Championship talking points
It was another dramatic weekend in the football and hurling championships. Here are five of the main talking points.
Huge positives for Limerick
Limerick weren’t the slightest bit flattered by their six-point win over Tipperary in the first round of the Munster Senior Hurling Championship yesterday.
In fact, they should really have won by more such was their dominance in almost all sectors of the field.
Down on the pitch afterwards as the Limerick players started to make their way towards their dressing-room what struck you most about them was their sheer size and athleticism.
The likes of Diarmuid Byrnes, Dan Morrissey, Declan Hannon, Gearoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes, and Tom Morrissey are all huge men, but they combine that strength with a seriously high skill-level.
At times the Limerick forwards could have been more clinical, but their movement was excellent throughout as was their first touch which was why they created so many scoring chances.
Just as impressive was the manner in which they defended from the front. Any time a Tipperary defender had possession he was hunted down relentlessly and forced to clear his lines under severe pressure.
At the other end of the field the Limerick half-back line of Byrnes, Hannon, and Morrissey lorded things, and behind them corner-backs Sean Finn and Richie English were tough and tenacious.
This is a young Limerick team but they’re learning on the job very quickly. They’re now serious contenders for the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
Tipp have to go for broke
We can only presume that doubts about the fitness and/or match sharpness of proven performers like Brendan Maher, Seamus Callanan, and Patrick Maher was why they didn’t start for Tipperary against Limerick yesterday.
With four matches in as many weekends, taking a chance on a player’s fitness in the first round would probably have been erring on the side of risk.
Now, though, Tipperary manager Michael Ryan will have little option but to put his best players on the pitch from the start against Cork even if they’re not quite 100% fit because two defeats in a row would surely spell the end of their Championship challenge.
Their struggles against Limerick highlighted just how reliant this Tipp team remain on their old-guard – the players who won an All-Ireland U-21 title in 2010.
Men like Paudie Maher, Noel McGrath, Brendan Maher, Seamus Callanan, and Patrick Maher have given tremendous service to their county and when they eventually do hang up their hurleys then Tipperary might have to endure a couple of very lean years.
There’s surely one last big kick left in them though. It has to come on Sunday.
Westmeath hurlers take charge in Joe McDonagh Cup
The picture is starting to become somewhat clearer in the Joe McDonagh Cup after another highly competitive round of matches.
Westmeath are now the only team with six points after three rounds, even if they made hard work of putting Kerry to the sword yesterday.
"If you were a neutral on the terrace you would wonder did anyone want to win the game because both teams were missing chances,” said Westmeath manager Michael Ryan afterwards.
“But while we were lucky in the end to win, it's a case of 'give me a lucky general any day of the week'."
Antrim and Carlow are still in the hunt for a place in the final with four points each, Laois and Kerry are on two points each, while Meath remain pointless and are the only team no longer in the running for a place in the Final.
Monaghan’s old dogs for the hard road
Vinny Corey has given incredible service to Monaghan football over the course of his 16 seasons as an inter-county footballer, and he was to the fore once again in their brilliant Ulster SFC Quarter-Final victory over Tyrone yesterday.
Rock-solid in defence as ever, he also scored the goal just before half-time that gave Monaghan a really priceless impetus.
The 35-year-old wasn’t the only Monaghan veteran who made a massive contribution to the win - Dessie Mone (33), and Conor McManus (30) were also key cogs in the machine.
They have campaigned together as trio for a long time now and have played a huge part in creating the competitive culture that has made this Monaghan team such a formidable force.
At the highest level football might be increasingly a young man’s game, but men like Corey, Mone and McManus prove there’s no substitute for experience and natural leadership skills.
As the no-nonsense Corey himself said last year, “"It doesn't matter about age. No one is going to ask for your birth cert on the pitch. You are there to give hits and get hits, and anyone who is on the pitch is trusted to do that."
More Ulster Championship woe for McGeeney
Kieran McGeeney won six Ulster senior championships as an Armagh player, but he has yet to win a single match in the province as Armagh manager.
Yesterday’s defeat to Fermanagh was the fourth year in succession his Armagh team have fallen at the first hurdle in Ulster having previously lost to Down (2017), Cavan (2016), and Donegal (2015).
After yesterday’s defeat he was brave enough to bear the weight of this latest setback firmly on his own shoulders.
"We thought we were ready for it and well prepared but it was just a different team that turned up,” said McGeeney.
“It looked as if we were rudderless up front - we missed frees, we missed easy shots in front of goal. It was just a bad at the office. It's my job to get them ready and if they're not ready the buck stops with me.”