GAA.ie takes a look at the players, managers and teams across all four divisions who made an impression on the first weekend of games in the Allianz Football League.
After a disappointing finish to the 2012 season, it was important for Kildare to start 2013 well and they've done just that. They won the Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup and on Saturday evening, they defeated All-Ireland champions Donegal in the opening round of the Allianz League with a very convincing display. Apart from the win, what was particularly encouraging was the performance of young Niall Kelly, who hit 0-3 from play in a performance of real class for the Lilywhites.
CARLOW'S ANTHONY RAINBOW
The 2012 Allianz League didn't go too well for Carlow, as the only teams who they finished ahead of in the whole league structure were London and Kilkenny. Anthony Rainbow was promoted from within to take the manager's job for 2013, and what a superb start he enjoyed this weekend. In what looks like being an exceptionally tight Division IV this season, Rainbow guided Carlow to a one-point win in Thurles over Tipperary. It's early days in Rainbow's tenure, but it already promises much.
MONAGHAN'S CONOR MCMANUS
Without doubt, Conor McManus has been Monaghan's stand-out player so far in 2013. He was excellent in their run to the Power NI McKenna Cup final, and over the weekend he was the star of the show in their stunning 12-point victory over Meath. McManus hit 0-8 in Clones, six of which came from play, and it was a display which gave further proof of his status as one of the most on-form forwards in the country at the moment. A natural athlete, McManus combines power with finesse in a rare and potent blend.
FERMANAGH'S PETER CANAVAN
There’s no denying Fermanagh’s poor performance in the 2012 championship coloured Peter Canavan’s first year in charge of the Erne County, so nobody will be more relieved to get 2013 off to a winning start than the Tyrone legend. Not only did Fermanagh mark their return to Division III with a win, they romped to an eye-catching 10-point victory over Wicklow, the same side that had beaten them in the Division IV final in Croke Park last April. The transition from a great player to a great manager is a difficult one and there is intense pressure on Canavan to deliver for Fermanagh this year. He’s made the best possible start.
While there are no awards for ‘team of the weekend’, Westmeath surely delivered the best performance of Round I of the Allianz League with their brilliant comeback win over Louth. Westmeath looked in desperate trouble when they conceded two early goals and then had Doron Harte sent off after just 20 minutes. Still five points and a man down in the 41st minute, Pat Flanagan’s side then set about reeling Louth in and drew level in the closing stages thanks to scores from Callum McCormack, Denis Glennon and sub Dessie Dolan. It was left to John Heslin to convert two long-range frees to secure the two league points and seal an against-the-odds comeback win.