Firstly, some digressions. Apologies for the gap in production here, some technical difficulties, etc. And though we didn't make the shortlist for best sports blog, boohoo and all that, we'd like to say cheers for the nomination and longlisting anyhow. Jumpthefence will be back when older, wiser and a little stronger, we're but a cub in the Irish blogging world (born December 08 in fact!) Anyway, on with the learnings from last weekend...
1 Ireland still on track in Six nations
Yep it was ugly as hell for ages but Ireland hung in there through a difficult first half and just had enough quality to squeeze out a win when playing reasonably poorly. There was little of the fluency of the French game but it was like playing Arsenal one week and Bolton the next, as the players/ manager said afterwards, two completely different styles of opposition. If we're nitpicking, it was worrying how we were bossed around at times and struggled for possession in the first half. But defence was generally good, Kearney looks a real player at full-back - mixing the solidity of Dempsey with the pace and attacking of Geordan Murphy - and Ireland always had the players to make breaks like Tommy Bowe did or punch holes eventually, as with Luke Fitzgerald's try. Elsewhere though, there was enough to suggest England won't lie down at Croker like two years ago and that Scotland will be damn competitive at Murrayfield. Way to go yet.
2 Kerry footballers on fire
You can tell pretty easily when teams are on a mission by their energy, their workrate but most of all, they'll have this purpose and sharpness about everything they do. Kerry had that last Sunday and they blew Tyrone away early on. Tommy Walsh and Colm Cooper were wrecking machines inside, Darren O'Sullivan looks a more clinical, effective player than in the past, Paul Galvin has the look of a guy with two summers of football to fit into one. New faces are fitting in well and the likes of Tomas and Darragh O'Se yet to come back. Jack O'Connor has his team buzzing nicely for February, but then again, it is only February.
3 Irish soccer team at crossroads
Reading the Sunday papers, there's a definite sense of holding back any sort of commitment towards this Irish team and more so, their management. Simply put, people don't quite know what to make of Trapattoni so far and aren't sure whether to go with lucky, underperforming or getting the most from a limited group of players. In his press conference last Thursday there was a feeling that Trapattoni is setting up a gameplan to make the most of scant resources and we'd agree on the whole. We don't have the players to dominate possession against the Italys, Spains (even England don't, as they found out last week) or even Russias and Croatias. We're not going to play a hugely expansive game. And we're set up to be more effective against the better sides, to nick wins and draws against technically superior opposition,not to sweep aside the likes of Georgia or Cyprus with fluent, flowing football. It was good to hear that Stephen Ireland's skill set would be accommodated somehow, so Trap isn't blindly sticking to system either. But we feel we'll see the best from this system of play against the Bulgarias and Italys.
Ciaran Cronin in the Tribune probably sums it up best.
We'll get back to the Irish midfield soonish though.