Donegal’s decline continues
The last time Donegal and Down met was 2021, when Donegal won by 2-25 to 1-12 in Newry.
Current Donegal manager Aidan O’Rourke wrote a column for RTE.ie after that match in which he criticised elements of Donegal’s play. O’Rourke highlighted Hugh McFadden’s “inability to react quickly to evolving danger” as well as Paddy McBrearty’s “limited movement”.
O’Rourke also focused on Donegal pairing McBrearty and Michael Murphy up front, “an approach that offers the type of directness that has disappeared from the Donegal game over recent seasons”.
“While Donegal ultimately were never under any real threat against Down, they will have left Páirc Esler with some significant questions hanging in the air about what to do next. There are some fundamental flaws in their make-up now and not a lot of time to find solutions,” O’Rourke concluded.
In fairness, he wasn’t far wrong. Donegal held off Derry by a point but disappointed against Tyrone afterwards. But the “fundamental flaws” now look much graver, especially with so many top players absent.
Leinster championship in Belfast
The Antrim v Dublin hurling clash on Saturday was the first ever Leinster Championship match played in Belfast and the hosts almost pulled off what would have been a famous win.
When they last met in the competition, Dublin won by 3-31 to 0-22 in the Leinster quarter-final in Navan in 2021 in what was a knock-out championship on that occasion. Subsequent defeat in a relegation play-off against Laois saw the Saffrons demoted but they bounced back immediately with a second Joe McDonagh Cup success in three years and now find themselves back at the top table.
While they didn’t get the win – letting a four-point lead slip on the run-in – it still marked a first point in the competition since beating Laois in the ‘qualifying group’ in 2015.
Healthy fixture list
There has never been a busier weekend of intercounty championship action. Between Saturday and Sunday, there was barely time for the casual fan to draw breath, with 26 matches played across the five tiers of hurling and four provincial Senior Football Championships.
In all, there are 34 teams entered in the football championship and 36 in the various hurling competitions, which means that a whopping 74 per cent of all teams were in championship action over 26 hours or thereabouts.
The highest-scoring match was of the weekend was Derry v Sligo in the Christy Ring Cup at Owenbeg, the hosts winning by 4-27 to 2-13. The lowest scoring was Offaly v Meath in the Leinster SFC, which Offaly won by 1-11 to 0-10.
Dublin’s Leinster dominance
On only two occasions since 2011 have Dublin conceded more than one goal in a Leinster Championship match.
The first was in 2016 against Laois, when Paul Cahillane (penalty) and Stephen Attride were the scorers and the second was yesterday when Eoin Lowry hit the net twice.
Damningly, since the retirement of another Laoisman, Ross Munnelly, last year, there is now no other active player outside of Dublin with a Leinster SFC medal to his name.
“Down coming here, they’re showing extreme excitement. I think they’re playing with hunger, they’re playing very, very quickly but they need a bit of ice in the brains. They’ve got fire in the belly but they need a bit of ice in the brains.” – Michael Murphy on punditry duty with the BBC.
Number – 1/500
The odds on Kerry to beat Tipperary in the Munster SFC.