Gaelic football took centre stage this weekend in the absence of the Munster Hurling Championship as fans around the country were treated to a host of provincial championship clashes.
The standard on show most definitely varied from county to county. As expected, Dublin and Tyrone strolled to easy wins over Louth and Antrim respectively, while Fermanagh made Donegal sweat for a short period but ultimately fell short against one of the country’s top outfits.
Laois and Westmeath served up a tight two-point battle but by all accounts, it wasn’t the most enjoyable game for the purists. Meanwhile, Roscommon unceremoniously dumped Mayo out of the Connacht Championship in what was a classic encounter in Castlebar.
Here are the key talking points following football’s first weekend in the sun in 2019.
Costello In, Rock Out?
Dublin got their campaign off to the perfect start swatting aside the challenge of Louth with relative ease in Portlaoise.
Cormac Costello continued in the rich vein of form he displayed throughout the early stages of the Allianz Football League hitting 1-12 for the Metropolitans in their facile win over the Wee County.
Forever the bridesmaid as such in this Dublin panel, Costello looks to have finally forced his way into Jim Gavin’s starting XV and was in free-taking duties in place of Dean Rock this weekend. Will Costello’s form see him finally cement his place in Jim Gavin’s starting XV and if so who makes way? Rock?
Sean Quigley’s Substitution
It’s no secret that Fermanagh are somewhat laboured upfront. Their defensive system may literally be a brick wall that keeps the scores down but to be honest it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference if you haven’t got the manpower up front to put the ball over the bar.
Sean Quigley would probably have been viewed as that man on Sunday. Fermanagh’s go-to when they needed a score. It’s true, he didn’t have the best of games but why take off your scorer-in-chief when you know you are going to be working off scraps?
It was summed up ten minutes from time when Fermanagh missed a 14-yard free to bring them to within one of Donegal.
There’s Something About Donegal
Speaking of Donegal… It’s difficult to read into one game against an uber-defensive side but once the Tir Conaill men got going on Sunday they looked hard to stop.
Jamie Brennan was excellent. Paddy McBrearty will only get better and Michael Murphy is the best footballer in Ireland… on his day.
Donegal might not win the next day out against Tyrone, who look flying to be fair but rest assured they will have a huge say at some point this summer.
Two-Tier Talk Ramps Up
It’s becoming a broken record at this stage but talk of a tiered championship has gone up a notch on Monday following John Horan’s comments that we could see it as early as next year.
A welcome change you would imagine considering the one-sided hammerings we witnessed Louth and Antrim receive at the hands of Dublin and Tyrone respectively.
The fact that Antrim supporters seemed to be happy with their performance having been beaten by 16 points tells you all you need to know.
Two Weeks Two Thrillers
Following on from Armagh and Down’s epic encounter at Páirc Esler last weekend, supporters were treated to another cracking encounter in Tullamore on Sunday as Kildare and Longford played out a draw after extra-time in their Leinster quarter-final.
In a time when football fans around the country are calling for two-tiers, restructures, Dublin splits and everything that goes with it, it’s nice sometimes to just sit back and marvel in our games when played well.
They’ll do it all again on Sunday and who knows how it’s going to go.
Three Cheers For Roscommon
It was only a semi-final but the scenes in Castlebar after Roscommon’s win over Mayo was savage. It had been 18 years since they beat their rivals and 33 years since they’d done it in Mayo.
They were better than the league champions from start to finish and thoroughly deserve their place in the Connacht final against Galway.
Mayo, Mayo, Mayo
We all bought into the hype. Horan’s return, a first league title in 18 years, the drive-for-five looming. It was being built as the summer where we might just see Mayo’s heroic return.
They were meant to break the curse and the Dublin juggernaut all at once. However, following their shock defeat to Roscommon it’s difficult to see how these guys can navigate their way, not only to the Super 8s but beyond that. A far cry from the end of March.
Never write them off though, a wounded Mayo is often the best version.
Five Goals For Five-In-A-Row