Mark McHugh and others leave the Donegal panel
The news was reported on Wednesday evening and then confirmed that former All-Star and All-Ireland medallist Mark McHugh has left the Donegal football panel along with four other players. The news arrives only three weeks before Donegal’s championship bout against, National League Division 1 finalists, Derry. The other players to leave the panel were Gary McFadden, Thomas McKinley and Antoin McFadden and obvious rumours have followed of a rift in the Donegal camp.
Players and the County Board have been quick to deny any troubles within the camp. Donegal were in the news for other reason during the week and it comes across as if it’ very much Jim McGuinness’s way or the high way for the players in the Donegal panel. The commitment levels required for the modern day player have also been thrown around as potential reasons for the players leaving the panel, but that’s hard to believe for a county who won an All-Ireland two years ago and just contested the Division 2 league final. It will be interesting to see if more information becomes public.
A good week for Dublin
The Dublin footballers are continuing to show what a powerful force that they are. Their emphatic comeback against Cork raised a lot of signals and the ease of their victory over Derry is making people look at them as almost unbeatable. Obviously no team is unbeatable but Dublin have now become the lowest ranked favourites ever to win an All-Ireland title. It’s very hard to see them being beaten by ant side this year. The depth of their squad is almost endless and it will take a mental capitulation for Dublin to be defeated.
Elsewhere in Dublin G.A.A, there was a big win for the minor hurlers over Kilkenny last weekend. They comfortably beat Kilkenny 2-08 to 0-03. Dublin have been progressing well at underage and a win over Kilkenny is big for any county. The Dublin under-21 footballers will also be hoping to claim their second All-Ireland title in three years. Over the last few years Dublin really have developed in all aspects of G.A.A and it’s looking ominous for the rest of the county as the team with the biggest population and budget seem to have their structures in place.
Can Tipperary and Clare now compete in Munster?
The National League Division 4 football final took place in Croke Park last week with Munster pair Tipperary and Clare playing out an entertaining contest. Tipperary prevailed by a single point but now the attentions will turn to both sides championship prospects. The Munster championship will be a big ask for both counties taking both Cork and Kerry into account, as well as the new seeding system. A qualifier run may their best way of making strides in the championship.
So can both sides begin to make strides in the Munster championship? Tipperary have built well from underage over the last few years and people will wonder if now is the time for them to start becoming more of a force at senior level. Winning a national title will always help to build momentum and Munster success could help. Clare look to have improved under new management. They have gone back to a Clare man in charge of the team and it seems to be making a difference. It will be interesting to see if they can make an impact on the championship.
Monaghan continuing to make progress
Last year it was an Ulster title and now Monaghan have added a national title to their silverware cabinet. It may have only been the league but it’s still a good stepping stone for the Ulster men. They were impressive in last weekend’s victory over Donegal in a game both sides were looking to win. Donegal would have been seeking revenge for last year’s Ulster final when Monaghan ‘out Donegal’d’ Donegal by playing a very intense defensive system.
They were unlucky not to defeat Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final and would have seen it as a missed opportunity to go far in the championship. Last weekend was a good start the season. They will now look to retain the Ulster championship but their overall aim will be to get to the business end of the All-Ireland championship. They have some very good footballers in Conor McManus, Kieran Hughes, Darren Hughes, Dessie Mone and Colin Walshe. They should be watched closely as the summer draws closer.
All the best to Ken McGrath
There was some negative news in G.A.A this week when news broke of former Waterford hurler Ken McGrath having to go through open heart surgery. McGrath has been in hospital for many weeks now and had surgery to curb a life-threatening illness. Tributes poured in for the Déise legend who was one of the finest players of his generation putting in a world of inspirational performances. People all over the country wished McGrath well via social media and lets all hope he makes a speedy recovery.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.