With experimentation still in vogue at this stage of the year, Kerry gave the highly promising Donncha Walsh a chance in the half-forward line and with Declan O’Sullivan and Declan Quill proving lively in the attack, questions remain over where the talents of Mike Frank Russell, Colm Cooper and Maurice Fitzgerald will be accommodated come the championship.
However, with that sort of strength in depth, it was no surprise that Dublin manager Tommy Lyons was talking up Kerry’s chances. “I have tipped them for the All-Ireland,” he said. “I believe they’re the team to stop. They have forward movement that’s awesome. OK, they’re leaking some scores.”
At the moment, that appears to be Kerry’s dilemma. For all their attacking class, epitomized by goals from Eoin Brosnan and O’Sullivan, there were obvious cracks in the defense. With Seamus Moynihan moved to centerback, where he predictably prospered, Dublin’s Alan Brogan and Tomas Quinn were always a threat, and by the 40th minute all six of the visitors’ forwards had scored from play.
Trailing by 2-6 to 0-6 at the interval, Dublin responded with quick scores from Ray Cosgrove, Quinn, Liam Og O hEineachain and two from Brogan, but inspired from midfield by Darragh O Se, Kerry reaffirmed their dominance and the luxury of bringing on Johnny Crowley and Liam Hassett in the closing stages.
While Dublin’s search for three or four new players continues, Kerry will have been heartened by Moynihan’s performance. If Michael McCarthy can establish himself at full-back, then Moynihan, if last Sunday’s game was anything to go by, will be able to exert more of an influence from the halfback line.
ARMAGH 0-14, ROSCOMMON 0-9
Armagh were the only county to break out of the logjam that is Div. 1A of the National Football League. A fourth successive victory for the All-Ireland champions pushed them clear at the top with 8 points, while the rest, barring hapless Donegal, are all now stuck together on 4.
Indeed, Armagh are living proof that winning is sport’s best habit. Their most recent success against Roscommon at Crossmaglen was the county’s 12th straight since April of last year. That memorable All-Ireland triumph has bred so much confidence that Joe Kernan’s players are now just one victory away from the league semifinals.
“It’s not a position we expected to be in, but we’ll take it,” Kernan said. “We’re introducing one or two lads and they’re doing very well.”
With just eight of their All Ireland lineup on show, they were still too strong for a highly competitive Roscommon side despite going behind by three points in the opening stages.
With Paul McGrane in outstanding form at midfield, and with Oisin McConville and Paddy McKeever both kicking five frees apiece, Armagh then took control. Roscommon stayed in the hunt thanks to their forwards Gary Cox, Frankie Dolan and Nigel Dineen, but when Dolan was sent off for a second yellow card in the 50th minute, and the visitors’ challenge faded.
“We lost the breaks around midfield by around 12-3 in the first half, so it’s clearly something we have to work on,” Roscommon manager Tom Carr said. “Overall though it wasn’t a bad performance, and the lads kept at it when we were down to 14 men.”
CORK 1-10, GALWAY 1-9
Night games seem to bring out the best in Cork. Following an impressive opening victory over Kerry at Pairc Ui Rinn, they edged out Galway at the same venue last Saturday by 1-10 to 1-9. If the attendance and the atmosphere were much changed from the Kerry game, Cork still didn’t disappoint the meager crowd of 4,500 as they put in a storming finish.
Three points behind and with Galway seemingly on their way to an important road victory, Cork had a couple of shots in their locker. When substitute Kevin Walsh was dispossessed by Graham Canty, the ball found its way to Cork sub Conor McCarthy, whose lobbed shot beat Alan Keane in the Galway goal.
Even if McCarthy might have been trying for a point, it brought the home side level and then another sub James O’Shea fired over the critical point to give Cork an unlikely victory which keeps Larry Tompkins’ side in the hunt for a semifinal place with three games remaining.
Micheal Meehan had a first half goal for Galway following a perceptive pass by Padraic Joyce and Derek Savage, Matthew Clancy and Meehan each kicked two points.
