What an incredible weekend of action that was. Full of shocks, surprises and screamers, Kevin Daly is here to digest the main talking points from a bumper weekend.
1. Carlow Rising
They did it! They only went and bloody did it!
Carlow Rising is now very much a thing. It’s a widely used Twitter hashtag. It’s the newest variation of the term David vs Goliath. It’s Sean Murphy hurtling through midfield on one of his gut-busting runs or Paul Broderick splitting the posts with his trusty left boot. It’s pitch invasions the likes of which haven’t been seen since the 1990s.
After dispensing with Louth in fine style, Turlough O’Brien’s heroic Carlow team went one better with a fully deserved victory over Kildare, a county against whom they had been winless since 1953.
There was no good luck involved here either – no flukes, no help from a referee. This was simply the case of a hugely confident Division 4 team (soon to be Division 3) dismantling a Division 1 outfit (soon to be Division 2) with the minimum of fuss.
At no point during the contest did Carlow ever look troubled by their more acclaimed opponents and by the final whistle the Barrowsiders had been full value for their seismic seven point win.
Next up is a Leinster semi-final against familiar foes Laois and a shot at a first provincial final since the Second World War.
And by the way, in that final in 1944 Carlow became champions…by beating Dublin.
The fairy tale continues.
2. Cian O’Neill Is Running Out Of Excuses
It would be disingenuous to Carlow to spend too long poring over Kildare’s shortcomings. They were simply beaten by the better team on the day. But Cian O’Neill cannot escape the reality that his Kildare side, despite their undoubted potential and relatively high football-playing population, are at their lowest ebb in decades.
It is approaching a year since Kildare last won an inter-county game and after this latest calamity, it is hard to see how they will register one this season.
A poor league campaign saw them relegated from Division One, losing all seven encounters along the way. Both Louth and Longford beat them in the O’Byrne Cup.
The Lilywhites are in absolute free-fall at the moment. They are completely lacking in confidence and are heading towards an early Championship exit unless their performances can be turned around dramatically.
Derry are similarly chaotic at the moment, which should at least make for an interesting qualifier encounter between the two.
Cian O’Neill has tended to brush off defeats as the inevitable byproduct of a team in transition, but after losing to Carlow it is difficult to determine what exactly this side is transitioning to.
Put simply, their efforts just aren’t good enough and defeat to Derry could pile the pressure on one of the most well regarded young managers in the game
3. Glory Days Of Meath Football Are Long Gone
As the once mighty Royals succumbed to their latest embarrassment against Longford, it was indicative of just how far the county has fallen that their own supporters seemed entirely unsurprised.
For those who have followed the team over the past half decade or so, this defeat was entirely foreseeable.
But for a victory over an abysmal Louth team on the final day of the league, Meath would have been relegated to Division 3. Based on their hapless performance in Pearse Park on Sunday, it is hard not to think that perhaps that is their rightful level.
Meath no longer instill fear in their opponents. Having been a declining force in Leinster for the past number of years, Longford played the royals with complete confidence that they would win. And although Meath made something of a go in it in the closing stages (at one stage bringing themselves back within a point) Longford never really seemed in too much danger here.
Perhaps even more depressing to Meath fans than the defeat was the manner of the performance. In league and Championship Meath have played at a pedestrian pace, relying on a slow build up and hand pass game that is the exact opposite of what their great teams of the past would have played. It’s a far cry from the heady days of Geraghty, Giles and Flynn.
Having drawn Tyrone in the qualifiers, it seems almost certain that the Royals will be having the shortest summer possible.
4. Westmeath’s Kamikaze Football Won’t Get Them Far
Colin Kelly has a fair bit of explaining to do following Westmeath’s defeat to Laois, in which his side shipped four goals.
The defensive structure deployed by Kelly was quite simply u-12 stuff. The half backs and midfielders formed a perfect line across their own 45, like foosball players tethered to one another and fixed in the one position.
A simple hand pass from Longford had the effect of taking 5 or 6 Westmeath players out of the game in one fell swoop.
Ultimately the four goals denied Westmeath any foothold in the game and they limp out of the Leinster Championship to face Armagh in the back door. Kelly needs to come up with something a little more professional if they are to overcome Kieran McGeeney’s outfit.