BEFORE a ball was bowled in the North County the other night, all the talk was of Parnell’s going out of the championship.
By the end of play, it was the elimination of the mighty Kilmacud Crokes that dominated the late debate.
Back in 2007, Crokes had beaten St Vincent’s in the opening round. Vincent’s had only two scorers - the old firm of Connolly and Quinn.
The back door was open then. Vincent’s came back in, not only to win Dublin but the All-Ireland title.
No soft landings anymore. The championship has reverted to the genuine article - knock-out, and that is what injects that extra element of excitement.
Parnell’s and Crokes bowing out were the headline acts. Then, in the big Tallaght derby, you had Anne’s toppling the neighbours, Thomas Davis, while Whitehall created a little tremor of their own at Balgriffin.
They are the only Division 3 side in the hat for the second-round draw. They beat Division 2 team, Erin’s Isle.
The victory meant so much to Whitehall. And to Paddy Canning and Anto Holly. Brian Talty was on the terrace. So too the Barr brothers, Eddie and Johnny, plus several other former Isle’s footballers.
They had much to applaud. John Noonan struck a gorgeous point for the Finglas club. It was like he had got out the curling tongs.
The Whitehall forward, Stephen Sharpe, bent a delicious score from almost on the end-line on the left. It was a pot Mark Selby would have been proud of.
The Whitehall bench were joking that Stephen had meant it as a pass, but, as they say, there’s no substitute for class.
Eoin O’Donnell and Sean Dwyer got the goals that brought Colmcille’s through. Dwyer’s winner came three minutes from time at the pavilion end.
It was a most elegant score. He got through on goal. Time seemed to stand still as he steadied himself and floated the ball, as if in slow motion, to the back of the onion sack. Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
There was also much to admire at St Margaret’s in the only game of the 16 to extend to extra-time. Peregrine’s had certainly given Raheny a run for it.
“We ran out of legs in the end,” admitted Barry Corrigan, managing Peregrine’s with Ronan Keaskin. “The lack of bodies cost us.
“And also the fact that Raheny are a Division 1 side and we are Division 2. They kept the ball a little bit better than we did.
“In the second half of the extra-time, their experience showed,” added Barry, who hailed the heroic display of the Blakestown Boys.
“We had several chances to win it. We had three goal chances when we were ahead in the second half. We hit the underside of the bar and their ’keeper brought off a great save. We just couldn’t put them away.
“When we went two points behind, we tried to push on and get the scores back, but we just weren’t able to manage it.
Raheny’s Peter Welch pulled off a wonder stop at the end of the first period of extra-time. Robbie McCarthy found himself on a one-on-one with the ’keeper. McCarthy did everything right, but Welch was equal to his thunderbolt.
It was the maestro McCarthy who ensured extra-time when he sent over a most exquisite point from way out on the left. For the singing birds of St Margaret’s, it was the perfect night-cap before the dawn chorus.
The standard of the contest impressed Barry Corrigan. “There was some terrific stuff played. And the thing is that I’d say only a couple of the players on both sides were over 25. That has to augur well.
“I know from our point of view, we are putting in a serious effort at Peregrine’s in developing our juvenile players and we are seeing the benefits at senior level.
“And I’m sure it’s the same right throughout the county.”
Despite Crokes going out, Barry feels it will probably be one of the heavyweights that takes gold next autumn - Ballymun being his favourites.
But he is a fan of St Jude’s. “I had a sneaking suspicion for Jude’s last year. And they could be close again.
“They got to the semi-final last year, but they just didn’t produce on the day. They have the forwards, but they just didn’t get the scores in that semi-final against Ballymun.”
Fingal Ravens boss, Colm Nally, saw his side come through a tight one against Clondalkin’s Round Tower at St David’s.
“It was close alright, but we expected that. There was nothing in our league game at Monastery Road,” explains Colm.
“The other night we were ahead by a few points and Towers came back at us, but, thankfully, we just did enough.
“We are delighted with the win because it keeps us in Pot A for next year’s championship draw. It’s important to stay in that group.”
Colm says that Plunkett’s, winners over Crokes, won’t be too far away from the big prize. “They could be the dark horses now. There’s a big gap till the next round and that will give them time to gel.
“You obviously have to look at St Vincent’s and Ballymun as the favourites. We wouldn’t mind a crack at one of the big teams. That would be our championship final.
“Our priority is the league. We have won five out of five in Division 2, and this championship win is a nice bonus. It is always a boost when you win a championship game. It helps to keep the interest going.”
Mary’s aim is to preserve their division 1 address. They gave it their best shot against Templeogue on the Kiltipper all-weather. Alan Marshall is the man for all seasons.
He played at left half-back for Mary’s. He delivered a fabulous performance. He was on the front foot all the time, and he burst forward any chance he got. He summed up the famous Saggart spirit.
So did Donnacha Corcoran, still producing the quality after all the years. He was given a big job - curtail Eoghan O’Gara
But Donnacha could feel pleased with his display. As the great Peter Jones of the BBC would say, Donnacha stuck to Eoghan like a stamp.
Templeogue pulled away in the end. Conor McKiernan is a treasure of a centre half-back. He scored a beautiful point. So did Marc Hiney. Denis Bastick lofted three over the cuckoos nest. He makes it look easy.
Nobody gets to win Dublin’s Claret Jug on Easy Street.
The week produced a fabulous football festival.
Everybody is already looking forward to the second helping ... when the bulbs will have been replaced the tulips.