Fitzgibbon Cup last Saturday week and followed that up with a further 1-5 for Limerick yesterday.

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5. Quote of weekend

derek Derek McGrath speaking on League Sunday last night. Source: RTE

“The vibes from the Waterford camp are very good and there are very positive vibes coming from Padraic (Fanning) and the whole set-up. Lads are very happy. You look at it in terms of Stephen Bennett scoring 16 points…there’s a bit more freedom of expression there, perhaps since I’m gone. In fairness, there seems to be a very free-flowing style there too. 2-28 is a huge scoring emphasis.”
-Former Deise boss Derek McGrath was full of praise for his successor on League Sunday.

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zeebs23

Join us to preview the Six Nations with Simon Zebo, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey on Thursday @7pm in Liberty Hall Theatre Dublin.

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Kevin O'Brien

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