Kerry's Dylan Geaney, Odhrán Doherty of Donegal and Laois goalkeeper Killian Roche.

Five newcomers who impressed on football league opening weekend

There was plenty of emerging talents showcasing their quality across the divisions.

1. Ciarán Daly – (Tyrone – Trillick)

Three points from play was a tidy day’s work for Tyrone’s league debutant Ciarán Daly in their victory over Roscommon. Doubts were raised about the health of the 2021 All-Ireland champions going into this season, losing players to retirement and injury in recent months. They were also without Darren McCurry due to a one-match ban incurred from last year’s championship defeat to Kerry.

They made an encouraging start at Healy Park on Sunday, overcoming a red card for Conn Kilpatrick to take high-flyers Roscommon for a three-point win. Daly was one of six players making their league bow for Brian Dooher and Fergal Logan’s side, and the new recruits helped to reassert Tyrone’s place at the top table.

Daly’s haul combined with Ben Cullen’s point and Seanie O’Donnell’s mark gave Tyrone a solid base for their win, with the more experienced Darragh Canavan adding eight points to the final tally.

2. Killian Roche – (Laois – Killeshin)

One of the standout performances over the weekend was in the Division 4 clash between Laois and Longford as Laois goalkeeper Killian Roche marked his league debut with three points from play, and five in total.

Roche finished the game as his side’s top-scorer in what was an important win in their charge for promotion. Roche, who featured in the Tailteann Cup for his county last year, excelled in the role of roaming keeper and also produced a crucial save at the end of the first half.

Longford’s Jayson Matthews broke through for a chance when his side were trailing by three points, and Roche’s intervention pushed them into a final scoring burst that left them five points in front at the break.

Roche has an interesting backstory, as he is originally from Clare and represented the county at minor and U21 level as well as senior league. He transferred from Cooraclare to Killeshin in 2021 and lined out for IT Carlow in the 2020 Sigerson Cup final.

3. Ciarán McNulty – (Monaghan – Inniskeen)

Monaghan’s victory over Dublin in Croke Park was possibly the shock result of the weekend, and substitute Ciarán McNulty left his imprint on proceedings in a memorable debut.

After replacing Ryan McAnespie in the 32nd minute, McNulty chimed in with 1-1 to steer Vinny Corey’s side to an unlikely win over the All-Ireland champions who were expected to dominate on their return to Division 1.

Both of McNulty’s scores were the result of probing Monaghan attacks in injury time. For the goal, he peeled away from his marker as Stephen Mooney was advancing with the ball and made his move as the pop pass was released. 

He cut back inside another Dublin shirt as he approached the small rectangle and slipped a low shot past David O’Hanlon for Monaghan’s third goal of the evening. McNulty then provided the insurance point in the dying moments, getting on the end of a counter attack that started with a Michael Bannigan interception. Again, McNulty combined with Mooney to tap the ball over with his right boot.

McNulty was part of the Inniskeen side who contested last year’s Monaghan senior county final, grabbing three points in their loss to Scotstown. 

4. Dylan Geaney – (Kerry – Daingean)

Kerry didn’t make the desired start to their Division 1 campaign with their defeat to Derry, but Dylan Geaney was one of the more positive notes on the Kingdom’s report card.

In what was his first start for Jack O’Connor’s side, Geaney scored a point from centre-forward on a night when Kerry were without the scoring power of the Clifford brothers. He previously scored 1-1 in the McGrath Cup final against Cork.

A first-cousin of experienced forward Paul, Geaney is a bright prospect for Kerry having featured off the bench for the county in their league clash with Donegal last year.. He was also part of the Daingean outfit who reached a Munster final in 2023, losing out after a dramatic penalty shootout against Cork’s Castlehaven in dreadful weather conditions. 

His brother scored Kerry’s first goal against Derry after coming in off the bench to make what was his first senior league appearance since 2019.

5. Odhrán Doherty – (Donegal - Naomh Conaill)

Donegal began the Jim McGuinness renaissance tour with a statement victory over Cork which saw Odhrán Doherty emerge as man-of-the-match.

Another one of the league debutants who impressed this weekend, Doherty contributed three points from play to his side’s 1-20 to 2-6 win. His presence was particularly felt in the first half as he fired over long-range efforts from centre-forward that built the platform for Donegal’s win.

In the 20th minute, he slinked up along the wing to gather a pass from Ryan McHugh and sidestepped past Cork captain Brian Hurley before slicing the ball through the posts off his right foot.

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