Irish echo logo 750x550

Dubs, Cork continue unbeaten league runs with narrow wins

Nine points clear early in the second half and on course for a comfortable success, Cork then had to battle to preserve their unbeaten run after three rounds as Galway came storming back into the game. Inspired by Nicky Joyce and Micheal Meehan, the Connacht county could even have stolen the win at the end.

"Galway probably came out of this with more than we did," admitted Cork manager, Conor Counihan. "We'd be disappointed with our own performance. We were very lucky at the finish."

Dublin had their share of luck as well, but a grafting 1-9 to 1-8 win over Mayo in Castlebar was surely a positive omen for the remainder of the campaign. A first victory on Mayo turf since 1992 means that the Dubs with their 100 per cent record now lead the division on points difference from Cork, and could be on target to reach the final for the first time since 1999.

From a Mayo perspective, this was one that got away. Although a cold swirling breeze made shooting difficult, a total of 18 wides was inexcusable. Manager John O'Mahony's demeanor wasn't helped by the news that defender Peadar Gardiner could be out of action for three months after breaking his elbow in the early stages of the contest. "We must have had 70 per cent of the possession, but we didn't make it count. It's hard to win a game when you miss that amount of chances," said O'Mahony.

Bernard Brogan scored the winners' goal and five of the six starting forwards scored from play while Enda Varley led the way for Mayo with 1-3 including three frees.

Tyrone are still without a point as Monaghan took the honors with a narrow 1-14 to 0-16 Ulster derby win in Inniskeen. Two red cards near the end and a total of 12 yellows in all wasn't actually an indication of any serious rough and tumble, and in truth the game only began to catch fire in the closing stages.

Eoin McCusker levelled matters in the dying minutes and it seemed as if Tyrone might get away with a draw, but scores from Paul Finlay and Rory Woods gave Monaghan the important cushion.

"I felt we deserved at least one point, but the scoreboard tells its own story," said Tyrone boss, Mickey Harte, who'll now need a run of wins to stave off relegation. So too will Monaghan, however, according to manager, Seamus McEnaney, his players are well up for the challenge. "If it comes down to playing Kerry in Killarney to stay in Division One, then so be it. This team will fight tooth and nail to grind out results."

Meanwhile, Kerry eventually found some form to register a first success of the campaign when they came back strongly in the second half to see off Derry by 0-15 to 1-9 in Tralee.

Listless enough during the opening exchanges, Kerry found themselves trailing 1-6 to 0-6 at the break following Eoin Bradley's well-taken goal for Derry, but with David Moran coming good, they then outscored the visitors by nine points to three.

"It was important to get a win on the board, it would've been a tough prospect heading to Galway without any points," explained manager, Jack O'Connor. "While I'd say relegation is still a live possibility, at least we're off the mark and we can build on that."

In Division Two, Kildare put themselves right back in the shake-up for promotion when hammered previously unbeaten Donegal in Newbridge by 1-17 to 1-9. Leaders Down were surprisingly held to a 0-14 to 1-11 draw by Tipperary in Newry where Barry Brogan earned his side a deserved share of the points with the last kick of the game.

There was also drama at the death in Portlaoise where Ryan Henderson kept his nerve to land the winning point for Armagh who edged out Laois by 0-13 to 0-12. Similarly in Navan, it took a last-gasp score from Stephen Bray to give Meath a fortunate 1-12 to 2-8 verdict over Westmeath.

In the one major hurling fixture of last weekend, the oft-postponed National League clash between Tipperary and Kilkenny finally got under way in Thurles with Tipp emerging victorious by 1-14 to 0-13.

Even with Kilkenny shorn of several key players who will be turning out for Ballyhale in the All Ireland club final on St Patrick's Day, this was still an important win for Tipp, and the tension towards the end was palpable with the rival managers, Brian Cody and Liam Sheedy, squaring up to one another on the sideline.

"When the match is close like that, it's high-tempo stuff," said Sheedy. "If we'd lost, it would probably would've finished our involvement in the league." As for Cody, he was playing down any animosity between himself and Sheedy. "A battle of wits, as ever. But no, no battle on the sideline. It was a flat-out game, huge commitment from both teams. You know in early March, that was decent stuff."

Tipp, for whom the impressive Eoin Kelly hit 1-7, led by 1-6 to 0-6 at the changeover, and while Kilkenny were never until the last whistle, the winners always had the edge which was confirmed by two injury time points from Jody Brennan and Noel McGrath.

Meanwhile, the Fitzgibbon Cup returned to NUI Galway for the first time in 30 years when they defeated favorites Waterford IT by 1-17 to 1-16 after extra-time in an unbelievably tense decider at Pearse Stadium.

Up against Waterford who were bidding for a fifth title in eight seasons, NUIG's Seamus Hennessy sent the game into extra-time with a composed score, and then John Conlon hit the match-winning point in stoppage time at the end of extra-time.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.