Thursday 21 September 2017

Blue is the colour in a perfect year for Dublin

Gavin's men lead the way but where does your county rate in the end-of-year football rankings? Martin Breheny presents his annual report card

Dublin’s Bernard Brogan sits on the Croke Park pitch among the streamers after their victory over Mayo in the All-Ireland football final
Dublin’s Bernard Brogan sits on the Croke Park pitch among the streamers after their victory over Mayo in the All-Ireland football final
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Played 15, Won 13, Drew 1, Lost 1 (league and championship)

1. DUBLIN

A one-point defeat by Tyrone in the Division 1 group games in mid-March, which they later avenged by the same margin in the final, was Dublin's only defeat in a 15-match league and championship programme. Their 13 wins (they drew with Donegal) were against Mayo (3), Kerry (2), Cork (2), Kildare (2), Tyrone, Down, Westmeath and Meath. They ended the season as NFL, Leinster and All-Ireland champions, a treble feat Dublin last achieved in 1976. They averaged a total of almost 20 points per game and failed to score at least one goal only twice (v Donegal and Tyrone in the league). Their haul included 4-16 against Kildare and 3-18 against Kerry in the championship.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 1) : 11/10 (favourites); All-Ireland: 6/4 (favourites)

2. MAYO

P14, W8, L6

And still the long wait goes on. Winning a third Connacht title in a row for the first time since the early 1950s brought little satisfaction at the end of a season when the All-Ireland final hurdle again proved just too high. They beat the defending champions for a third successive year, only to find other opponents too good, albeit by the slimmest of margins. Four of their six defeats came in a bad run from rounds two to five of the NFL where they lost to Tyrone, Dublin, Down and Kildare. They won the Connacht title by a combined margin of 45 points against Galway (17), Roscommon (12) and London (16), which explains why they are 2/9 to complete a western four-timer next year.

2014 ODDS -- NFL (DIV 1): 4/1; ALL-IRELAND: 4/1

3. KERRY

P12, W 7, L5

Would they have beaten Mayo in the All-Ireland final if they had squeezed past Dublin in the semi-final? History would certainly have been on their side, but they were denied the opportunity by Dublin's late blitz. It was an altogether better season for Kerry than their early league form suggested -- they lost to Mayo, Dublin, Kildare and Donegal in their opening four games. Despite their high ranking, there's a feeling in the Kingdom that quite a lot of rebuilding work will have to be undertaken by Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 1): 11/2; All-Ireland: 9/2

4. TYRONE

P16, W11, L5

Despite winning no titles, it was a solid season for Tyrone and therein rests their dilemma. Their style of play will take them a certain distance, but lacks the expansiveness to match the likes of Dublin, Mayo and Kerry, all of whom return consistently high scores. Tyrone's containing game seems out of date, so it will be interesting to see what tactical and technical adjust-ments Mickey Harte makes next year.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 1) : 6/1; All-Ireland: 14/1

5. MONAGHAN

P12, Won 9, Lost 3

Their best season since 1988 as they returned to the summit in Ulster and came very close to upending Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final. They also got out of Division 3, but then they were unfortunate to be there in the first place. Their only defeats from 12 outings came against Cavan and Roscommon in the league and against Tyrone in the championship. A fine season by an improving panel and shrewd manager Malachy O'Rourke.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 2): 11/2; All-Ireland: 40/1

6. DONEGAL

P12, W5, D1, L6

They lost more games than they won; they dropped into Division 2; they conceded 4-17 to Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-final. All told, it was dismally poor follow-on season to the glory of 2012. In fairness, they were badly hampered by injuries and they were not helped by internal wrangling over fixtures, which left Jim McGuinness very frustrated. It all coalesced into a messy season which took Donegal back into the pack and looking quite ordinary.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 2): 15/8; All-Ireland: 12/1

7. KILDARE

P12, W6, L6

Four of their six wins came in the first five league games, after which they lost five of their remaining seven games. The 4-16 to 1-9 Leinster semi-final defeat by Dublin was their worst championship performance under Kieran McGeeney (below), leaving an impression that they really weren't coming any closer to making a breakthrough. Jason Ryan has since taken the managerial baton at a time of great uncertainty as to Kildare's precise value.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 1): 11/1; All-Ireland: 33/1

