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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Shane Dowling

Shane Dowling column: Moving weekend for teams to get something from the League

I expect to see some fireworks this weekend.

On paper, there are a number of games to whet the appetite and the two-week break should put a number of teams on a different plane.

The matches have lacked spark and quality so far with the only one that really took off being the Cork-Limerick tie, and that was just in the second half.

But so many other games have been very one-sided and while, yes, it’s only the League, it got me thinking - at what stage do managers start demanding a performance for fear that confidence will take so much of a hammering that their season won’t recover?

Fair enough, you could say that Limerick had to beat Offaly in their last game to avoid a relegation play-off and still went on to win the All-Ireland last year, but they were a well seasoned team at that stage.

Plus, just because Limerick had the happy ending doesn’t necessarily mean that they got it right in last year’s League. I would suggest that they didn’t and got away with it, which is why they’re taking a different approach this year.

It was notable how Liam Sheedy said in his Laochra Gael profile last week that Kilkenny had set the bar and the bar wasn’t going to come back to Tipperary, so they had to go and meet it.

And by God did Sheedy drive them to that standard. Are teams still doing that commando-style training that requires real mental resilience, or is that a thing of the past?

Either way, what have teams done in the last five months to try and reach Limerick’s standard?

We can only speculate, but from what we’ve seen so far it looks as though they are largely doing the same things as last year, with the possible exception of Tipperary.

Managers won’t be judged on what they do in the second week of March but performances and results boost confidence and morale and at some stage managers have to go after either or both.

And with two rounds of League games left, it’s probably now or never for many counties.

Otherwise you run the risk of pessimism taking hold in the dressing room and players moaning to each other about different things and before you know it’s all unravelling. But results and performances can wash all of that away.

Yes, you can still have a good Championship after a bad League, but why take the chance? Because it can be difficult to turn things around.

So, with some teams having used last weekend to get some serious work in, I predict that there’ll be more bite to the games over the next couple of days. Teams should be fresh and mad for road.

In particular, I expect a response from Wexford and Galway to their recent defeats. And if that happens, it could just kickstart 2023 for them.

Plenty to keep you interested on either side of the line in Thurles

Tipperary manager Liam Cahill (©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

There are so many subplots to Tipperary playing Waterford tomorrow evening and again at the end of May in the Championship that it’s going to make for compelling viewing.

You have Liam Cahill managing against the county that he just left and with much of his backroom team having come with him, while Davy Fitzgerald is back with Waterford.

We all know the passion that Davy brings but Liam has it in spades too, especially now that he’s in charge of his own county.

He has been somewhat subdued this year on the line, but then his team’s performances have facilitated that.

Back in Semple Stadium, against Davy Fitz, against a team he went to war with for three years, is a story in itself. Throw in the fact that he turned down Tipperary to stay with Waterford ahead of last season and the subplots are endless.

Looking at the two teams’ displays so far, Tipperary have been very consistent and Waterford much less so.

As I’ve said here before, Tipp have curiously managed to stay under the radar despite recording victories at Nowlan Park and Croke Park and one more win should see them into a League semi-final, which wouldn’t have been anticipated.

Cahill should have learned plenty from Waterford’s great run in last year’s League and how they then fell flat in the Championship.

On the other hand, someone asked me recently what I thought of Waterford and I said I had no idea.

But they do have serious players and a proven manager and I’m waiting for them to explode at some stage.

Conceding restarts so easily doesn't pay

I’ve long been fascinated by how teams set up on opposition puckouts.

Remember, you could have 80-odd puckouts in a game so it’s worth your while to try and win as many of them as you possibly can.

With that in mind, I’m struggling to see why so many teams retreat to the 45 and allow the opposition to go short. That approach can have its uses if you turn them over on the second ball but I see a lot of teams just allowing it to be worked around them from there.

It’s something that’s worth keeping an eye on this weekend.

More chat from refs would be welcome

Gaelic football referee David Gough (INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

I’d like to think that I enjoyed a healthy relationship with referees for the most part.

Once they had no ego or agenda and communicated respectfully, it was always easier to swallow the poor decisions that they may make from time to time.

But, I saw a snippet of football referee David Gough being interviewed recently where he explained a number of things. I thought it was top class.

Would referees be open to coming out and having a chat post-game? And even if they made a mistake, just give their reasoning for it?

I think it would be a huge plus for the game, but whether referees would want to go down that path remains to be seen.


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