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Daily News

Second Opinion: Beyond the Weekend's Headlines

Monday, March 04, 2013

Kingdom crisis talk premature

Just two games into Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s reign as Kerry manager, a crisis with a capital ‘C’ was declared in the Kingdom. Now, following Sunday’s defeat to Kildare, Kerry’s third in a row, another ‘C’ word is being used to describe the start of their Allianz League campaign: catastrophe.

When it comes to Kerry football, it seems there are no shades of grey; just black and white. Kerry’s status as the market leaders in the game dictates that they are measured against the highest standards possible, and any deviations from their usual excellence or fluctuations in form are immediately interpreted in the darkest terms. Often, the media is more than happy to play along because Kerry football sells - and Kerry football in crisis sells even more.

Since their poor second half performance against Mayo in the opening round, some Kerry folk have been skittish. Fitzmaurice’s relative youth, his inexperience and his club involvements with Finuge were all proffered as reasons why Kerry were going to struggle in 2013. In some quarters, judgement on his reign had already been delivered before the daffodils had emerged from the ground.

Back in 2001, Kerry, then the reigning All-Ireland champions under Páidí Ó Sé, opened their Allianz League campaign with a 1-18 to 0-10 defeat to Offaly and were then humbled by Roscommon in Round 2. With relegation a real danger, a state of emergency was declared before Kerry slipped back into top gear to beat Dublin in the next round and easily avoid the drop. 

Forced to cope without several of his most experienced players for the early rounds, there is no reason why, with Colm Cooper and Paul Galvin due back shortly to give them a much more familiar look, Kerry and Fitzmaurice can’t turn their season right around. The spirit that raged inside those players in the Qualifier win over Tyrone last year hasn’t just disappeared.

Early March is never a time to panic. Just ask neighbours Cork, who scored a goal with the last kick of the game against Down to save them from the same fate as their neighbours. There’s every chance this latest crisis will pass and in a few months’ time we’ll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Limerick starting to make some noise

We’ve been beating the Limerick footballers’ drum on these pages for some time now. While the thrilling Dublin-Mayo game at Croke Park may have grabbed all the headlines on Saturday night, it was interesting to note that Maurice Horan’s side recorded yet another narrow win against Waterford in Division IV to move clear at the top of the table.

Limerick have now recorded three successive wins in the competition, and each of those wins has been by two points or less. The Shannonsiders also have the meanest defence in the entire Allianz League, conceding just 1-23 in three games.

“It’s pleasing to see that we can eke it out and just about get over the finish line,” Horan said after the two-point win in Dungarvan. Last year, a four-point home defeat to the Déise in Round 6 all but ended their promotion hopes. 

The manager paid tribute to Ian Ryan and Seánie Buckley, the team’s key men in the absence of the vastly experienced John Galvin, Jim O’Donovan and Stephen Lucey, who scored crucial points in the final quarter to tip the game in their favour.

Now, Limerick are in the best possible position as they face into a run of games against Carlow, Tipperary and London over the next three weekends. “I think next weekend the league is going to turn a corner; you will really see who is pushing for promotion at that stage,” Horan added.

Limerick may not be grabbing the headlines but they are slowly building up a real head of steam in the bottom tier. Victory over Carlow next weekend would leave them perfectly placed to navigate their way out of Division IV.

Cavan Rising

Don't get carried away. That's what is normally said when counties used to hard times suddenly experience a dramatic and unforeseen upsurge in their fortunes. Cavan find themselves in that position now. The last decade has been about as grim a one as the Cavan senior football team has ever experienced, but two quite spectacular wins on the bounce in Division III of the Allianz Football League have rightly raised the pulses in Breffni, and given indication of a better time coming.

Given that they were so close to relegation from Division III last season, Cavan were expected to be a battle for survival this time around as well. An opening round defeat to Antrim left them in a tricky position, as their next two games were against Monaghan and Meath - veritable heavyweights in the third tier.

Now all is changed. Cavan deservedly beat Monaghan three weeks ago in Kingspan Breffni Park, bringing their neighbours' early season gallop to a firm halt. That win stoked some fires of optimism, but taking on fierce rivals Meath in Navan was a different proposition entirely.

At half-time in Páirc Tailteann on Saturday night, the scoreboard read: Meath 0-1 Cavan 0-10. A Meath comeback barely materialised in the second half, and Cavan won pulling up, 0-15 to 1-6 the final score. But it wasn't just the result that meant so much to Cavan supporters.

For the first time in years, a senior team from the county played a high calibre opponent off the field, defended well, passed well, scored well. It's very early days in this young team's development, and it is after all, still only the first week of March in Division III. But there was something different about Saturday night, and Cavan finally appear to be going somewhere.

Unlucky Longford can still survive

The Division II table currently makes painful reading for Longford fans. Three games, three losses, no points. Bottom of the table, and three points adrift of the nearest teams above them. The points in Division II have actually been very evenly distributed so far in the second tier, and every team except Longford are bang in the promotion hunt. Which must make their position even harder to accept.

Longford's score tally tells its own story. They only have a scoring difference of -5, meaning the total amount of points they have lost by in the three games is just five points. Wexford beat them 2-8 to 1-10 the first day with a last minute goal. They were unlucky in their 2-7 to 1-8 defeat to neighbours Westmeath in Round 2, and were similarly unfortunate when they came up short against Armagh on Saturday night, losing 3-8 to 2-9 having been just a point behind in injury-time. They say the league table doesn't lie, but it doesn't seem as if Longford's current status in the table bears an honest reflection of how they have performed so far.

Their manager Glenn Ryan must be feeling very frustrated at the moment, but he has reasons for optimism ahead of his side's remaining games. Two of their next three games are at home, starting with Galway next weekend. If they can win that, they will be back in business in Division II and will have a great chance of beating the drop in their first season in the second tier following last year's promotion. They have the players, all they have been lacking so far this season is the requisite amount of luck.

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