8. CORK

P12, W6, L6

Their worst season since 2004, they were flat right from the start. Winning three successive leagues in 2010, 2011 and 2012 led to suggestions that they peaked ahead of other counties so whether a change of emphasis was behind their patchy spring form is unclear. Whatever the reason, they failed to pick up the pace in the championship, looking tired and unimaginative most of the way. A spate of retirements came at the end of the season, perhaps a year too late as there were signs after the 2012 campaign that the panel needed to be freshened up.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 1): 7/1; All-Ireland: 10/1

9. DERRY

P12, W8, D1, L3

Won promotion from Division 2, lost to Down in the Ulster quarter-final, avenged that defeat in the qualifiers and then lost to Cavan in extra-time in the qualifiers. An eventful season in which steady progress was made. Questions will be asked as to why they are rated ahead of Cavan, who beat them in the championship and reached the All-Ireland quarter-final, but overall, Derry were the more consistent side and are now in Division 1.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 1): 16/1; All-Ireland: 33/1

10. DOWN

P10, W3, L7

They swapped places with Derry in the league, dropping down to Division 2 after winning only two of seven games. They were very unlucky to lose to Cork and, as subsequent events transpired, a win would have kept them in the top flight. Clearly, there is very little between themselves and Derry, judging by their two championship clashes (one win each), while the combined total scores (Down 3-22 Derry 1-28) were identical.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 2): 7/2; All-Ireland: 40/1

11. CAVAN

P14, W8, D1, L5

On the basis that the championship outweighs the league, Cavan deserve to be ahead of several Division 2 sides, even if they had a disappointing Division 3 campaign, picking up seven of a possible 14 points. It was all very different in the championship where they beat Armagh and Fermanagh in Ulster before losing by a point to Monaghan. They then reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals for the first time, beating Fermanagh again, Derry and London. Solid progress,

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 3): 11/4; All-Ireland: 100/1

12. MEATH

P12, W7, L5

Still the pick of the bunch behind Dublin in Leinster, they also corrected their league discrepancy by climbing back into Division 2. Of course, that's not the territory the Royals expect to find themselves in and they will be making a concerted effort to advance to Division 1 next spring. With a modicum of luck, they could well have beaten Tyrone in the qualifiers, so they appear to be going very much in the right direction.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 2): 7/1; All-Ireland: 33/1

13. GALWAY

P12, W6, D1, L5

Inconsistency in the league dropped them outside the promotion slots despite beating Derry and drawing with Westmeath, both of whom were promoted. The demolition by Mayo in the Connacht final was an embarrassment, but Galway re-grouped in the qualifiers and, with any luck, they could have made the All-Ireland quarter-finals. Stability was restored after the Mayo wipe-out which was important.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 2): 7/1; All-Ireland: 33/1

14. WESTMEATH

P11, W6, D1, L4

They ran an excellent Division 2 campaign, clinching a promotion slot, but were way off the pace when losing heavily to Dublin in the Leinster quarter-finals. Still, they seemed primed for a good qualifier run, only to lose to Division 3 side Fermanagh. It wiped the gloss off the progress made earlier in the season. They are favourites to finish bottom of Division 1 next year.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 1): 80/1; All-Ireland: 400/1

15. LOUTH

P11, W5, D1, L5

How to separate Louth, Wexford and Laois! Wexford beat Louth in league and championship, but were relegated. Louth hammered Laois in the championship and drew with them in the league. Laois beat Wexford in league and championship. All very confusing, so it's necessary to look beyond the individual battles to strike a rating. Even then it's pretty confusing, but Wexford's demotion to Division 3 makes a case for dropping them to the bottom of the trio.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 2): 25/1; All-Ireland: 300/1

16. LAOIS

P12, W7, D1, L4

Third in Division 2 behind Derry and Westmeath, their 10-point defeat by Louth in the Leinster first round was a big shock. They regrouped and ran a good qualifier campaign before losing to Donegal in the fourth round. Once again, it was a year in which they gave the impression that there's more in them than they are delivering.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 2): 8/1; All-Ireland: 150/1

17. WEXFORD

P11, W4, D1, L6

They took five from a possible eight points in their first four Division 2 league games, but lost their remaining three and were relegated. The Leinster championship win over Louth looked as if it might relaunch their season, but they lost to Meath in the semi-finals and later to Laois in the qualifiers. A quick return to Division 2 will be the early priority for next season.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 3): 7/2; All-Ireland: 225/1

