Sport Gaelic Football

Monday 20 November 2017

State of the nation

Martin Breheny runs rule over each county as focus switches to summer of Sam

With all counties having played a minimum of seven games in the Allianz football Leagues and the eight divisional finalists set for one more each this weekend, the experimental phase is all but over.

The championships swing into action next month and now the big question is what players and managers have learned from the spring campaign. Here's a county-by-county guide into how your particular favourites have emerged from the National League.

Division 1

Mayo (1) P7, W6, L1

Pre-season favourites with Monaghan for relegation, they made an early statement by thumping Galway and maintained an impressive momentum all through, beating everybody except Dublin to whom they gifted the points after kicking 18 wides. The last two months have been as close to perfect as a League campaign can be in terms of restoring confidence after a depressing end to the 2009 championship.

Marks (out of 10): 9

Cork (2) P7, W5, L2

Ignore the last game against Mayo because Cork were already guaranteed a place in the final. Cork have amassed some big scores, averaging almost 18 points per game. Trouble is, they were hit for 3-12 by Monaghan, 1-17 by Galway (although they still managed to win both) and 3-9 by Tyrone which suggests they're high earners and high spenders. They badly need to land a big pot in Croke Park after losing two of the last three All-Ireland finals. Marks: 8

Dublin (3) P7, W5, L2

Pat Gilroy gambled with a new-look team and was rewarded with Dublin's best League campaign since 1999. They just missed out on a place in the final, thanks to the daft head-to-head rule, which would have been a major boost to a squad that's still getting used to each other. Based on League evidence, Gilroy will go with several newcomers in the championship. They deserve it and besides, the old model failed for the last five seasons once it left Leinster. Marks: 8

Kerry (4) P7, W3, L4

It was their worst League run for several years, but they're not worried on the basis that they didn't need to show early season form this time. Still, they did best in the championship in years when they had good League runs over the last decade so there's a change for a start. League or Championship, the big question is how much they will miss Darragh O Se, Tommy Walsh, Diarmuid Murphy and Tadhg Kennelly? Marks: 5

Galway (5) P7, W3, L4

Joe Kernan has always been good at organising defences, so the extent of the challenge he faces in Galway is underlined by their average concession rate of 1-15, the highest in the group. On the plus side, they were the second highest scorers behind Cork. Bottom line? Kernan needs time to impose his philosophy. Whether the championship comes too soon remains to be seen. Marks: 5

Monaghan (6) P7, W2, L5

Pre-League favourites to be relegated, it looked ominous when they lost three of their first four games. However, Banty's boys are nothing if not resilient and, in the end, they retained Division 1 status on scoring difference, which made it a successful campaign for them. Similar to Galway, their problems were of a security nature, conceding 1-15 per game. Still, they came out of the League feeling good. Given their pre-season rating, they deserve a high mark. Marks: 7

Derry (7) P7, W2, L5 (Relegated)

League runners-up and winners over the past two seasons, they had a poor campaign this time, although they will have been encouraged by the impressive win against Galway in the last game. Their problem was in attack, which scored less than everybody else. Unlucky not to take a point against Cork which would have kept them up. Marks: 3

Tyrone (8) P7, W2, L5. (Relegated)

Tyrone were extremely consistent in the League for several years before dipping in recent seasons and hitting their worst run for over a decade this time. Losing five games was quite a drop for one of the favourites and now the question is whether they can ignite the spark for the championship. It's as big a challenge as Mickey Harte has faced in his seven years as manager. Marks: 3

Division 2

Down (1) P7, W6, D1, L0 (Promoted)

Promotion secured and a final in Croke Park is as good it could get for new Down manager, James McCartan. He would probably have preferred if the final weren't against Ulster rivals (so would Armagh), but a game like this is a no-lose situation as it provides a high-profile outing while the main target for the League has already been reached. Marks: 9

Armagh (2) P7, W5, L2 (Promoted)

Promotion looked unlikely when they lost two of their first five games, but a strong finish took them into the top two. Down beat them by seven points in Round 5, so new manager, Paddy O'Rourke, will be keen to correct that imbalance, especially as Armagh will be in championship action against Derry three weeks later. Marks: 8

