Provincials' odds problem
CRITICS of the provincial championships in their current format have been handed ammunition by odds which show the regional competitions are growing increasingly predictable.
Five of next year's six provincial championships (Ulster hurling is not involved in the All-Ireland series) have odds-on favourites, suggesting that public opinion deems it most unlikely that any of the top sides will be beaten.
Ulster football is the only provincial championship with odds against favourites as Tyrone head the market on 11/4, followed by Down and Donegal on 3/1 each.
Elsewhere, it's odds-on fancies all the way, with Kilkenny hurlers the shortest-priced of all at 4/9 to win Leinster for the 14th time in 15 seasons. Dublin footballers are 4/6 to win Leinster football for the seventh time in eight seasons; Tipperary hurlers are 8/11 to land the Munster hurling title for the fourth time in five seasons and Cork are 10/11 to win Munster football with Kerry at 1/1.
Munster football is regarded as the ultimate two-horse race, even in a season where the 'Big Two' are on the same side of the draw -- third-priced Limerick are a distant 16/1.
Galway and Mayo are usually closely priced at the top of the Connacht football market but the contrast in fortunes in the 2012 draw has led to a dramatic change.
Mayo, who can reach the Connacht final by beating either Leitrim or London, are 8/13 while Galway, who would need to beat Sligo (or New York) or Roscommon to reach it, are 11/4.
With so many short-priced favourites, there's a risk it could have a negative impact on attendances.
2012 Provincial Odds
Football -- Leinster: Dublin 4/6; Kildare 3/1; Meath 15/2; Wexford 14/1; Laois 22/1; Offaly 30/1; Westmeath 50/1; Longford, Wicklow 66/1; Louth 80/1; Carlow 125/1; Munster: Cork 10/11; Kerry 1/1; Limerick 16/1; Clare 35/1; Tipperary, Waterford 66/1; Connacht: Mayo 8/13; Galway 11/4; Sligo, Roscommon 10/1; Leitrim 22/1; Ulster: Tyrone 11/4; Donegal 3/1; Down 9/2; Derry 11/2; Monaghan 11/2; Armagh 15/2; Antrim 25/1; Cavan 50/1; Fermanagh 50/1.
Hurling -- Leinster: Kilkenny 4/9; Galway 3/1; Dublin 6/1; Offaly 33/1; Wexford 40/1; Antrim, Laois 250/1; Carlow 250/1; Westmeath 500/1; Munster: Tipperary 8/11; Cork 3/1; Waterford 4/1; Clare 10/1; Limerick 20/1.