As expected, Roscommon qualified for a Connacht semi final showdown with Mayo on Saturday week after a facile and straightforward win over Leitrim.
Many felt Leitrim would put it up to the Rossies' - especially after their varying league forms - which saw Leitrim moving up a division going from division four to three while Roscommon made the drop from division one to division two.
Without being disrespectful, I feared for Leitrim’s chances when I spoke on Radio One last week from Gaelic Park. I did mention the fact that Roscommon will make Mayo earn their crust in Castlebar and under the guidance of Anthony Cunningham, they will present a viable challenge to Mayo.
I can only presume my disregard riled any Leitrim listeners to the program but it was what I thought and it proved to be correct. All the same, league promotion for them and a qualifier win (if they get the right draw ) will constitute a very successful season.
While other unbackable favourites were struggling with teams from lower divisions, Roscommon went about their job with ease and efficiency. 3-17 is a very healthy scoreline no matter who the opponents are and they scoffed another three clear-cut goal chances that could easily have gone in on another day.
Towering midfielder Shane Killoran put in a man of the match performance after helping himself to two first half goals, albeit against a defence that were all over the place. Many pundits felt Roscommon’s new addition from Kerry, Conor Cox, would struggle on the hard ground and the championship may not suit him; his five point tally will certainly do his confidence no harm at all after his first championship start for his new team. We won't fully know the answer to that question until Roscommon's championship is over.
Roscommon talisman and captain, Enda Smyth, was a notable absentee. It is understood that Smyth may have been fit to play against Leitrim after recovering from a hand injury but Anthony Cunningham elected to rest his star player to have him in prime condition for the Mayo challenge. Smyth's brother Donie and John McManus didn't even make the match day squad, which I'm sure will make Roscommon training interesting in the lead up to the Mayo game. Both will certainly want to be involved that day.
Challengers to top sides in Leinster and Munster struggle to get going
I mentioned a number of weeks ago about the level of competition that Dublin and Kerry will have to face in pursuit of silverware within their Provinces. After last weekend's opening games it becomes even more worrying for the chasing packs in Leinster and Munster.
Meath, following a fine league campaign and promotion to division one, and Kildare, who of course defeated Mayo last year in the now infamous 'Newbridge or Nowhere' game, were considered to be capable of giving Dublin a run for their money. Both struggled badly last weekend. John Maughan's Offaly had Meath under all sorts of pressure and can consider themselves unlucky not to get something out of the game.
Lets not forget, Offaly stayed in division three by the skin of their teeth. You always felt that Maughan would have his team chomping at the bit for the championship, especially against Meath. Kildare were supposed to dispose of Wicklow with consummate ease also but were also on the ropes for a long time, despite leading by seven points on three separate occasions, eventually holding on for a 0-15 to 1-10 win. The relief on Cian O'Neill’s face was visible at the final whistle. Had Kildare lost that game I'm sure his job as Kildare manager was in jeopardy.
In Munster things didn't go much better for the teams chasing the Kerry crown. Tipperary’s capitulation at the hands of division four struggler’s, Limerick, has everyone shocked. Tipp' were supposed to win the game by in or around seven points but instead lost by seven to low-lying Limerick, who only finished above London in division four in this year's league.
Let's not forget Tipp gave Mayo plenty of it in an All-Ireland semi final in 2016. It's some fall from grace for the Premier county’s footballers but the romance of the championship is alive and well upon such results. Clare, under Colm Collins, are another team who have made great progress with the big ball of late. However they struggled badly last weekend also against Waterford and can be thankful Eoin Cleary baled them out, scoring 0-6 in a 0-9 to 0-8 win. Colm Collins, another relieved manager at the final whistle. It must be noted that Clare were missing the services of Keelan Sexton and David Tubridy, two players capable of winning any game on their own. They will certainly need to improve immensely to have a cut off Kerry in the Munster semi final.
Division four champions Derry played without fear against last Year's beaten All-Ireland finalists Tyrone in Omagh, actually going ahead in the 63rd minute from a Chrissy Bradley point. A late Tyrone flurry which yielded them 1-4 made the 1-19 to 1-13 scoreline look a lot more convincing than it was. Tyrone now face Antrim in the Ulster quarter final.
It'll be interesting to see how Galway fare against Sligo this Sunday after their poor showing in London. I expect Sligo to get the wrath of Galway's poor performance in Ruislip and to win the game convincingly. It will be nice to see what we can expect for a potential Connacht final.