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Good Week/Bad Week: Monaghan, Donie Smith, sideline cuts

A look at some of the big winners and losers from the opening round of the Allianz leagues.

Good Week

Monaghan Football

Repeating their victory over Dublin from the 2018 league would have been a mammoth task and they only went a did it. Now we have to start considering Malachy O’Rourke’s charges as very credible All-Ireland contenders. They’ve shown they can mix it with the best and can play well above the level their population statistics suggest they should be at. The Farney Army can slug it out in the trenches, matching Dublin blow-for-blow and attracting some black cards to Paul Flynn and John Small. But they can also mix in the class of Conor McManus to keep the scoreboard ticking.

Their use of the offensive mark was textbook, providing an example for teams to take plenty of inspiration from. Gaelic football should be begging for a side of Monaghan’s ilk to go all the way in the summertime.

Stephen O’Hanlon

Not a bad way to score your first ever score in competitive football.

Tipperary Hurling

First round of the league or not, there was a small degree of pressure on Tipperary to perform and for Liam Sheedy to get off to a winning start in his return to the dugout. And they duly delivered, showing a class in possession and work ethic without it that they seemed to have lost last year. Seamus Callanan has taken on the captaincy role and showed everyone what he is capable of with a scoring of 2-7. If Tipperary can continue on this trend for the rest of the league then they will fare much better in the championship than last year.

Kerry Hurling

We didn’t give them much of a chance going up to Antrim, facing a side fresh from 1B and keen to make their stay in 2A last as short as possible. But bagging a 1-21 to 2-16 win is an excellent result for Kerry and tees them up nicely going into the rest of the league. Shane Conway is building a reputation for himself as one of the finest hurlers playing beyond the lofty heights of Division 1, and he notched 12 points for the Kingdom. Antrim may have went down to 14-men early on, but Kerry are on the cusp of a hurling revolution if they can continue this upward trend and Conway can continue to deliver on his mighty talent.

Leitrim Football

3-15 is incredible scoring, no matter the level. Terry Hyland’s first competitive game as the Leitrim manager couldn’t have gone better and makes a huge statement of intent in Division 4. More impressive again was Leitrim went into the half a point down, before transforming after the break and blowing Wexford away with a 3-9 score in the second half.

Sideline Cuts

Declan Dalton. Darragh O’Donovan. Colin Ryan. Noel McGrath. A skill you might see executed once in a blue moon is becoming a perfected art form. Some teams may prefer to play the percentages and guarantee possession, but the game is evolving to include sideline cuts as genuine scoring opportunities with the remarkable level of skill some players have. High risk, beautiful reward.

Kilkenny without Ballyhale Shamrocks

A fine victory in Nowlan Park, without TJ Reid and their cohort of Ballyhale Shamrocks players who are still concentrating on their club efforts. Billy Ryan hit 1-01 and looked dangerous in the forwards, while a new look full back line including youngsters Hugh Lawlor and Tommy Walsh – no, not that Tommy Walsh – kept a potent Cork to 17 points and their goal area clean all game.

Eoin Murphy

It’d be hard pressed to usurp him as the finest goalkeeper in the country any time soon. He laid down his marker early with a superb point blank save to deny Patrick Horgan, as Kilkenny beat Cork in Nowlan Park depleted of many big name starters.

Bad Week

Donie Smith

A disgusting moment that should see Smith receive a quick suspension for the remainder of the league. There’s no place for eye gouging in any facet of life, let alone out on the GAA field. Smith’s feigning injury to the ground after Keith Higgins got up added some extra forgetfulness to the whole situation.

Offaly Hurling

A measly seven points for a county officially in the doldrums. Only two scores from play. Relegated from the Leinster championship in 2018, they’ll be playing in the Joe McDonagh Cup this year and on the evidence of their league opener may fear relegation from 1B if they can’t turn their fortunes around as soon as possible.

Tony Kelly’s red card

Taking Tony Kelly out of the game at such an important juncture put the balance of the match entirely on Tipperary’s favour. In Colm Lyons’ defence, Kelly’s forearm was high and he ran into Pádraic Maher at speed, so in real time it looked worse than it was. Of course, the referee doesn’t have the advantage we do of seeing multiple replays in slow-motion before making his decision. It was an extremely soft red card either way and is hopefully rescinded during the week.

Wexford Discipline

Three red cards in as many games in 2019 leaves Wexford in a precarious position when it comes to their discipline. Of course, a Wexford player wasn’t the instigator of the melee that resulted in red cards for Liam Ryan and Limerick’s Seamus Flanangan, but it’s a worrying trend for Davy Fitzgerald. If they continue to finish games without a full complement, they won’t win many of those games.

The Rulebook

What is the GAA’s vision for Gaelic football? That’s what Jim Gavin is wondering after the GAA scrapped some of the new rules that were introduced on a trial basis for the league. The hand pass limit didn’t even reach the end of the pre-season competition, while the sin bin was barely taken out of the box.

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