The Hype Surrounding The Drive For 5
You may say one thing we can definitely watch out for, is Dublin creating history, and not many would question Jim Gavin’s men going on to do it but a shock can happen just like it did in 2014 when Donegal beat them, so it’s far from a guarantee that Cluxton will be walking up the Hoganstand steps.
It wasn’t the best of league campaigns for the Dubs and their full back line may be questioned (Rory O’Carroll back may help strengthening that) but they’re still firm favourites to win Sam and while mentally they’ve been solid in the last four seasons this year is a new ball game. Ask the Kilkenny hurlers of 2010 and they will tell you all you need to know about when you’re the talk of the nation looking to make history. The hype around Dublin compared to Kilkenny probably won’t be as extreme within the county from locals but the media will make up for that so you can expect to read and hear plenty from now till September.
The Chasing Pack Catching Up
Are the chasing pack catching up to the Dubs? I certainly think so but will the likes of Kerry or Mayo be able to stop Dublin..... at this stage of the season you can’t see it but there are signs that either of the teams mentioned can grow into championship winners.
For me Kerry are the number 2 side in the country. Defensively they have work to do and keeping David Moran fit in midfield is essential come the big outings but up front they have the firepower to match Dublin and with Clifford and O’Shea they arguably have the most dangerous combination in the game in terms of creativity and scoring. Two or three years away from reaching their potential yet but this team on their day has enough.
James Horan has worked his magic already with Mayo claiming a national title in Croke Park which is huge and he’s blooded some new players like Ruane and Carr but I still have questions about their mentality when it comes to Dublin (Especially in Croke Park) and Galway. Two sides they failed to beat in the league and really didn’t perform great in either direct match. They were completely outclassed against Dublin so you wonder is that barrier still one they fail to get through. They begin their championship this weekend against New York which should be a routine win but it will be interesting to see how they develop throughout the year.
Two Predictable Provincial Winners
Dublin in search of their 9th Leinster in a row and Kerry in search of their 7th Munster in a row not happening could be the biggest shocks of this year’s championship.
Meath will be confident after their spring campaign of giving the Dubs a go but if they do face them I would expect their challenge to peter out after forty minutes at most. Westmeath and Kildare will also feel they could give a good account of themselves but a Dublin team in third gear at most should be strong enough to get the job done in the East.
Where is Munster football at the moment? Judging by the league in a very bad place. In all respect to Limerick and Waterford you are looking at Clare, Cork and Tipp and still you can’t see any of them stopping the Kingdom. Cork are a complete mess and Kerry’s great rivals are no longer challengers for Munster never mind All Irelands. Tipp’s league was one to forget but they were hampered by injuries so they will be a different team come championship and along with Clare could give Peter Keane’s side a few problems in a Munster Semi or Final but in terms of winning it’s unlikely.
The Role Of The Keeper Expanding
It’s one of the most interesting positions in all sports I feel in terms of how it’s developing. Whether its football, hurling or soccer the role of a keeper is changing where they are no longer just the shot stoppers who smack the ball down field.
Kick-outs are vital as we know but it is the involvement of keepers in play that is really intriguing me now. I’m far from a fan of keepers running out the field but it can be great to watch.
I was at Roscommon v Tyrone in the league this year and I was amazed with the performance of Niall Morgan. For me he was the key man not because he had to make any outstanding saves but his involvement with play beyond his 65. Morgan was the director of play for Mickey Harte’s men in the second half orchestrating where the ball went and where players should move as he ventured out field. He kicked one monster score from play to show how comfortable he is at long range shots. I don’t expect to see every keeper do it but it’s something we may see more often
Referee’s In The Spotlight
Being a referee is arguably the most thankless job in the GAA. While there are matches where bad decisions are made by officials the job at hand for them is far from easy. I hope we don’t have too many games where officials are one of the main talking points but let’s be honest the consistency with tackling and fouling and what is or what’s not a black or yellow alone will be enough to anger managers, pundits and fans.