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19 May 2005 Edition

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Early days in Championship races

BY Matt Treacy

Well, we saw the next All-Ireland football champions in action last Sunday. The question is, were they in Clones or Croke Park? Seriously, it is far too early to begin predicting who might emerge triumphant in September, but both Armagh and Dublin will be satisfied with their first outing.

Armagh were probably thinking as much about what happened to them at the hands of Fermanagh in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final as they were about Sunday's game. Like the Romans at Carthage, they were clearly intent on ensuring not only that such an affront would never again take place, but that the memory of it would be obliterated for all time. The trouble was that Fermanagh didn't really seem to mind all that much and their resistance was minimal. Armagh totally dominated the match and could afford themselves the luxury of 25 wides in the process.

Dublin overcame Longford with ease. In fact, it was more like a challenge game than the Championship, with Dublin able to engage in some successful long-range point-scoring practice. Eleven Dublin players managed to get their names onto the scoreboard. One of the most re-assuring aspects of Dublin's play, as it was during the league, was the free-taking of Tómas Quinn. Rumour has it that Finglas' own Charlie Redmond has played a part in Mossy's increasing efficiency and with that problem solved, Dublin will be a real threat later on in the year (Listen, just humour me for a few weeks!).

The highlight of the day was Wicklow's performance against Kildare. Six points up having scored a second goal, their lack of experience allowed Kildare to turn the game around and to scrape through by two points. Hopefully, Wicklow will take encouragement from how well they played rather than dwell on the fact that they lost a match they should have won. If they do, and they are favoured by the draw for the qualifying round, they may well be back on the big stage.

This year's hurling championship has already been narrowed down for many people to Cork and Kilkenny, with the Cats the bookies' favourites at 13/8 and Cork at 11/4. Kilkenny are 1/6 to win Leinster with Cork at 11/10 in Munster. The evidence of the League would suggest that Kilkenny in particular are in good form, while Cork performed well with probably little real interest in the League itself.

The first clash of pretenders took place on Sunday in Thurles between Tipperary and Limerick. Tipp were behind for most of a scrappy match but contrived to haul back a five-point deficit and go ahead through a John Devane goal in injury time before Limerick midfielder Paul O'Grady deservedly brought the sides level from the puc out. Limerick were the better team and will be hoping to ensure that dominance is maintained on Saturday when they meet in the replay.

On Tuesday, Setanta TV departed from their normal schedule of mind numbingly boring Scottish League matches to broadcast an even more numbingly inane Setanta Cup tie between Glentoran and Linfield. I have to admit, though, that I was drawn to it with the curiosity of an anthropologist, given the violent history of the two club's supporters in recent times.

There appeared to be around 1,000 people in the Oval due to the fact that Linfield supporters were not given tickets because of their bad behaviour the last time. So I switched back and forth for a while between that and a documentary about monkeys who eat grasshoppers. A free CD of Celtic songs for the first person to correctly guess which was the more interesting.

• In response to the letter last week regarding the Setanta Cup, I can assure the authors that no offence was intended. I fully understand the desire to establish an All-Ireland soccer league, particularly on the part of supporters of Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers, both of whom you would have to give some chance of beating Omagh Town.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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