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Dublin: 2 °C Sunday 15 December, 2019
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Dan Shanahan's prophecy, Dublin's riches — weekend GAA talking points

Plus, has Ulster football lost its minefield?

Dan Shanahan’s prophecy rings true

WATERFORD SELECTOR DAN Shanahan took Austin Gleeson aside for a quiet word before Waterford took the field in the white-hot cauldron of Semple Stadium this afternoon.

“He said he had one of those feelings that everything I hit was going to go over,” Gleeson told RTE Radio 1 after the game. “Thankfully in the end a lot of them did.”

Dan Shanahan congratulates brother Maurice Shanahan at the end of the game Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

There were no late controversies or last gasp heroics to thwart Waterford this time.

On the third installment of this absorbing trilogy, Derek McGrath fitted all the pieces of the jigsaw together to deliver a controlled seven-point victory. Make no bones about it, Waterford are serious All-Ireland contenders.

Maurice Shanahan’s presence as the fulcrum of Waterford’s attack was inspiring, but Gleeson’s performance was out of this world. He started the day as a menacing threat at full-forward, before reverting back to defence before the interval.

Gleeson’s presence on the edge of the square spooked the unsuspecting Clare full-back line in the early stages, and that led to Shanahan’s goal in the fourth minute.

Austin Gleeson takes a sideline cut Austin Gleeson pictured taking a sideline cut during today's game. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Gleeson finished with six points, five from play and one majestic sideline, to deliver an unstoppable performance.

The Mount Sion talent has magic in his boots and an ice-cool temperament. David McInerney tried to rough him up on his introduction, but Gleeson dished it back to him with interest. It’s easy to forget he doesn’t turn 21 until later this year.

Pauric Mahony showed laser accuracy from dead balls. All over the field, Waterford hassled and harried the Banner. Darragh Fives, Jamie Barron and Tadhg De Burca marshaled the defence and didn’t give Clare a sniff of Stephen O’Keeffe’s goal in the second half.

Whether Dan Shanahan’s words to Gleeson before the game were prophetic or just served as a placebo, Waterford won’t care. Gleeson couldn’t miss and he was the driving force behind the Deise’s victory.
***

Davy Fitzgerald Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Clare’s disastrous record in Munster
In six Munster SHC games since he took charge, Davy Fitzgerald’s record stands at 1-5. They haven’t won a game in Munster since 2013. Out of 17 total games as Clare manager, Fitzgerald has won eight, drawing one and losing eight.

Clare have been beaten at the first hurdle in Munster in 14 out of the last 17 campaigns. In 16 seasons since Ger Loughnane left as manager, they’ve won five games in the province.

Perhaps Clare were a little complacent after overcoming Waterford in the league final replay. Perhaps winning the league took the pressure off the Banner coming into this game.

There’s no doubt Clare can bounce back from this. They’ll need to employ Tony Kelly far higher up the field, while David McInerney and John Conlon clearly didn’t have much training under the belt.

Still, this defeat stings and the numbers don’t make kind reading.
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A Down fan Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

Has Ulster lost its minefield?
Four games have passed in the Ulster SFC championship. Fermanagh’s six point win over Antrim in the preliminary round is the nearest thing we’ve seen to a close game so far.

This isn’t what we’re used to. Once upon a time, we could rely on Ulster to satisfy our thirst for close games until the big guns collide in August. But the waters up north are no longer murky or as fraught with danger as they once were.

Earlier today, Monaghan clipped Down’s wings to the tune of a 19-point victory. Over the previous two weekends, Cavan comfortably brushed off Armagh by eight points and Tyrone clinically disposed of Derry by 11 points. Mickey Harte’s men pulled up long before they reached the finish line.

Over the first four games in Ulster, the average winning margin has been 11 points. But it shouldn’t really come as a surprise. In the league earlier this year, Tyrone, Cavan and Monaghan all beat the same opponents by an average of 9.3 points. Fermanagh (Division 3) were operating one tier higher than Antrim.

