Ten things we learned from the 2014 national football league
Published 29/04/2014 | 02:30
1 The gap between Dublin and their Leinster rivals is widening all the time. Dublin may be pulling ahead of everyone else too but the most worrying trends are in Leinster where no county was promoted from any Division while Kildare and Westmeath tumbled out of Division 1, Louth were relegated from Division 2 and Offaly and Longford dropped out of Division 3.
2 The Ulster championship should be the most competitive for years. Even allowing for the big defeat by Dublin last Sunday, it was a progressive campaign by Derry while Tyrone came very close to eliminating Dublin. Donegal and Monaghan were promoted from Division 2, while Cavan came out of Division 3. Down finished fourth in Division 2 but will be encouraged by the win over Donegal and the draw with Monaghan.
3 Mayo still have difficulty closing out games from good positions. They needed to win the league more than anybody but wasted a great chance to reach the final when failing to exploit the extra man against Derry in the semi-final. Earlier, they had failed to see off Dublin when the champions were a man down and six points behind after 56 minutes. Dublin recovered and snatched a draw.
4 Kildare and Westmeath have serious defensive problems. Westmeath conceded 10-125 in seven games while Kildare leaked 10-112. Westmeath had some excuse as they had just come up from Division 2 and found it hard to adjust to life in the fast lane but Kildare should have been used to coping with top-line attackers. Their average giveaway was 3.6 points per game higher than in 2013.
5 Cork have a lot of potential. The collapse in the semi-final against Dublin brought their campaign to a dismally disappointing conclusion but they will learn from it. Up to then, Brian Cuthbert's new-look team had done well, topping the group after losing only one of seven games. They appear better set for championship than Kerry, whose injury lists lengthen.
6 Armagh are facing a long road back. Dropping into Division 3 has distanced them by two Divisions from Tyrone, Derry, Donegal and Monaghan. Indeed, Antrim and, possibly, Fermanagh will be the only two Ulster teams ranked below them in next year's league. That's quite a drop for a county which enjoyed so much success during the opening decade of the new millennium. Why was the legacy squandered?
7 Galway haven't built on the promising recovery launched in last year's All-Ireland qualifiers. Alan Mulholland's men were very lucky to remain in Division 2 (surviving ahead of Armagh on the head-to-head rule) after picking up only five of a possible 14 points. Five points was not enough to avoid the drop last year.
8 It's very difficult to park the bus in front of the goals in Croke Park! Cavan conceded only 1-67 (average 10 points per game) during their seven wins in Division 3 but were hit by 1-17 by Roscommon in Saturday's final.
9 When the slide starts, it's difficult to stop. Longford have dropped from Divisions 2 to 4 in successive seasons, winning only two of 14 league games in two seasons. It leaves them back where they started in 2011.
10 Referees will opt for yellow rather than black cards at the slightest opportunity. That has been very evident during the league. Frankly, it's a cop-out and needs to be addressed before the Championship.