By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — The end of autumn might not be the appropriate time to start talking about a Dublin resurgence, but last Sunday’s National Football League victory over reigning champions Offaly put manager Tom Carr and his players in early festive mood.
"I think we’re entitled to smile after that one," Carr said after his new-look team had taken the honors at Tullamore by 2-11 to 0-13. But there was also a sharp edge to the manager’s obvious satisfaction when he warned his squad of a couple of months of heavy training ahead. Would these amateur players get much time off then?
"Maybe Christmas morning," was Carr’s considered reply.
The prospect of a bit of hardship won’t worry Dublin too much at the moment as they lead Div. 1A along with Cork on five points from three games. If there was much to admire about the collective effort, Dessie Farrell’s individual performance caught the eye.
From the moment he lobbed goalkeeper Padraig Kelly for his side’s first goal, in the fourth minute, Farrell never put a foot wrong. Controlling the attack brilliantly from full-forward, Farrell finished with 1-3 and was largely responsible for only Offaly’s second defeat in 21 League matches since Tommy Lyons took over as manager.
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Dublin scored a second goal midway through the first half when Kelly was deceived by Ciaran Whelan’s speculative shot, but Offaly had the better of the exchanges after the interval as Vinny Claffey, Barry Malone, Ciaran McManus, John Kenny and Finbarr Cullen pressed forward.
Offaly needed a goal themselves to loosen Dublin’s grip on the contest. However, it never came as Paul Curran, Ian Robertson and Keith Galvin were strong in defense.
Cork 1-8, Donegal 0-10
A superbly taken goal by Alan O’Regan proved to be the difference as Cork kept their unbeaten record with a 1-8 to 0-10 success against Donegal at Ballybofey. Put clear by a perfect Joe Kavanagh pass, O’Regan blasted his shot home for the decisive score early in the second half.
In fact, that was the high moment of a dull contest as Cork managed to hold out in the closing stages.
Donegal’s manager, Declan Bonner, was frustrated by his team’s display.
"We were constantly running down blind alleys," he said. "We didn’t deserve to win."
Armagh 3-9, Galway 1-11
There was also disappointment for Galway as last summer’s heroes suffered their first defeat since winning the All-Ireland final when they were surprisingly beaten 3-9 to 1-11 by Armagh in a high-quality encounter at Tuam.
, Even without their Crossmaglen Rangers contingent, Armagh proved a real handful for the home team as Joe Rafferty set them on their way with an early goal. Inspired by the midfield duo of Jarlath Burns and Paul McGrane, further second-half goals followed from McGrane himself and then Diarmuid Marsden.
It wasn’t as if Galway were off-color, more that they found it hard to cope with Armagh’s lively, direct football.
The Connacht champions found the net through Derek Savage and also picked off several spectacular points, but their efforts weren’t enough.
Leitrim 2-6, Tyrone 1-9
Leitrim finally got off the mark when they held Tyrone to a 2-6 to 1-9 draw at Carrick-on-Shannon. David McNulty’s last gasp point did the job. However, it was a game the home team should have won.
Fintan McBrien’s penalty and a well-taken Adrian Cullen goal had put Leitrim in a strong position, but Tyrone, who had earlier found the net through Ciaran McBride, took the lead a minute from time thanks to a Pascal Canavan point.
It looked all over when McNulty stepped in much to the Leitrim supporters’ relief.
€ Meath continue to lead the way after their 4-11 to 0-3 demolition of Laois at Navan. This third win from as many games proved little more than a stroll despite the fact that manager Sean Boylan fielded an understrength team.
Laois’ miserable return came from three Michael Lawlor frees, while the winners plundered goals almost at will through Richard Kealy, Jody Devine, Ollie Murphy and Graham Geraghty.
€ Kildare held on to second place a point behind Meath when they were too strong for Mayo at Newbridge. In fact, Kildare had it even easier than the final 2-11 to 1-9 scoreline would suggest as the visitors knocked over three points in the closing minutes.
Whereas Mayo struggled to take their scores, Kildare were far more inventive in attack and they could afford to squander several chances and still maintain a comfortable gap between the teams.
Padraig Gravin and Paul McCormack struck for goals to embellish a performance that pleased manager, Mick O’Dwyer.
"We have responded well after losing the All Ireland," said O’Dwyer. "It could easily have gone the other way. The players could have shown no interest at the end of a long year, but that hasn’t been the case at all."
€ Monaghan recorded their second win of the campaign as Ian Larmour fired over eight points in a 0-14 to 0-13 success against Down at Scotstown. The teams were at 0-6 apiece at the break, but then Larmour produced a superb exhibition of free-taking as he steered Monaghan to victory.
€ There was relief for Clare when a first win moved them off bottom spot. A Martin Daly goal was the key score in a 1-6 to 0-6 verdict over Derry at Ennis where the visitors had Seamus Downey sent off near the end for a second bookable offense.
Roscommon just managed to stay on top when they scraped through by 1-10 to 0-10 against London at Hyde Park. Kerry kept up their challenge with 1-14 to 0-8 victory over Antrim and Louth easily saw off Limerick by 2-16 to 0-5, while Kilkenny crashed to another heavy defeat this time at the hands of Westmeath by 4-17 to 0-4.
Wexford’s impressive run in Division 2B continued when they staved a late Tipperary fightback to come through by 0-11 to 0-9 at Thurles. Wexford are now two points clear of Fermanagh who hammered Ulster rivals Cavan by 3-13 to 0-8. Carlow lost their unbeaten record to Sligo, who were 1-8 to 0-7 winners at Markievicz Park and Longford defeated Waterford by 1-14 to 0-10.