TYRONE 1-14, DONEGAL 0-10
Donegal appear to be heading for relegation as they slumped to a fourth loss in a row. This time Tyrone took the points at Coalisland as Peter Canavan made Donegal pay with two priceless interventions.
Brought off the bench early in the second half, Canavan scored a goal and a point with his first two touches to condemn the losers, who could manage only 3 points, from Brian Roper, Adrian Sweeney and Jimmy McGuinness, after the break.
Frustratingly, Donegal had been on top in the early stages with Christy Toye and McGuinness prominent, and by the changeover they had established a 0-7 to 0-4 advantage, but from then on Tyrone were in complete control.
LAOIS 0-17, DOWN 2-11
In Div. 1B, a relatively new name might be heading up the table, but their progress is being masterminded by the most experienced coach in the land. The combination of Laois and Mick O’Dwyer seems to be working if the season to date is anything to go by as the Leinster county are unbeaten following last Sunday’s draw with Down at Portlaoise.
If this performance wasn’t as convincing as earlier Laois displays, they were looking good with a quarter of an hour to go thanks mainly to some superb freetaking by Damien Delaney, who finished with 11 points. The game would have been decided if Hughie Emerson’s goalbound shot hadn’t been brilliantly saved by Down goalkeeper Michael McVeigh, but then the visitors staged an impressive comeback.
A point by Michael Walsh, and a goal by Barry Coulter gave Down the lead by a single point before Laois sub Ross Munnelly equalized. When Ronan Sexton put Down back in front two minutes into injury time, Laois looked beaten, but O’Dwyer’s players rallied and Brian McDonald struck to secure a draw.
MEATH 0-13, SLIGO 1-9
Meath earned a dramatic victory at the death over Sligo at Markievicz Park. Ollie Murphy had squared the match in injury time, before Trevor Giles stepped up to find the range with a free seconds later.
Sligo were making good progress when Karl O’Neill fired home a goal in the 27th minute. However, their chances of a second win in the campaign were dealt a severe blow just before halftime when full-forward Gary Maye was sent off for a second yellow card. However, they were still 6 points clear before Meath were spurred into action for an important win which leaves them still in contention to reach the knockout stages.
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CAVAN 1-16, MAYO 0-11
Cavan moved up to second place in the table behind Laois with a victory over Mayo at Breffni Park. Mayo were only four points adrift at the break after playing into a strong wind, but Cavan produced a strong second-half performance to secure both points.
Jason Reilly scored the all-important goal with 20 minutes remaining and Dermot McCabe kicked six frees. But the most important contribution came from Larry Reilly who was inspirational throughout. “They beat us in every sector,” said John Maughan, whose Mayo side now have 4 points from four games.
Kildare were unable to cut themselves adrift from the relegation are when they slumped to a 2-8 to 0-9 loss to Fermanagh at Newbridge. Fielding a vastly understrength team, Kildare were sunk by goals from Raymond Gallagher and Ryan Keenan.
Westmeath continued their push for promotion from Div. 2A with a 0-12 to 0-9 triumph over Limerick in Mullingar. This latest victory means that Westmeath are top of the table with a 100 percent record ahead of Limerick, who are now in second place with Louth who edged out Leitrim 1-11 to 2-7 at Ardee. Offaly are fourth after they could only manage a 1-9 apiece draw with Antrim at Tullamore, while Wicklow defeated bottom county London by 0-12 to 0-9 at Ruislip.
In Div. 2B, there was a fourth successive victory for leaders Wexford when they defeated Clare, 0-10 to 0-5, in Ennis, while second-place Derry could afford to kick 18 wides and still beat Waterford by 1-15 to 2-5 at Dungarvan. Longford stay third after a 1-9 to 0-10 victory over Monaghan at Clones and Tipperary’s miserable season continued when they lost to Carlow by 1-14 to 1-8 at Ardfinnan.