18. ARMAGH

P11, W4, D2, L5

A disappointing first season for new manager Paul Grimley. Lucky to avoid relegation to Division 3, Armagh's performance against Cavan in the first round of the championship was dismal. And while they won two qualifier games, they returned to mediocrity against Galway and were picked off relatively easily. Tricky times ahead in the Orchard.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 2): 7/1; All-Ireland: 50/1

19. FERMANAGH

P10, W5, D1, L4

Just missed out on promotion from Division 3 before twice losing to Cavan in the championship, having beaten them in the league. They beat Westmeath in a first-round qualifier, raising hopes of an extended run, but couldn't handle rejuvenated Cavan next time out.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 3): 7/1; All-Ireland: 500/1

20. LONGFORD

P10, W1, L9

One win from 10 games was a miserable return, but it must be acknowledged that they enjoyed no luck whatsoever in their Division 2 campaign, where they lost their first three games very narrowly. They were always heading for relegation after that. The qualifier win over Limerick was their sole success this year, but they are better than the figures show.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 3): 8/1; All-Ireland: 500/1

21. ROSCOMMON

P9, W4, D1, L4

They ran Tyrone to two points in the qualifiers, hinting at the levels they are capable of reaching, but were earlier beset by inconsistency in the league where they beat eventual winners Monaghan but could only draw with Wicklow, who were later relegated. Like Galway and London, they were well beaten by Mayo in Connacht.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 3): 10/3; All-Ireland: 150/1

22. SLIGO

P9, W2, D1, L6

They lost to London in the Connacht semi-final by a point, but deserve to be ahead of the Exiles on the basis that they finished sixth in Division 3, as opposed to last in Division 4. Besides, the winning margin in Ruislip could not have been smaller.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 3): 8/1; All-Ireland: 150/1

23. ANTRIM

P9, W1, D2, L6

Dropped out of Division 3 after taking four of 14 points and later lost to Monaghan and Louth in the championship. A disappointing season overall, but are favourites to top Division 4 next year.

2014 ODDS -- NFL (DIV 4): 13/8; ALL-IRELAND: 1000/1

24. LIMERICK

P10, W7, L3

Promoted from Division 4 before being hit with a Cork sledgehammer in the Munster quarter-final and were later well beaten by Longford in the qualifiers. Still, they got into Division 3, which will help their progress next season.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 3): 8/1; All-Ireland: 1000/1

25. WICKLOW

P10, W1, D 2, L7

Unable to keep pace in Division 3, they finished bottom after taking only two points (two draws). Beat Longford in the championship and were going well against Meath before suffering a six-point turnaround in the space of a minute. Trimmed by Armagh in the qualifiers and are now back in rebuilding mode.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 4): 7/1; All-Ireland: 1000/1

26. OFFALY

P10, W5, L5

Promoted to Division 3, so some progress was made. Lost to Kildare in Leinster before being demolished by Tyrone in the qualifiers.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 3): 12/1; All-Ireland: 1000/1

27. LONDON

P12, W3, D1, L8

London's best ever season, reaching the Connacht final for the first time in their history after beating Sligo and Leitrim. They would expect to be ranked higher, but one win from seven league games left them starting from a low base.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 4): 50/1; All-Ireland: 5000/1

28. WATERFORD

P9, W3, L6

Disappointed in Division 4 before losing out to the Kingdom in Munster and to Galway in the qualifiers, the latter by a single point in what was a fine performance by Niall Carew's men.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 4): 10/1; All-Ireland: 1000/1

29. TIPPERARY

P9, W4, L5

Disappointed to miss out on promotion, they were again paired with Kerry in the Munster championship, resulting in a quick exit. Did well for a long time against Galway in the qualifier tie.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 4): 15/8; All-Ireland: 1000/1

30. CLARE

P9, W4, L5

Fancied to be in the Division 4 promotion hunt under Mick O'Dwyer, they lost to Munster rivals Tipperary, Waterford and Limerick and were later easily beaten by Cork and Laois in the championship.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 4): 9/2; All-Ireland: 1000/1

31. LEITRIM

P11, W4, D1, L6

A miserable season for Leitrim, who made no impression in the league before losing to London in the Connacht semi-final replay. Armagh later hit them for a whopping 8-13 in the qualifiers.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 4): 18/1; All-Ireland: 1000/1

32. CARLOW

P9, W2, L7

They beat Tipperary and London in their first two league games, but lost the remaining five, followed by heavy defeats to Westmeath and Laois in the championship.

2014 odds -- NFL (Div 4): 18/1; All-Ireland: 5000/1

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