What has happened to Cavan? Their vibrant Ulster championship, all courage and togetherness, men chasing after lost causes and diving into danger like lunatics, has disappeared from memory quicker than Donald Trump.
f they keep going the way they are at the moment, this time next year they will be in Division 5 with Kilkenny, the Aran islands, Siberian Gaels, Warwickshire over 40s and the PSNI.
And what has happened to Tyrone? It is 35 years since Tyrone seniors conceded five goals in a game and by half-time in Killarney, Kerry already had five.
Having abandoned their disastrous experiment with zonal defending, Kerry have adopted Dublin’s track defence and with their forwards a) in position and b) no longer isolated, the results have been predictably outstanding.
Four games, 13 goals and 69 points. That is an average of 27 points per game. Of that, Clifford, who was left twiddling his thumbs against Cork last year as Kerry played a 12-man zonal defence, has scored 6-20, an average of almost 10 points per game.
Which is 56 per cent of Tyrone’s entire scores in the National League. Tyrone got a total of 68 points. Clifford has 38. Scary.
The Red Hands are a mess. They haven’t had much time to switch to the more attack-based system that management favours. Conor McKenna suddenly looks lost. Their greatest prospect Darragh Canavan is injured.
Paul Donaghy is still adjusting to the lightning pace and hard power of top line inter-county football.
He was blocked down twice in Killarney, something that wouldn’t have happened playing against Killyclogher or Moortown. They need time. And in 2021 there isn’t any.
Donegal, meanwhile, were easily beaten by Dublin, reduced to giving the ball to Paddy McBrearty and hoping for the best. The scoreboard wasn’t bad at the final whistle but 1-2 were consolation scores when the contest was long over.
Declan Bonner was asked afterwards if he genuinely believed they could beat Dublin come the championship. He said, “Absolutely. I have no doubt about that” with an impressive straight face. It would be interesting to see that interview conducted with Declan hooked up to a lie detector machine.
Meanwhile, Monaghan, with Banty sitting in the stands, played with their trademark heart and togetherness to beat Galway in one of the most thrilling games we have seen in a long time, Ray McCarron’s young buck looking the picture of his famous dad as he swung over the magnificent winner.
With plenty of good forwards and hard licks, Monaghan will be in the hunt for Ulster.
Armagh walloped Roscommon. The O’Neill boys, from the most aristocratic of Crossmaglen bloodlines, have been showing all their skills, stroking over points from everywhere, plucking balls from the skies and generally reminding us that football can be a beautiful game.
They continue to make hard work of it and have a tendency to drop back too deep in defence which cost them against Tyrone and Donegal in the league, but they will be competitive in Ulster.
As for Derry, we may have thumped Offaly in Croke Park on Saturday, yet we are most unconvincing.
The Division 3 league final was played under the experimental no contact rule, with the referee constantly blowing the whistle for the new offence of looking sideways at an opponent. It was hugely frustrating for the players and supporters.
At one point I texted one of my old Derry teammates to say “WTF? Did you see that decision?” He texted back, “Can’t watch any more. Raging. Away out for a walk.” Apparently, he is from Tipperary. They obviously sent him to the football. Imagine the mayhem he would cause at the hurling?
The players were constantly mystified. Suddenly, a whistle would ring out and everything would stop.
The decision would cause puzzled expressions and shaking of heads. Overcarrying. Touching an arm. At one point Conor Glass went through on goal and was blown up for charging.
The new offence of charging thin air. Later, Shane McGuigan was clearly pulled down in the square, and the ball dribbled to the net. The umpires signalled a goal.
The referee over-ruled them and awarded a free out. The new offence of allowing oneself to be pulled down in the square.
The standard of refereeing outside the top 10 is a concern. If this sort of officiating happened at a Dublin-Kerry match in Croker there would be hell to pay. As it is, as Derry have discovered, no one cares what happens in Division 3.
As always, Ulster will be ultra-competitive. Aaron Kernan told me a few weeks ago he fancies Derry. To the best of my knowledge he was sober at the time.
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