WHEN is the football championship going to take off or will it catch fire at all?
To date 19 of the 30 games to determine the destination of the Sam Maguire Cup have been played.
And here’s a simple question: how many of them have been anyway memorable?
Go through the provincial championships. We’ve had four games in Munster, Limerick hammering Waterford by 18 points, Kerry disposing of Clare by a point less, and then Tipperary by 11, when in cruise control.
The closest of the quartet was Cork’s eight-point victory over the Shannonsiders, but none will be recalled with any great clarity down the line.
Kerry have compiled 4-41 from their two appearances, carrying their high-scoring league form into the championship and revelling in the ideal conditions.
And Peter Keane’s side hit those impressive returns without needing to break sweat, no doubt saving it all for their biggest challenge to come against Cork in the final in Killarney on Sunday week and itching to avenge last year’s Mark Keane-led ambush.
A Cork-Kerry Munster final was as predictable as Galway-Mayo in Connacht, also on the same day with a lunch-time start.
Three of the four games to decide the identity of the western champions have also left a hollow feeling.
Mayo’s two games against division 4 Sligo and Leitrim yielded s staggering 8-43 for the champions with a mere 0-23 conceded.
Galway’s five-point triumph over Roscommon should have left some legacy, but the winter conditions spoiled any prospect of a decent game of ball.
So, that’s seven games, the same number that have been played in Leinster, which is at the semi-final stage on Sunday, when Kildare meet Westmeath at Croke Park at 2pm and Dublin take on Meath at 4.30.
There have been lop-sided games, notably Meath’s 4-22 to 0-12 trouncing of Longford and Westmeath’s 3-20 to 1-10 in mopping the floor with Laois.
One game went to extra-time, Offaly’s eventual three-goal defeat of Mickey Harte’s Louth and the Dubs and Kildare had only eight- and five-point victories over Offaly and Wexford respectively.
It’s been shadow boxing only, however, and there’s every chance the championship will at last ignite at the weekend.
Of course, it’s going to provide a Dublin-Kildare final and, of course, the Dubs, without Stephen Cluxton, will run through the Lilywhites like that which flows through a goose.
Five of the eight Ulster championship matches are done and dusted, but only one produced an exciting finish, Donegal’s snatching of victory by a point against Derry last weekend.
All the others had a combined winning margin of 47 points, varying from Donegal’s 16-point preliminary round dismissal of Down to Tyrone’s casual eight-point victory over champions Cavan, who like their equivalent in Munster, Tipperary, have Division 4 football to look forward to in 2022.
There was some redemption in Donegal-Derry, a game in which Derry will be kicking themselves for not capitalising on their first-half goal opportunities and leaving themselves vulnerable.
They will look on enviously at Tyrone-Donegal in one semi-final on Sunday, 24 hours after Armagh square-up to Monaghan in the other. You’d suspect it should be a Tyrone-Monaghan final, but there’s nothing guaranteed.
Former All-Ireland winning Donegal manager, Jim McGuinness, identified the issue of defending as being of the major themes of the championship before it kicked-off.
“It’s going to be a big talking, no doubt about that, a really big talking point,” he said.
McGuinness is spot on, but not for the reasons he was thinking of because the malaise of teams withdrawing all 14 outfield players behind the ball, when not in possession, is ruining the game as a spectacle.
It’s why sports fans regularly switch tv channels during live broadcasts and nearly every team dabbles in it to one degree or another. “So, how that plays out, I think, will be one of the most intriguing parts of what could be coming down the track for this championship,” he declared.