The runners and riders are off to the races in the Allianz Football League, and you can expect that after this weekend all four divisions will begin to take shape.
Last week saw an inspired double substitution lead Monaghan to victory over Dublin, a resurgent Mayo side welcome back James Horan with a hard-fought win in terrible conditions, and Westmeath come from eight behind to pip Offaly at the post.
As we roll into Round Two of the 2019 Allianz Football League, here are our four key players to keep an eye on this weekend.
- Brian Reape – Mayo
Very highly touted in Mayo GAA circles, Reape scored 7-38 in last year’s Intermediate championship and was part of an All-Ireland winning u21 side two seasons ago.
2019 looks to be the year that Reape announces himself onto the senior inter-county stage, and he made headlines across the country last weekend with his late goal proving to be the decisive score as Mayo overcame Connacht rivals Roscommon in the opening night of the league.
With Cillian O’Connor still on the sidelines recovering from knee surgery, James Horan will be relying on the Moy Davitt’s full forward to produce the goods as they look to pick up a first league title since 2001.
- Jimmy Hyland – Kildare
Kildare fans are hopeful that 2019 will be a breakout year for young star, Jimmy Hyland. The Ballyteague man kicked 0-10 (0-08 from play) in last year’s inaugural All-Ireland U20 final as Kildare lifted their first national title in 50 years.
Deadly accurate from placed balls as well as open play, Hyland kicked a couple of late frees last weekend in Newbridge to salvage a draw for the Lilywhites against Armagh.
Cian O’Neill’s men travel to Leeside this weekend expecting to pick up a win against a struggling Cork side, if Hyland hits the heights that we know he’s capable off, then you can’t back against them.
- Niall McNamee – Offaly
The prodigal son has returned.
Offaly fans were in a joyful mood this week after it was announced that Niall McNamee would be ending his inter-county retirement. New manager John Maughan had previously lamented the lack of players making themselves available to the Offaly cause, so having a player of McNamee’s calibre return is huge.
Whilst it is still unknown whether the Rhode attacker will play any part in this weekend’s clash with Longford, fans around the country will be watching in anticipation, hoping to see the return of one of the best forwards of a generation.
- Ryan O’Rourke – Leitrim
O’Rourke was the standout performer across all four divisions last weekend, notching 2-07 as Leitrim powered to 13-point victory over Wexford.
Terry Hyland’s men travel to Aughrim this weekend to take on a Wicklow side who barely scraped past Waterford last Sunday.
Leitrim will fancy their chances of picking up a second win in a row, and if O’Rourke is able to produce a performance anywhere near as good as last week, then they must be a sure bet.
Four divisions, four inside forwards, don’t be surprised if it’s four victories for these sides this weekend.