Here is this week’s Setanta Sports Allianz Football League review of last weekend’s action by SENAN CONNELL, who describes Westmeath as no pushovers in this year’s Division 1.
We are two weeks into the Allianz Leagues and a number of teams have already laid down a marker for the rest of the season. The likes of Dublin, Tyrone, Cork and Donegal have had very positive starts to the league and will be looking to pick up where they left off in three weeks' time.
In Mullingar, Dublin just about got over a difficult challenge from Westmeath but Jim Gavin will be delighted to have two wins from two given the injuries and suspensions that they currently have.
Like last week against Kerry, the performance wasn’t brilliant but this time it was substitute Paul Hudson who was the saviour with three excellent points from play. The Dublin finishing had been poor throughout but Hudson’s introduction rectified this and his performance will have a number of the established forwards looking over their shoulders as the competition for places heats up.
Paul Bealin’s Westmeath will certainly be no pushovers this year and they have had two good performances to date - but they are under pressure now as they sit on zero points from two games along with Kerry and Mayo.
The performance of the weekend for me though was that of Tyrone against Mayo in Healy Park. Mickey Harte’s team looked very slick while the ruthless streak shown by the outstanding Darren McCurry resulted in the young forward stealing the show with an impressive tally of 2-4 (2-3 of which was from play).
Mayo played their part in a very entertaining game and while they looked strong going forward, they were let down by their defence for the second week running. They have conceded 4-34 in their two games to date and they will struggle to survive in division one if they continue to ship such heavy scores.
Kerry have got off to a poor start in the league, just as they did last year, and Eamonn Fitzmaurice will be disappointed to have lost a game they were expected to win after Derry made the long trip to Killarney.
It’s far too early to say they are in crisis, especially given the way they came back to almost beat Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final last year, but they will be anxious to get a win under their belts sooner rather than later.
Any team missing the likes of the Gooch, Declan O’Sullivan and Darran O’Sullivan are under pressure, but the lack of strength in depth will be a worry for the Kerry supporters. Dublin’s bench won them that epic game last year and, as it stands, Kerry are struggling to build a really strong panel as opposed to having a great starting team.
All in all, the quality shown across the divisions so early in the year bodes well for the rest of the league season, and hopefully this will continue when league action resumes in three weeks time.
Down and Armagh kicked the weekend off in very difficult conditions in what was a first ever Friday night game under lights in the Athletic Grounds. Covering the game with Setanta Sports, I can attest to the strength of the wind and rain in Armagh so fair play to the players for providing plenty of excitement in what was a real Ulster war of attrition.
While an injury time goal snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for Down, I have to say I was impressed with what I saw from Armagh, who will be extremely disappointed to have coughed up the two points. Grimley and McGeeney have inherited a team in transition but I saw enough to suggest they will be very competitive for the rest of the league and in the Ulster championship.
Grimley has them playing with a high defensive line which marshalled the Down attack well for the most part, but the opposite end is where they have the most problems. They are over reliant on Jamie Clarke and while he is a superb footballer and a clinical finisher, he will need some help from his colleagues in the forward line if Armagh are to challenge for serious honours.
Friday night football
There has been a lot of talk about the Friday night fixture but I, for one, would be a big fan of them. It’s great for supporters and creates a real buzz of excitement. One big positive is that it leaves the rest of the weekend free to spend time with friends and family and this is a benefit for players and fans alike.
The big talking point has been around compensation for players who have to get out of work earlier than normal but I don’t think this would be a big issue for most players. Paraic Duffy has suggested that Friday night games are not something the GAA are too keen on, but I think you could look at one-off fixtures for counties, well sign-posted, to make it as easy as possible for players and supporters.
- Senan Connell is a pundit with Setanta Sports, who are broadcasting 14 exclusively live Allianz League matches this season.
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