The league matters now more than ever before. More time, effort and money is being pumped into inter-county teams. They are placing increased importance on the league, and for so many smaller counties it represents their most pivotal competition.

Mark Poland and Colin Walsh Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

The increased relevance of the league means that most managers are targeting a good campaign to act as a springboard for the championship. Of the 13 games played in this year’s football championship, no county has managed to beat a team that finished above them in the league.

Mick O’Dwyer’s notion that “the championship is all that matters” is starting to look obsolete. Armagh, Derry and Down were brushed aside by Ulster’s big three — Donegal, Tyrone and Monaghan. All three stand head and shoulders above the rest. All three will start 2017 in the top tier.

“Look it, from here on in it will be tight,” promised Monaghan manager Malachy O’Rourke after today’s game. He may be right, but the gap between the haves and the have nots is widening in Ulster.

Ulster teams in NFL Divison 1 
*relegated
2012
Donegal, Down, Armagh*
2013
Tyrone, Donegal*, Down*
2014
Tyrone, Derry
2015
Donegal, Monaghan, Derry*, Tyrone*
2016
Donegal, Monaghan, Down*
2017
Donegal, Monaghan, Tyrone, Cavan

***

Dean Rock Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Jim Gavin’s embarrassment of attacking riches

For the ninth Leinster championship game in a row, Dublin dished out a double digits beating to their opponents.

Jim Gavin’s swathes of attacking riches is frightening. Paul Flynn pulled up with an injury in the warm-up and didn’t feature, while Bernard Brogan, Paul Mannion and both midfielders were held scoreless. Kevin McManamon only managed a single point.

Yet Dublin still racked up 2-21, with the attacking triumvirate of Dean Rock, Diarmuid Connolly and Ciaran Kilkenny posting 2-18 between them.

Rock in particular has assumed the mantle of Dublin’s leading scorer and his flashes of brilliance made ribbons of the Laois defence. Eoghan O’Gara made his comeback from long-term injury as a second-half substitute and he has the look of a man who wants to make up for lost time.

Con O’Callaghan made his championship debut off the bench. He was one of the most menacing attackers in the U21 grade this year.

Laois did serve up a reminder that a question mark hangs over Dublin’s full-back line. Their inside forwards were all well over six foot tall and while the other two drifted outfield, Donie Kingston exposed the Dubs on a couple of occasions when Laois went direct.

Philly McMahon’s attacking flair could well be sacrificed later in the summer as Gavin attempts to short things up in front of Stephen Cluxton.

***

Ronan Burke warms up Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Galway and Offaly to meet in Leinster last four

Galway have plenty to prove this season after axing Anthony Cunningham, and their defeat of Westmeath was a small step in the right direction.

The Tribesmen cut loose with an avalanche of points in the first half as Joe Canning finished the opening 35 minutes with 0-7. He departed the field early in the second-half with a neck injury after being targeted by Shane Power in an off the ball incident. Power was subsequently sent-off.

Galway rained ball into Westmeath’s full-back line and plundered three goals in the second-half — through Jason Flynn, Joseph Cooney and Conor Whelan.

They’ll play Offaly for a place in the Leinster final. Eamon Kelly’s troops have admirably turned around their season after that shock loss to Westmeath in the Leinster qualifiers.

Kevin Connolly with Patrick Purcell Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Offaly have restored pride in the jersey with three wins on the trot.

“Pressure? The biggest pressure was the day against Carlow because of the first round defeat, and the consequences of losing it was going into the Christy Ring,” said a visibly relieved Kelly after the game.

“So we felt after that, we had to look at ourselves, let’s take the shackles off and back ourselves.”

Now they face an altogether more difficult challenge. While nobody is expecting them to beat Galway, the 24-point trimming they received from Kilkenny in April is still fresh on the minds.

That defeat hurt and another bad beating would leave Offaly in a very vulnerable position heading into the qualifiers.

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Kevin O'Brien

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