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Five talking points from the opening weekend of the GAA championships

Five talking points from the first round of the 2021 GAA championships.

We have selected five talking points to take from the opening round of the 2021 GAA championships. The Gaelic football and hurling championship action commenced with a feast of matches set to take place over the next few weeks.

1. GAA championships talking points: Is a tiered championship required as a matter of urgency?

The GAA narrative is very quick to change. When Cavan and Tipperary claimed historic provincial titles in 2020, a lot of GAA commentators would have remarked that the provincial championships were a great idea.

One round of games later and there is a lot of people calling for them to be scrapped or reformed. What cannot be argued, however, is that the gap between the big teams and the rest is widening.

Kerry, Mayo, Limerick and Donegal won their matches by a combined total of 71 points, an average winning margin of just under 18 points per match.

The reality for counties is that the top teams are pulling away and a tiered championship would allow counties to compete at their own level and win a meaningful competition.

There are no qualifiers this year but even if there a weaker county would still only be kicking the can down the road, as a defeat would come at some stage in the championship.

However, if a developing county were in a properly structured, well-marketed tiered competition they would have a chance of winning a trophy in Croke Park.

Every other GAA competition seems to be tiered apart from the All-Ireland football championships.

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2. GAA championships talking points: The narrative around Kerry should be positive after Clare victory.

Kerry played very well against Clare. Peter Keane’s side won by 17 points against a very solid division two team.

Clare are on par with Kildare, Meath and arguably Cork. And if Kerry beat any of those teams by 17 points, they would be rightly praised.

Dublin would deserve similar plaudits if they won a Leinster final by that margin. There is a lot to be positive about for Peter Keane and his team.

One of the noticeable improvements with Kerry this year is the strength of their bench. The Kingdom seem to have strength in-depth, which they may not have had in other years.

Kerry have a lot to smile about ahead of facing Tipperary in the Munster semi-final.

3. Waterford’s awful record in the Munster championship continues in both codes.

Waterford GAA have not had a friendly relationship with the provincial championship in recent times. The Deise have won one of their last 18 games in the province between hurling and Gaelic football.

Waterford hurlers lost to Clare on Sunday, while their footballers were defeated by Limerick on Saturday.

The football team have not won a provincial match since 2010. The hurlers have fared far better and have reached two of the last four All-Ireland finals, but their terrible Munster record is very puzzling.

4. Donegal look the part against Down.

We are getting a sense of Déjà vu from the Donegal footballers. Declan Bonner’s side have played scintillating, attractive football over the past three seasons, yet they always flatter to deceive and fall at the same hurdle.

The 2012 All-Ireland champions cannot win the game before the semi-final and have not reached the last four since 2014.

Donegal were excellent against Down yesterday and won by 16 points. The sight of Michael Murphy going off injured will haunt their fans and Bonner’s team face a tricky tie against Derry in the next round.

5. Limerick Gaelic footballer’s remarkable rise continues.

Limerick footballers looked a beaten docket when they lost to Clare in 2018. The defeat was followed by a heavy loss to Mayo although Billy Lee has done phenomenal work since then.

Lee is a man steeped in Limerick football and the Newcastle West native oversaw his county’s promotion to division three.

The Treaty county were a game away from reaching the second division this year and Limerick brought their league form into the championship, as Lee’s charges destroyed Waterford on Saturday.

The Limerick hurlers have made a remarkable rise in recent years yet Lee is doing something similar with the footballers, who will be confident about shocking Cork in the provincial semi-final.

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