Allianz League talking points
By John Harrington
It was a significant weekend in the Allianz Football League. By the end of it, four teams were tied on seven points each at the top of Division One, and the promotion/relegation picture across all four divisions became more clear.
Here are six of this week's Allianz League talking points.
Dublin equal 34-match unbeaten record
It’s rare to know you’re living through a significant moment in history because the hindsight that comes with the passing of years is usually required for that sort of perspective.
There can be no doubt though that when we watch this Dublin football team we’re observing one of the greats, and one that may soon prove themselves to be the greatest of all time.
Going a record-equalling 34 matches unbeaten in the League and Championship is another major milestone in their incredible journey, and the manner in which they did it on Saturday night against Kerry made the achievement all the more impressive.
Their goose looked cooked when they trailed by two points as the game ticked into injury-time, but they somehow found a way to salvage a draw.
Paul Murphy’s misdirected late free that coughed up a crucial possession gave them a helping hand, but really this was all about Dublin’s dogged refusal to be beaten.
They have no right to be still so driven despite all they have won, but their hunger for success clearly remains undiminished.
Despite all their public protestations to the contrary, they surely sourcing motivation from the knowledge they can write their name indelibly in the history-books as one of the all-time great teams if they continue to achieve at their current rate in the next couple of years.
They all want to play as big a part as they possibly can in this special journey that they’re on together, and that’s why competition within the panel is so intense which in turn keeps their standards so high.
They wouldn’t have gotten anything from Saturday’s game were they not able to bring in high-quality, experienced substitutes who played with the enthusiasm of rookies.
Paul Flynn, in particular, looked like a man who felt he had something to prove, while Kevin McManamon, Cian O’Sullivan, Eoghan O’Gara, and Paul Mannion all made significant impacts from the bench as well.
Kerry threw everything they had at Dublin and can take lots of positives from the match.
But when the dust had settled what we had just witnessed felt like another sheet of metal added to the aura of invincibility now armouring this Dublin team.
The Donegal kids are alright
Donegal’s 0-12 to 0-6 victory over Tyrone on Saturday night was the performance of the Allianz League weekend by some margin.
They didn’t just inflict a first defeat of the season on Tyrone, they took them apart ruthlessly with the sort of skilful and clinical display that bodes really well for the future of this young Donegal team.
In a previous edition of Allianz League talking points we reflected that Donegal’s period of transition might be a quick one, and Saturday’s win only serves to reinforce that view-point.
They’ve lost a lot of experienced footballers from last year’s panel but the young players that are now getting the opportunity to really establish themselves look to be of the very highest calibre.
Ciaran Thompson was brilliant again in midfield on against Tyrone, scoring three points, the sort of return that has now become a very familiar one.
He has now registered 16 points from play in five League matches, which is an incredible tally for a midfielder.
But as good as Thompson was against Tyrone, even he was outshone by Ryan McHugh who added another sparkling display to his growing canon of them this season.
The pitch was heavy and sodden from the driving rain, but the flying wing-forward seemed to glide across it. The speed of his runs was incredible and Tyrone defenders could hardly lay a glove on him at times.
Like the rest of this Donegal team right now, McHugh is playing with real effervescence and confidence.
2017 was meant to have been a period of transition for them as they built a new team, but if they keep developing and improving at this rate they can be genuine challengers for silverware on all fronts.
Mayo looked listless
After their heavy defeat to Dublin, you would have expected a strong reaction from Mayo against Cavan.
It never came though. Instead, they were strangely listless, with little energy or invention to their play, especially in attack.
A lack of a real cutting edge in their forward-line is a familiar problem by now for Mayo and remains the case. They’ve scored just one goal in five League matches, and that was a penalty.
They really struggled to penetrate a well organised Cavan defence yesterday, with sideways passing and long-range shooting a feature of their play.
Conor O’Shea had a couple of good moments, but once again Mayo were reliant on Andy Moran for inspiration. He did his best to obliged by scoring three points, but he can’t do it on his own every day.
Their problems in attack were compounded by a leaky defence which has been something of a trend so far in this campaign.
Mayo have now conceded 4-65 from five matches, an average of 15 points per game, so their current malaise is a very general one with no quick and obvious solutions.
And with their last two games in the League a trip to Tyrone and a home game against in-form Donegal, then relegation must now be a worry for Mayo.
Counter-attacking is a footballing art-form, and Cavan mastered it against Mayo yesterday.
They defended in numbers, but as soon as they turned over the ball they showed a great willingness to also attack in numbers.
Accurate long-range kick-passing is a vital component in quick counter-attacking and in Martin Reilly Cavan have a great exponent of that art.
On a number of occasions he picked out his forwards with beautiful deliveries that created scoring opportunities.
Cavan also had two serious weapons in the shape of midfielder Gearoid McKiernan who lorded it in the middle third and kicked 1-2 from play, and hard-working centre-forward Dara McVeety who chipped in with two sweet points.
Cavan have learned a few lessons the hard way in Division One, but they’re on an upward curve and will really believe now they can avoid the drop.
Armagh know where the posts are
Armagh are on a roll at the moment and racked up another high-scoring win on Sunday as they defeated Louth by 3-15 to 0-10.
In round 4 they put 6-22 on Offaly, so it’s no surprise they’re the top-scorers in the Allianz League across all four divisions, and by a handsome margin.
They’ve now scored 14-75 in their five matches to date, an average of 23 points per game.
Sunday’s win felt like their most significant yet because they took apart a Louth team that had won their four previous matches.
Jamie Clarke caught the eye with a tally of 1-3 and looks to be coming into some form, but what was most impressive about the Armagh display was that they sourced scores from all over.
A total of eight players got on the score-sheet, including Ciaran McKeever, has been reinvented as a full-forward with some success.
Armagh have two home games to come against Antrim and Tipperary, so they look a good bet for promotion from Division Three if their form graph continues its impressive upward trajectory.
Wexford are first across the line
Davy Fitzgerald has stolen most of the limelight in Wexford, but football team manager Seamus McEnaney and his players deserve credit for gaining promotion from Division Four with two games to spare.
Ben Brosnan was their main man on Sunday against London scoring 11 points, four of which came from play.
He’s ditched the peroxide hair-do for a more natural look, but Brosnan still plays with the same flair that he always has.