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Dublin v Galway - Allianz Football League Division 1 Final
1 April 2018; Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the cup following the Allianz Football League Division 1 Final match between Dublin and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Allianz League talking points


By Cian O'Connell

Dublin get the job done

Once more as demanding questions were posed, Dublin were ready, willing, and able to supply the necessary answers.

Further silverware was added to Jim Gavin's staggering collection: four All Ireland crowns and five Allianz League titles is some haul.

At Croke Park on Sunday, though, there was also plenty to admire in the manner Galway competed. Kevin Walsh's evolving team caused Dublin some distress with Damien Comer's blend of power and pace a noteworthy feature.

Comer also showed poise clipping a couple of delightful points and a fisted effort in the second half also showed his ability to contest every type of delivery.

That type of courage and commitment bodes well for Galway and it was easy to see why Dublin's post match handshakes with the Annaghdown clubman were genuine. Galway are respected by the best teams in the land again.

Still the May 13 trip to Elverys MacHale Park is loaded with danger and Galway will be fully aware of the threat a pumped up Mayo carry.

Dublin continue to quietly integrate players into their panel with Brian Howard and Eoin Murchan joining Colm Basquel and Con O'Callaghan from last year's successful All Ireland Under 21 team.

In that decider Dublin beat Galway, who have also successfully introduced Sean Andy O'Ceallaigh, Sean Kelly, and Peter Cooke this spring.

Those additions have bolstered both Dublin and Galway and the talent of those footballers has been evident in the Sigerson Cup too.

Na Fianna's Murchan is an immensely promising competitor and his displays on the third level stage and in the 2017 Under 21 Final have been eye catching.

Dublin are adept at dealing with difficult situations, James McCarthy's injury was a blow, but Dublin recovered. Under Gavin Dublin nearly always seem to find a way, especially if there is a tin to be hoisted at the end of the action.

Cathal Cregg bagged two late goals for Roscommon.
Cathal Cregg bagged two late goals for Roscommon.

Roscommon motoring well

* *

The goals flowed, errors were made, but Roscommon still captured the Allianz Football League Division Two trophy.

Last year's relegation was cleansed from the system through prevailing in the Connacht Championship. It was important to follow that triumph with a solid League, which is precisely what has transpired.

Roscommon's panel is sprinkled with nifty forwards. Donie Smith and Diarmuid Murtagh are delivering on their vast underage promise, two classy left footed inside forwards.

Ciaran Lennon is a capable ball winner, who offers a real outlet. Roscommon can go direct with Murtagh and Smith well able to twist around on the loop as support.

Conor Devaney buzzes about stitching the play together, while is another fairly sharp left footed finisher when chances presented themselves.

Ciarain Murtagh is a talented performer too, while Niall Kilroy's versatility is crucial for Roscommon. Kilroy can drop deep to act as a sweeper, but there is a purpose to his game as demonstrated by his own 1-1 tally.

Cathal Cregg's return to the inter-county arena is a welcome boost and his late 2-1 cameo ensured Roscommon triumphed. These are encouraging times for Roscommon, who are priming themselves to reach the last eight. For now that is Roscommon's intended destination.

Positive signs for Armagh and Laois

* *

While delivering the May 19 Ulster Championship encounter between Armagh and Fermanagh remains the objective, Kieran McGeeney's players still did enough at Croke Park on Saturday.

Andrew Murnin's positioning on the edge of the square is being utilised smartly by Armagh, who continue to adopt a direct approach under McGeeney.

There isn't a shortage of accurate kickers in the Armagh forwards, but they also ran the ball well from deep with Patrick Burns and Gregory McCabe impressive.

Kevin Dyas' return from injury added another layer of satisfaction so it was a pleasant Saturday at GAA headquarters for Armagh.

Fermanagh, though, won't be too disheartened as Rory Gallagher continues to organise them for the provincial challenge which awaits. Conall and Ryan Jones are competent players, while Seamus Quigley produced a fine free taking display.

Laois' decline in recent years has been worrying, but John Sugrue has them on the right road again. A nice mix of youth and experience delivered against Carlow.

Ross Munnelly and Donie Kingston registered nine points between them, while Gareth Dillon, Colm Begley, and John O'Loughlin have competed strongly at higher levels for Laois previously. Getting back up through the Divisions is what Laois crave. That journey has started.

Thurles thriller

* *

Sideline cuts, stirring comebacks, a refusal to wilt, and ultimately Jason Forde's two opportunistic goals delighted under the Saturday night Semple Stadium lights.

Limerick might have been beaten, but they still left the League feeling good about themselves. John Kiely's charges realised their primary aim by attaining promotion.

Being involved in two epic knock-out matches against Clare and Tipperary merely added further big game experience. Limerick coped admirably and battled until the bitter end.

In the past decade at Harty and Fitzgibbon Cup level young Limerick hurlers have fared well. Two All Ireland Under 21 wins in three years ensures expectation is attached, but Limerick appear primed to deliver.

It means that the May 20 Gaelic Grounds Munster Championship opener against Tipperary will be an eagerly anticipated affair.

Tipp have experimented quietly during the League, but significant reasons for optimism exist. Ronan Maher was immense at the weekend, his sideline cuts were skilful and stylish. John McGrath is a self sufficient forward with a sharp scoring touch, while Forde's form for UL and Tipp is remarkable.

Against Kilkenny is the environment in which Tipperary hurlers always want to truly test themselves and an interesting Sunday looms at Nowlan Park.

Richie Leahy is emerging as a good player for Kilkenny at senior level.
Richie Leahy is emerging as a good player for Kilkenny at senior level.

Kilkenny's class and character

* *

Kilkenny never seem to be panic. Maybe it is because they frequently survive. It will have hurt them to watch Tipperary and Galway raise the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

The League may be a bit off high summer, but the recent evidence suggests Kilkenny are preparing for a busy 2018.

Offaly and Wexford have been defeated in the knockout stages of the League. The powerful first half display at Innovate Wexford Park was notable.

Kilkenny did leak a goal to an Aidan Nolan penalty, but the response was emphatic. Kilkenny dictated the rest of the opening period. That is when the damage was done.

TJ Reid struck 0-15, Walter Walsh plundered 1-1, while Richie Leahy, John Donnelly, and Ger Aylward contributed. Established players were leading by example - Padraig Walsh and Cillian Buckley hurled with a streak of defiance. 

Promising youngsters were keen to impress too. By the end Kilkenny had 10 different scorers, just one small statistic suggesting that the desire and lust for trophies remains forceful. 

Blue and gold jerseys visit Nowlan Park next weekend. It will be another opportunity to shine.

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