Five things we learned from the GAA weekend: Injuries and scores are piling up

Derry ring late changes; Cork and Kildare go goal crazy; the walking wounded ... and is that Brian Cody?

Getting with the programme

For Saturday evening’s match in Celtic Park, the match programme, ‘Oak Leafers,’ contained a range of interesting pieces, focusing obviously on previous Derry-Dublin matches. Ten years ago, Jim Gavin’s Dublin were beaten in Derry and a contemporary account of the match was included.

The All-Ireland final of 1958, a concise history of the venue and so on – all good value at £3, with a flat euro exchange rate.

On the day, however, those in attendance were also handed a four-page supplement. The reason was that there were so many changes to the Derry team that the county board obviously decided to print an update.

Of course, Derry manager Mickey Harte is no stranger to making late changes. If Clare’s Ger Loughnane gets the “credit” for the first dummy team in an All-Ireland final when naming Fergal Hegarty and starting Niall Gilligan in 1997, it was Harte who took created a modern norm in the 2008.


Three players on the programme had to be scratched. In fairness, goalkeeper John Devine had suffered a bereavement but the other two changes were simply tactical. Numbers 25 and 29, Ryan Mellon and Martin Penrose were introduced before the throw-in, in part to release Joe McMahon to corner back to mark Tommy Walsh, who with Kieran Donaghy, was one of Kerry’s ‘Twin Towers’ attack.

Since then, the All-Ireland dummy team hardly raises an eyebrow and virtually no league match starts without multiple changes to a starting selection. What’s less usual is that a county would take the trouble to go and produce a revised version. Seán Moran

Too much of a good thing?

Every so often something surprising happens. With two teams fighting for their lives at the bottom of Division Two what kind of game would you expect? (a) Cagey (b) Defensive (c) Fearful (d) All of the above (e) A carnival of goals and points.

As it turned out, Cork and Kildare produced the highest scoring game in the top two divisions at the weekend, and the second highest in all four divisions – pipped by a point by Offaly and Wicklow in Division Four, another game with five goals.

Remarkably, every one of Cork’s 17 scores was kicked from play. Equally remarkably they coughed up three goals to the only team in the division who had failed to score a goal in their first four matches. Cork butchered at least four other goal chances and Kildare had a sniff of at least one more.

What will people think? Is any wonder those teams are at the bottom of Division Two when they can’t defend? Cork have conceded 6-71 in the league so far, Kildare have conceded 6-69.

On RTÉ Radio Kildare were described as “naïve” and “not in tune with the modern game,” after their hiding from Armagh recently. In his press conference on Sunday, the Cork manager John Cleary lamented his team being “cut open” for Kildare’s goals. Goals and points are never victimless crimes.

So, what’s killing Gaelic football? Is it (a) too many goals and points? Or (b) too few goals and points?

Jim Gavin’s committee will come up with the answer. Denis Walsh

Is that? ... No, it can’t be ... is it?

Walking up the hill to Fitzgerald Stadium on Sunday, we caught sight of the back of a bald head we thought we recognised and thought, “No, it couldn’t be.” And then we strode quietly up the other side of the street to get a side-view and went, “No way, surely not.” And then we got in front of this all-too familiar figure in this entirely unfamiliar place and we nearly fell out of our standing.

For there, on his way to pay in to watch Kerry play Tyrone, was the great Brian Cody.

The Brian Cody. Tall and broad and ruddy-cheeked as ever. There with his wife and his walk and maybe a hint of a sheepish smile as people from all around did double-takes as he walked by. The man who would occasionally throw about loose talk of wanting to take a penknife to every football in Kilkenny – we think he was joking – was there in Killarney and settling in for an afternoon of Kerry v Tyrone in the flesh.

Truly, David Clifford’s pulling power knows no bounds. Malachy Clerkin

Down looking up

Off Broadway, Down have been causing a stir. Conor Laverty’s side have scored more (108 points in total) than any other team across all four divisions, they’ve also scored more goals (10) than any other team and they boast the healthiest scoring difference (+46). They are one of only three sides with a 100 per cent record so far in the league, alongside Westmeath and Laois.

Down’s two most difficult games in the battle for promotion from Division Three remain – Westmeath and Clare – but the Mourne men are one of the form teams in the country right now and a single point from their last two games would be enough to secure promotion. They annihilated Sligo in Newry on Sunday, running out 2-17 to 1-8 winners, a game between a team who competed in the Tailteann Cup last year and another who played in the All-Ireland SFC round-robin stages. You’d be forgiven for mixing them up. Gordon Manning

Split decision: injuries pile up and Joyce points the finger

Sebastion Coe always said every athlete is just one hamstring pull away from oblivion. There was a lot of talk about hamstrings and other injuries too in the aftermath of Sunday’s do-or-die relegation match in Clones, Galway’s win over Monaghan effectively ensuring their Division One survival for another year.

What both managers overtly agreed on afterwards was their added burden of trying to survive in the division when so many of their first-choice players are out injured. Pádraic Joyce reckoned he’s currently down about half his first-choice Galway panel of 42 players, while Vinny Corey pointed to the fact he’s got less than half the team that started last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin.

So what’s happening here?

In Galway’s case, they’re still without All Stars Shane Walsh, Damien Comer, Cillian McDaid and Liam Silke; Paul Conroy was named to start in Clones but didn’t feature at all, forward Robert Finnerty also retiring at half-time with a knee injury. It’s unlikely any of those All Stars will be back before the championship.

Monaghan did get some game time into Conor McCarthy and more importantly Conor McManus, both coming off the bench in the second half; by then, Monaghan had conceded three goals, and simply couldn’t close that gap no matter how hard they tried.

Joyce didn’t hesitate in pointing the finger of blame at the split season.

“I’ve been saying this for a while, but I don’t think anybody listens, the split season is great but it’s not great for intercounty players who are coming from intercounty set-up, into the club season and back into intercounty,” said Joyce.

“They’re not getting a break as such and they’re coming into us from their clubs injured and stuff like that. And they’re tired, and if they don’t do a proper pre-season, they get stuck for it down the line.

“It’s unfortunate, injuries will happen, but a lot of them are muscle injuries and if you miss six weeks now, with a hamstring injury, it probably takes 10 weeks until you’re back fully playing so it is tight. We have our squad there and for the last two matches I think that’ll be it, I can’t see much more added to that.”

Corey did point to the positives of getting that game time into McCarthy and McManus, with Micheal Bannigan and Dessie Ward coming back into form too; he also reckoned they’ve been averaging three injuries per game, since the start of the year. Given they got out of Clones on Sunday without any fresh injuries that might count as a positive result, if only they weren’t staring down the barrel of relegation. Ian O’Riordan