We are right in the thick of it now with all the big guns having taken to the field for championship action - apart from Kerry who we will see this Saturday against Cork.
Last weekend coughed up some unexpected results, some serious drubbings and the very first game in championship history to be decided on penalties, with Limerick defeating Clare 4- 1 from spot kicks in the Munster championship. I’m very undecided on penalties deciding the outcome of a GAA championship game. Yes, they provide great excitement for supporters and they are great for the team that wins, but put yourself or the county you support in that position, of losing a game on penalties and see how your opinion will change on it.
The fact that Clare have the safety net of the qualifiers and are not resigned to the Tailteann cup make it a little easier to swallow for them, but wait until later on and if one of the big guns are eliminated from the championship after losing on penalties, then the questions will be asked of their implementation and letting them decide a game.
The biggest surprise of last weekend's results was most definitely in Omagh where All-Ireland champions Tyrone got a proper hiding from a very fired-up Derry. I was one who thought the wheels had come off the Derry expectations after their sombre finish to division two, failing to get promoted after making all the early running and subsequently losing the influential Ciaran McFaul after the league concluded due to emigration.
Their manager, Rory Gallagher, was like a man possessed on the line in Omagh on Sunday and his team duly responded. Tyrone looked all out of sorts and their discipline went out the window as they finished the game with thirteen men. Like Mayo and Armagh, they have plenty of time for a bit of soul searching and to ready themselves for the qualifiers that already look fraught with danger with the teams in it.
I found myself in Clones last Saturday evening for the Ulster quarter final clash between Monaghan and Down. Despite Down getting two goals either side of half time, Monaghan showed all their experience to romp home by 10 points. Down are in disarray with word on the terraces of a total lack of interest from players from All-Ireland club champions Kilcoo.
None of the Johnsons or Brannigans were in sight, players who lit up the club series for the last six months. Kilcoo wing back Eamon Brannigan was this week named the player of the year from the club championship and rightfully so. The question begs, why was he not wearing a Down jersey last Saturday in Clones? There is clear disharmony between his club and the county set-up as his interviews have shown this week.
Monaghan are a powerful and well organised team under Banty McEaneany and will certainly take beating this year. Jack McCarron continued from his impressive league performances with a man of the match display against Down. He is a delightful player when he is on song and he has a terrific skill-set.
Despite the quality of the opposition but at the same time taking it into account and the fact that Wexford finished third from bottom in division four, Dublin seemed to have their mojo back, winning by 23 points on a scoreline of 1-24 to 0-4. Con O'Callaghan who the entire country seems to have pinned all Dublin’s hopes on for the year, was back for his first game of 2022 and played very well scoring 1-05.
Brian Fenton put in a man of the match performance from midfield accumulating 37 possessions and scoring five points from play from six attempts - serious going no matter who the opposition is. Kildare put Mickey Harte's Louth to the sword, hammering them by 16 points on a scoreline of 2-22 to 0-12.
There was an open draw for the Leinster semi finals as Meath got the short straw and got drawn against Dublin after easily defeating Wicklow in their quarter final. It's set up nicely for a Kildare v Dublin Leinster final. Will this be the year that Dublin’s dominance of Leinster finally ends? They are going for their 12th Leinster title in a row.
In Connaught, Roscommon, as expected, cruised into the Connacht final after a facile win over Sligo in Markievicz Park, winning by 0-23 to 0-11. Sligo weren't helped by the sending off of corner back David Phillips. The Rossies impressed throughout with five players coming off the bench and scoring for Anthony Cunningham’s team. They await the winners of Sunday's other semi final between Galway and Leitrim.
Here's one that will take beating from last weekend as I'd doubt it has been done before. In Monaghan's defeat of Down, Monaghan's numbers 1,2,3 and 4 all registered scores for their team. Rory Beggan, Kieran Duffy, Conor Boyle and Ryan Wylie all scored for the Farney men. A unique feat surely.