SO, the ball is in and the game is on. And a few days after blast off I get the sense I could have written this column last week. The big stories to emerge from championship week number one were entirely predictable:
1. The early weeks of the Leinster Championship are merely a process that must be endured in order to have Dublin emerge as the provincial champions
2. Ditto down Connacht way, where the opening day standard was simply not good enough to worry their champions (and here, Mayo are going for 4-in-a-row)
3. Ulster too was predictable. Their championship remains for the most part unpredictable. Last Sunday, Down were out of it at half time, had won it with five minutes to go and then, as the clock ticked down to a conclusion, somehow managed to snatch a draw from a certain victory and let Tyrone off the hook
4. . . . and of course the implementation of the Black Card to championship action did not disappoint or indeed surprise
Let’s look at Leinster first. I thought Louth were very decent and had a splendid win over Westmeath, who disappointed on home turf.
With the Westmeath full forward line of Dessie Dolan, Denis Glennon and John Heslin firing blanks the game was up as the match entered the final quarter and a teenage schoolboy, Ryan Burns, took them out of their misery when he fired the winner to the net late on.
Louth will give Kildare plenty of it in the quarter-final as it is now accepted that while Kildare can give most teams a good run for their money for 50 to 60 minutes, they are also capable of being beaten by just about most teams in the top three divisions.
Longford looked all right too, at least once they got the opening 20 minutes out of the way, but must realise they were up against an Offaly team that is way off the mark presently.
The same can be said for Laois - some really good patches but they too must reflect in the context of poor opposition in Wicklow.
Leinster looks like the weakest province in the championship. Dublin set out having won eight of the last nine titles and are readying themselves to mow down all comers.
When you stand back and examine the rest of the pack, and especially their recent league form, it looks bleak indeed:
Westmeath were relegated alongside Kildare to Division 2 leaving only one Leinster team in the top flight
Louth tumbled also, falling out of Division 2. Offaly and Longford are holed up in Division 4 alongside Carlow. What do Kilkenny do these days in football?
It makes for poor reading and though Laois, Kildare and Meath can, on their day, raise a gallop, it looks like one-way traffic.
Has the championship really become that predictable?
I suppose if the Dubs are 1/7 favourites to win their 9th title in 10 years you have to conclude it has.