Posted by Ciaran Whelan

Sligo and Clare pulled off some shock performances but as Kerry head into the qualifiers they look like they may be a side in decline

2012 Cork v Kerry

Familiarity breeds contempt and there was a lot of nastiness in Cork’s win over Kerry.

It was a battle of heavyweights and there was a lot of cynical stuff with the play being slowed down quite often. It was a poor spectacle because of this and because the centrefield was crowded out by both teams.

Cork deserved their win but Kerry will regret their missed goals chances. The likes of Kieran Donaghy and Paul Galvin look to be short of confidence at the moment and not quite at the levels they were playing at two or three years ago.

Part of this may be down to the system Jack O’Connor is using. Galvin and the half-forward line are dropping quite deep and often behind midfield - so when they get the ball, there is a problem getting the ball inside to the likes of Donaghy.

A lot of it is down to confidence but, with the likes of James O’Donoghue coming on and playing well, there were plus points. Kerry are going through a rocky period right now after losing the All-Ireland final to Dublin last year and losing to Mayo in the league but it will be a long summer yet.

They really missed Bryan Sheehan and it was very evident from placed balls. A lot of the backline are on the wrong side of thirty but, as we’ve looked it, it’s in the forwards where the problems are right now.

You have to ask the question: is Jack getting the best out of his players? It was interesting in the lead-up to the clash of the Kingdom and the Rebels. Everyone was talking about whether these teams would be heading for the qualifiers or through the front door, but nobody was actually talking about a Munster title. That says a lot about the provincial system.

Clare, on the other hand, will have been targeting a Munster title from day one, and seeing a team such as the Banner County pushing for a title is one of the last plus points of the provincial championships.

When I was involved with Leinster this year, I saw David Tubridy playing for Munster in the interprovincials and he is a top forward. Limerick, however, had a bad league and the absence of star midfielder John Galvin was a big loss to the team.

That’s why I think that Sligo’s win over Galway was the shock of the weekend. I don’t think anyone saw that coming. Galway had been very impressive in their win over Roscommon but a lack of natural forwards in their half-forward line cost them on this occasion.

They looked to dump high ball in on top of Paul Conroy but Sligo were able to sweep it all up; the Tribesmen were one-dimensional. And the Yeats County played some blistering football and I would see it as the best performance of anyone is this year’s championship.

As for Galway, they have a poor record in the qualifiers so that’s not a good sign for them.

Armagh are another team that will have to go the long route this year and I feel Tyrone’s experience was key on the day. I think down south there can often be a lot of criticism of Ulster football but, when compared with the Cork-Kerry game, this match-up was played in a much better spirit.

It was a great spectacle between two great rivals, on a good pitch in an excellent venue. Armagh put it up to Tyrone on their home pitch as you would have expected and it was a great goal by Aidan Forker to get them going.

The red card impacted the game but Armagh really lifted it in the second half and it was a few silly frees that cost them, which kept the Red Hands ticking over on the scoreboard.

The Orchard County’s reliance on Jamie Clarke caught up with them on the day but, looking further down the line, injuries might catch up with Tyrone. Ronan O’Neill, Sean Cavanagh and Kyle Coney may well be sorely missed in the grand scheme of things.

I’m not sure that Mickey Harte’s side are the finished article and, against Armagh, I think at times they left Owen Mulligan and Stephen O’Neill too isolated. Peter Harte was marked out of it for much of the game but he came up with a great point when it mattered.

It will be interesting to see their next clash with Donegal because, as we saw against Kildare, teams that get men behind the ball can frustrate Tyrone. It’s one to look forward to.