THE opening weekend of this year’s National Football League certainly didn’t disappoint with some fascinating contests taking place in all divisions.
We are spoiled nowadays with the amount of live action on view and on Saturday I spent most of the day sprawled out on the couch watching the opening two games of this year’s campaign.
The first game of the weekend was interesting enough when you compare Dublin’s win over Kildare to the second game on Saturday, Galway’s draw with Mayo.
There was a serious difference in intensity and I suppose that’s what you get when you move down the divisions, even if you are Dublin.
The Galway and Mayo game was far faster with more intensity, physicality and speed throughout the pitch.
That is the benefit that you get from playing in the top division.
I was working at the Donegal v Kerry game on Sunday and if we are all totally honest we didn’t really know what to expect from Donegal in the opening fixture this year.
Given the way the whole management selection thing went this year and then the added blow of Michael Murphy hanging up his boots, there wasn’t a lot of optimism here in Donegal. But, one thing is for sure, Paddy Carr and his management team never let those thoughts get inside the camp.
I want to single out the Donegal management team here for special praise because it’s easy for everyone on the outside to chip in with their advice.
These lads put their hands up and took a job that no one else had the balls to take so I was absolutely delighted for them on Sunday to get their just rewards.
I have to say that what I witnessed on Sunday left me coming down the road extremely excited about the year ahead.
Now, of course we are not going to be foolish and get carried away with the result, but, for me, the most important thing on Sunday was their approach to the game and their style of play.
Donegal looked to kick the ball forward at every possible opportunity. Granted, some of them went astray in the first half but it’s evident to me that this is the template moving forward and it’s clear to see that Aidan O’Rourke and Paddy Bradley are working on this on the training ground.
Rewind over the last 10 years and Donegal teams would have been going over and back the pitch hand-passing the ball to each other but now they are lifting the head and kicking that 30- or 40-metre kick pass which opens the whole game up.
I was also extremely impressed by the courage that the younger players showed. To me, it looked like they have a new lease of life this year.
In years gone by everyone would be looking for Michael to come and take the ball off them and perhaps get an important score but now that he is no longer there, these lads now understand that anyone of them can take on the responsibility.
To me, it looks extremely positive on Sunday that we have a number of players willing to step up to the plate.
It’s a good start to the season for Donegal but you can be sure that Paddy and his management team will bring them right back down to earth this week because they face another tricky encounter this weekend as the head to Omagh to play a wounded Tyrone team – and that is always dangerous.
Tyrone suffered defeat at the hands of Roscommon last weekend and after last season’s disastrous campaign questions will begin to circulate if they don’t pull things together over the next few weeks. At the minute, they just do not seem to be clicking as a unit.
The action continues this weekend with more fascinating clashes over all of the divisions. With the condensed season this year, teams are up and at it from the off which is fantastic for us neutrals to see, so long may it continue.
Breaking news this week as we saw the GAA order a replay of the Glen and Kilmacud All-Ireland final. We will let that sit for a while as I’d imagine that will run on for some weeks yet.