By Mark Jones
With the National Football League heading into its midwinter recess following three rounds of games, it’s too early to be making predictions, but Tyrone are looking good to qualify for the knockout stages. A third successive victory, this time over Roscommon by 0-14 to 0-9, has left the Ulster county leading the way in Div. 1A of the competition.
There wasn’t much to choose between the teams at Hyde Park last Sunday, but one player made the difference. Yet again, Peter Canavan was outstanding, scoring five points himself and generally inspiring his teammates to retain their 100 percent record.
With Nigel Dineen, Frankie Dolan and Francie Grehan picking off their points, Roscommon were well in the hunt until the last quarter, when Tyrone’s superior fitness told. Stephen O’Neill was on the mark twice, while Eoin Gormley, Ryan McMenamin and Declan McCrossan all found the range as the winners ran up five answered scores.
Galway 0-16, Offaly 0-11
Fielding eight of their All-Ireland final side, Galway got the better of Offaly at Ballinasloe to move into second place in the table behind Tyrone. However, had it not been for three superb saves by goalkeeper Padraig Lally, the Connacht champions would surely have been beaten.
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Lally saved twice from Mel Keenaghan and then was on hand to deny Basil Malone as Offaly were frustrated, but if the margin could have been much closer, it was no consolation for Offaly’s manager, Padraig Nolan.
"In terms of slickness and cuteness, Galway were miles ahead of us," he said. "We’ve got to get up to their level, full stop."
John Donnellan kicked seven points for the winners, including five frees, while Offaly were best served by Cathal Daly in defense and by Keenaghan, Malone and Colm Quinn, who scored four points.
Donegal 2-14, Louth 1-10
Two brilliantly taken goals by Adrian Sweeney set up Donegal for a victory over Louth at Ballyshannon, but the game was marred by bad blood between the teams with three players being sent off and eight receiving yellow cards.
Westmeath referee Paul McCann struggled to control the exchanges and Louth’s Mark Stanfield was the first to depart in the first half for a second yellow card. Later, his teammate Stephen Melia was also sent off, while Donegal’s Johnny McCafferty followed shortly afterwards.
Sligo 1-11, Cavan 1-8
Sligo kept up their 100 percent record in Div. 1B. However, their triumph over Cavan at Markievicz Park finished in turmoil when two players were sent off following an injury time brawl. At least a dozen players traded punches in front of the main stand and when the dust settled, referee Eugene Murtagh saw fit to dismiss Sligo sub, Ken Killeen, and Cavan’s Rory Donohoe.
"It did boil over and that’s a pity," said Cavan manager Val Andrews, "because there was nothing in the match to suggest it was going to happen."
Andrews had good reason to be disappointed as his team kicked 16 wides and blew at least three goal chances. Their main reward came from a Peter Reilly penalty, but Dessie Sloyane with a goal and Paul Taylor who kicked six points kept Sligo in front.
Fermanagh 3-7, Meath 3-6
Fermanagh were celebrating a first victory of the campaign with a victory against Meath in Navan. The result was a relief for manager John Maughan on the back of two defeats and he was impressed by the way his team finished the game after Ollie Murphy’s second goal had brought Meath level with eight minutes remaining.
Rory Gallagher, Stephen Maguire and Shane King had goals for Fermanagh, while Graham Geraghty added a penatly to Murphy’s two strikes. Raymond Gallagher kicked the vital match-winning free close to full-time and Meath was sent off for a second yellow card.
Mayo 1-11, Laois 0-11
Mayo made it a second victory from two games when an early goal by David Nestor set up the Connacht side for a victory over Laois at Portlaoise. Seeking a first success of the season, Laois managed to narrow the gap to just a point during the second half thanks to scores by Ian Fitzgerald and Chris Conway, but Mayo finished strong to move into second place in the table.
Clare 1-12, Derry 0-12
Derry gambled on an experimental lineup at Ennis, where Clare registered a first victory of the campaign. It ended up 1-12 to 0-12 with an opportunist second-half goal by sub Dessie Molohan making the difference.
Cork 4-16, Limerick 0-5
Co-leaders Cork were also in sharp form as they ran out to easy Div. 2A winners over Limerick at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Limerick’s optimism for the season ahead was quickly doused as Cork swept into an early lead thanks mainly to the scoring exploits of Podsie O’Mahony, who finished with an impressive total of 1-8. Breandan Jer O’Sullivan, Padraig Mullane and sub Noel O’Leary also added goals.
Also in Div. 2A, Westmeath continue to keep pace with Cork with maximum points from their three games. Westmeath crushed Wicklow by 2-16 to 0-9 in Mullingar, where Ger Heavin scored 0-5 and Michael Ennis and Brian Morley a goal apiece.
Leitrim moved into third place with a 4-21 to 0-2 rout of London at Carrick-on-Shannon, while Armagh got the better of Ulster rivals Antrim by 2-8 to 1-9 at Casement Park, where an injury-time goal by Martin O’Rourke settled the issue.
In Division 2B, Down kept their unbeaten run going with a 1-12 to 0-8 victory over Kildare at Newbridge, and Longford did likewise as they eased past Waterford by 1-10 to 0-4 at Pearse Park. Monaghan were 1-16 to 0-6 winners over Carlow, while Wexford consigned Tipperary to a third defeat on a scoreline of 3-13 to 0-8 at Kilsheelin.