Friday 22 September 2017

Micko marks your card for the main contenders in 2014

Dublin

Meath's Shane O'Rourke is back from injury
Meath's Shane O'Rourke is back from injury

Mick O'Dwyer

There's talk of them dominating football for years but it won't be that easy. They only just pipped Mayo last year and Kerry gave them a right good run too. Defending the All-Ireland is mighty difficult -- it's a different sort of challenge. We'll have to wait and see how Dublin react to it.

MAYO

They have not blown their chance of winning an All-Ireland. If they were good enough to reach two finals, who's to say they won't win this year? They must remain positive and build on what they have, including last year's impressive minors. If they do, there's an All-Ireland there for them.

KERRY

I know people are saying the supply lines aren't great because Kerry haven't had much underage success in recent years, but winning minor and U-21 titles is not always as important as it might look.

You can usually pick up a few players from underage teams. That's often all your need. Don't write off Kerry.

TYRONE

They look to be coming again. There's a lot of good young talent there and they now have a history of success.

The young lads remember the great years, whereas prior to 2003 there was no history of All-Ireland wins. That makes a difference to a player's confidence. Tyrone will be strong contenders.

CORK

Maybe they didn't achieve as expected in 2013, but they were badly hit by injuries to key players at times.

They'll have a fresh look about them this year, after a change of management and some retirements. Cork is a big county with a lot of players to choose from. They will be a threat to everyone.

DONEGAL

I'd expect to see another kick in them. After doing so well in 2011 and 2012, this is an even bigger test to see if they can get back up there again.

People are saying Jim McGuiness will need to change their style. I don't agree. It served them well for two great years -- who's to say it can't do it again?

KILDARE

You never quite know with Kildare. It will be interesting to see what changes Jason Ryan makes after the Kieran McGeeney years.

Ryan did well in Wexford and has plenty of experience. Kildare are still a solid outfit and have some good young lads coming through too.

MEATH

It wouldn't surprise me if they were one of the dark horses in this year's championship. They have some good forwards and if Shane O'Rourke is back to his best after injury, it will be a big boost. Meath always believe in themselves, which is half the battle.

GALWAY

They're in a great position, being written off as way behind Mayo in Connacht. That's not the case.

Galway are one of those counties who can develop very quickly. James Kavanagh's arrival from Kildare will be a boost. He's a good player and should fit in well among Galway's handy forwards.

MONAGHAN

Any team that wins Ulster has plenty going for it. Retaining the Ulster title is very hard but, with the second chance in the qualifiers, it's no longer as important as it used to be. Monaghan will have a solid year.

DERRY

They're back in Division 1 and will benefit from meeting tougher opposition. I'd expect their rate of improvement to continue.

DOWN

They haven't built on 2010, when they were unlucky to lose the All-Ireland final. Still, they showed that year how quickly they can make progress once they get a run going.

ARMAGH

It will be interesting to see what impact Kieran McGeeney's return has. Armagh have slipped a long way from the Joe Kernan days but always have plenty self-belief, which is a good start.

CAVAN

Cavan are on the way back. Three successive Ulster U-21 titles must have an impact at senior level. It would be great to see a county with such a fantastic football pedigree made a big breakthrough.

LAOIS

It's a small county so they don't always have the strength in depth that others enjoy. Still, on their day, they can match anyone but have been finding it hard to get consistency.

WESTMEATH

They're in Division 1, which will be very tough, but it will also give them valuable experience for the championship.

WEXFORD

Some see them as a hurling county but the footballers have been doing quite well for a long time now.

No reason to believe they can't have another decent season.

LOUTH

It was such a pity they didn't win the 2010 Leinster title.

Still, it showed them that the breakthrough can be made. It's important for counties like Louth to keep believing that.

Irish Independent

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