A seven point win over Waterford sees Davy Fitzgerald’s charges on top of the NHL 1A standings after the opening round. It continues the impressive preseason form of the Model County in the Walsh Cup. The fitness levels of Wexford were sublime yesterday and Waterford struggled to gain a foothold in the contest. In David Dunne, has Davy Fitzgerald found a forward who can take on the leadership mantle. His 2-2 cameo was eye catching, his movement and pace to the fore. Lee Chin’s scoring haul was also noteworthy. Eight points (six from frees) providing yet more positive signs of early season form. The team look destined to go deep into the league campaign, one to watch.
A superb win for Offaly in the opening round of the league at Croke Park where their skill set and work rate were too much for Dublin. An opening league win it is, but the confidence that this result will give to management and players of the Faithful County will be huge. A team who have being bereft of success in recent league campaigns, this win banishes relegation thoughts for the coming year but significantly gives evidence that the team are more than capable of competing and winning at this level. Limerick have being due warned in recent league meetings. Tullamore just got a more difficult this weekend. Kevin Martin had his team well prepared; fitness on point and the fast ball distribution and slick skill set exposed Dublin throughout. Currams, Egan, Kinsella, Dooley, Bergin all prominent. A result long overdue, interesting to see how the team kick on from year for the rest of the year.
A honorable mention to the Saffron men who with eight minutes to go were leading Galway by three points. A loss yes, but this performance was full of organization, work rate and endeavor. Many expected Antrim to run out of steam in the second half when faced with a one point deficit at the break, having to play against a stiff breeze. The team rallied, stuck early in the half for a goal and took an excellent last ten minutes from the Tribesmen to secure a victory. Antrim were competitive, another good result for the NHL 1B and hopefully this will be the springboard for further solid performances from the Ulster side. McManus, McCann, McKinley, Elliott were prominent in this performance.
A solid effort from Clare to start this league campaign. Once they got into their stride in the second quarter, the Banner men never relinquished the lead. Tony Kelly showed his skill set with some lovely touches and scores. David Reidy’s performance yesterday could be an indicator of how Clare go this season. The player was assigned free taking responsibilities and he delivered. His goal at the end was well taken and sealed the victory and his cameo contributed massively to this victory. A key player for the county this year. Peter Duggan and Cathal Malone had excellent cameos too and need to deliver this level of performance again next weekend at Nowlan Park. The half-back line of Fitzgerald, McInerney and Morey could be a keeper come championship. Given Tipperary’s lack of preseason competition action, more to be gleamed from a tussle with Kilkenny next weekend.
A big result for Cork hurling as they opened their tenure in Pairc Ui Chaoimh with victory over arch rivals Kilkenny. Shane Kingston’s early goal was the ultimate difference maker. John Meyler bloodied several debutantes to the side and they delivered in a contest where the pace and speed was akin to championship. O’Flynn had a promising cameo. Harnedy was sharp throughout with three points to his name. The ever dangerous Lehane hit eleven points (nine from frees) during the seventy minutes. Collins in goal ably deputized for Anthony Nash. A solid performance and the manner in which Cork won this contest in the last ten minutes will give Meyler and team huge confidence. The consistency issue in NHL play remains to be answered but this is a good start.
The attendance at the Gaelic Grounds of over 1400 yesterday spoke volumes; the side have flattered to deceive in league play and with all due respect to Laois, it was not a game to stir the hurling masses to HQ. A routine ten point win was achieved with minimal fuss. Gearoid Hegarty’s goal creating the buffer in the opening period which Laois looked incapable of bridging. The standout from the game is the form of Aaron Gillane, an excellent display with eleven points to his name. His assist to Hegarty for the goal was duly noted. A player with massive upside. The Offaly fixture has being one which has caused the Shannonsiders plenty of issues in the past; given the Offaly win over Dublin at Croke Park, it will be an interesting and intriguing test to see how John Kiely’s charges are doing. The jury is out on the team and management.
No Panic Yet
With no preseason competition fixtures under their belt, Tipperary management and team went into the unknown yesterday. A five point loss at first glance looks disappointing but given the lack of action for the side in preseason cup competitions, the side were competitive throughout. Jason Forde’s performance was noteworthy; his movement from play was good and was unerring in his free taking duties. The players got a solid seventy minutes under their belts but a league win will be the objective when Waterford call to Semple Stadium this weekend. Cathal Barrett’s return is a boost.
Given the injuries and players unavailable for selection, Kilkenny cannot be hitting the panic button just yet. It was a tit for tat contest against Cork. Richie Reid, Alan Murphy were prominent in their scoring return on the night. Walter Walsh was as physical and industrious as always. Cillian Buckley before his injury was providing leadership along with Padraic Walsh who was positioned at full back. His point was inspirational but is full back really the position for the Tullaroan clubman? I think not. Paul Murphy, Colin Fennelly will boost the squad when they return to the panel in the Spring. Richie Hogan as well will provide experience and leadership along with TJ Reid. It was a good opportunity to run the rule over the new prospects; they did not let themselves down, raw talent is there for Cody to nurture.
This time of year must fill Derek McGrath with dread. With a host of players injured or in Fitzgibbon Cup action, team selection was limited. The team got a solid seventy minutes under their belt against a Wexford outfit who are probably the standout team in the opening weeks of the hurling season. Once Fitzgibbon Cup action is concluded, Waterford will improve immeasurably and when you consider the involvement of Maurice Shanahan in AIB Club Championship, you start to realize that it is not all doom and gloom for the Waterford outfit.
Galway started the league campaign with a less than convincing win over a determined Antrim side. The Tribesmen potentially getting a first glimpse of how opposition will raise their game against the side this season as reigning All Ireland champions. The composure to stave off a shock result is the key point from this performance. There were mistakes but given the off season celebrations and team assembled, it was a good solid game under their belts. Concannon is a player to take note of; a key goal scored.
Time to panic
Some pundits are not overly concerned by this Dublin performance but if I was Pat Gilroy, I would be deeply worried. This was an opportunity for fringe players and prospects to take their chance and they failed to take the opportunity. It was an incredibly flat performance from Dublin. Once Offaly started to turn the screw, they meet virtually no resistance from the hosts. Gilroy will continue to persevere with the players from last night but deep down, he knows the Cuala contingent cannot come quick enough into the panel. Winters aside, the rest of the prospects were subdued. Worrying times for Dublin. They were exposed on a wide pitch. Promotion is a pipe dream.
A poor weekend for Laois. Their ten point loss to Limerick coupled with the excellent performances of Offaly and Antrim means that the O’Moore County are facing a relegation battle. Their forward line threat was stifled for long periods and their back line after a promising opening quarter then lost discipline and concede frees which were dispatched by Aaron Gillane. With a home fixture against a Galway side who will be keen to produce a better performance, ominous signs in full view.