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Christopher Joyce celebrates at Semple Stadium.
Christopher Joyce celebrates at Semple Stadium.

Championship talking points

*By Cian O'Connell *

Cork gaining belief and momentum

Classic Cork. At the end those wearing red and white jerseys and carrying flags were sprinkled across the famous Semple Stadium sod.

Cork's return to prominence was more or less complete. The stirring win over Tipperary had been followed with another hugely satisfying success against Waterford.

A year ago Kieran Kingston was dealing with criticism, now acclaim was being poured on the Cork manager.

During the winter and spring Kingston put complete trust in several exciting newcomers, who have adapted to the grand southern stage with admirable ease.

Suddenly the possibilities appear endless for Cork with next month's Munster SHC Final with Clare promising to be an intriguing encounter.

That Clare panel is loaded with All Ireland Under 21 winners. Cork's youngsters mightn't have collected as much silverware in the underage ranks, but they are eager to earn glory at the highest level now.

Mark Coleman's splendid sideline cut was a moment to remember, Michael Cahalane flashed a critical point following his introduction.

Darragh Fitzgibbon buzzed about craving involvement, Colm Spillane's afternoon ended with a red card, but he is adapting quickly.

Kingston's son Shane was unfortunate a few first half efforts went narrowly wide. There is no disguising Kingston's talent.

Cork are a developing outfit, but the contributions of Anthony Nash, Damien Cahalane, Mark Ellis, Conor Lehane, and Patrick Horgan shouldn't be forgotten either.

Cork feature pace and skill in every line of the field. They are optimistic on the banks of the Lee again. History informs that Cork hurlers can flourish overnight.

Novel Leinster Hurling Final

There was little suspense or drama at O'Moore Park on Sunday. Galway just had too much power for a brave Offaly outfit, who fought until the bitter end.

On July 2 at Croke Park there will be no shortage of intrigue when Wexford and Galway collide.

It is a Leinster decider that is expected to attract a crowd in the region of 50,000 to GAA headquarters.

Wexford's stunning revival under Davy Fitzgerald continues, last week's triumph over Kilkenny the latest tale in their 2017 story.

Galway, who were beaten by Wexford in the second weekend of the Allianz Hurling League, have responded impressively.

Since that February setback Micheal Donoghue's charges have stitched an eight match winning sequence together.

Consistency is the word that Galway hurlers usually utter in interviews. It is being attained which offers encouragement.

In Portlaoise an early Offaly goal gave the Faithful hope, but Galway were unperturbed.

Conor Whelan brought his Championship total to 0-12 from play in two games; Niall Burke batted five over; substitute Shane Moloney contributed four; wing backs Aidan Harte and Padraic Mannion scored five between them.

The Tribesmen did what they needed to do. Wexford are next on the agenda - a revealing 70 minutes beckons.

Tyrone's attitude and adventure

Throughout the Allianz Football League much focus and attention surrounded the emergence of Donegal's youngsters.

On Sunday at St Tiernach's Park in Clones Mickey Harte's Tyrone showed them how much of a distance that they needed to travel.

Donegal contested every Ulster SFC Final between 2011 and 2016, but a raft of retirements ensured Rory Gallagher had to go with youth this year.

Tyrone were soundly beaten by Donegal in Ballybofey in March, but the Red Hands delivered when the stakes were piled high in June.

There was so much to admire in Tyrone's display. Breaking at speed, while showing a willingness and ability to land scores from distance, Tyrone seized the initiative in the second quarter.

A game that had been tight initially was ultimately decided during that spell.

Mattie Donnelly and Peter Harte were inevitably central, while Niall Sludden dashed about landing important blows.

Padraig Hampsey and David Mulgrew were others making an impression for Tyrone, who had the defensive doors bolted shut also.

Having reclaimed the Ulster crown in 2016, Tyrone left Croke Park dejected following an All Ireland SFC Quarter-Final loss to Mayo.

Valuable lessons appear to have been learned from that setback. Tyrone will monitor Saturday's tussle involving Monaghan and Down. Keeping the Red Hands flag perched on the northern summit remains the objective.

Longford deliver

It mightn't have been a shock to match other Longford Qualifier victories, but, the midlanders still left Drogheda heartened.

Longford just seem to be able to produce performances and victories at this juncture in the summer.

Robbie Smyth, efficient when losing to Laois, was in fine scoring form once more, while Liam Connerton and Barry McKeon netted vital goals.

Either side of half-time in their Leinster SFC tie with Laois, Longford were punished, conceding soft goals.

On this occasion Longford were set up in a solid fashion ensuring highly rated goalkeeper Paddy Collum was offered sufficient protection.

Following two Allianz Football League promotions it was a disappointing way for Colin Kelly's reign to finish.

Kelly steered Louth back on the road to respectability, but the absence of some key players for the Championship was costly.

Tricky hurdles were cleared by Derry, Sligo, and Laois, who also registered wins on Saturday.

Out west Enda Smith, Conor Devaney, and Diarmuid Murtagh led the way for Roscommon, who face Galway in the Connacht SFC Final on July 9 at Pearse Stadium.

Kildare produce polished performance

Since their last Leinster SFC Final appearance in 2009, much of the discussion surrounding Kildare has been about promise and potential.

Undoubtedly the fact that several exciting performers went to play professional sport elsewhere for a stint was a blow, but they are back now in the Lilywhite shirt.

Meath entered O'Connor Park with high hopes, but Kildare's physicality meant it was Cian O'Neill's team, who set the tone and tempo.

Daniel Flynn and Cathal McNally were sharp inside, David Slattery was relevant.

At centrefield Kevin Feely kept Kildare on the front foot.

Meath, who did summon a brave second half rally, just couldn't deal with Kildare, who know that similar drive and desire must be demonstrated at Croke Park next month.

Kildare have advanced to three Leinster Under 21 Finals in the last five years, while the Lilywhites have contested the last four provincial minor deciders claiming three.

Good footballers, capable of winning, are being constructed. Two promotions in a row have been secured. O'Neill's options are increasing, progress is being made. 

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