Donegal (3) P7, W4, L3

Remained in the promotion race until the last game where they were flattened by Armagh, who hit them for 2-16. Up to then, Donegal had an excellent defensive record, so they will be hoping it was a one-off aberration. With the U-21s going well, there's a good feel around Donegal but, worryingly for them, they lost to two Ulster rivals, including Down, whom they meet in the Ulster championship on May 30. Marks: 6

Meath (4) P7, W4, L3

Beat three Leinster rivals in Westmeath, Laois and Kildare, as well as Armagh, but lost to Donegal, Down and Tipperary. The latter defeat was unexpected and cost them promotion as, had they won, they would have joined Armagh on 10 points and won on the head-to-head rule. Marks: 6

Laois (5) P7,W3, L4

Close calls in four of seven games as they lost to Armagh, Meath and Down by a point and beat Tipp' by two. They also beat Westmeath and Kildare and lost to Donegal. Optimists will emphasise the positives, sceptics will be less convinced. I'm in the former camp. Marks: 5

Kildare (6) P7, W3, L 4

They won as many games as Laois, but can take less out of the overall campaign for which they started among the promotion favourites. Too many uneven performances left them off the promotion pace and defeats by Leinster rivals Laois and Meath in the final two games won't have done anything for their confidence. Marks: 4

Tipperary (7) P7, W2, D 1, L 5 (Relegated)

The only team to take a point off Down, Tipp' lost to Donegal by a point and Laois by two, so they could consider themselves unlucky to be relegated. Having won promotion from Divisions 4 to 2 in successive seasons, it was always going to be tough and while they were disappointed to be relegated, they probably learned more than many of their rivals. Marks: 6

Westmeath (8) P7, L7 (Relegated)

Disastrous in every way as they completed a second League season without picking up a point. Reasons to be cheerful? They ran Meath and Kildare to a point each and can now look forward to having a strengthened side under new management. Marks: 1

Division 3

Antrim (1) P7, W5, L2 (Promoted)

Promoted for a second successive year, they really are on an upward curve. Set their ambitious stall out early by winning their first four games. Marks: 9

Sligo (2) P7, W5, L2.

Also promoted for a second successive year. Looked bad when they lost two of their first three, but then reeled off four straight wins, while scoring enough to make sure they took one of the promotion slots after finishing level with Antrim and Wexford. Marks: 9

Wexford (3) P7, W5, L3

One of the unluckiest sides in all divisions, having missed promotion on scoring difference, despite having beaten Sligo and Antrim who are on their way to Division 2. Defeats by Cavan and Louth cost them dearly. Marks: 8

Cavan (4) P7, W4, L3

Looked to be in relegation trouble when they lost two of their first three games, but recovered well to win three of the last four, including a significant victory over Fermanagh, whom they play in the Ulster championship in June. Marks: 6

Louth (5) P7, W4, L3

Mixed the good with the mediocre, but finished well when hitting Offaly for five goals. Marks: 6

Offaly (6) P7, W3, L4

Fancied to be in the promotion hunt, but struggled after losing to Wexford in the second round and finished poorly against Louth. A disappointing return all round as they were a point behind last year where a managerial upheaval upset the campaign. Marks: 4

Roscommon (7) P7, W1, L6 (Relegated)

Pre-season favourites for the drop but would have been expected to win more than one game. They had problems in attack which had only Fermanagh, who were also relegated, behind them on the scoring tables. Marks: 2

Fermanagh (8) P7, W1, L 6 (Relegated)

Relegated for a second successive year, they will have dropped from Divisions 1 to 4 since 2007 by the start of play next February. Marks: 2

Division 4

Waterford (1) P8, W6, D2 (Promoted)

With Down, they were the only unbeaten team in the League, clinching promotion on the final day with a big win over fellow-contenders, Clare. Marks: 9

Limerick (2) P8, W6, D1, L1 (Promoted)

Only defeat was against Waterford, whom they meet in this evening's final. Had the best disciplinary record of all counties -- a tribute to Mickey Ned O'Sullivan's coaching. Marks: 8

Clare (3) P8, W6, L2

If Clare were told in advance that they would concede just one goal (v London) in eight games, they would have expected to be promoted. However, a one point defeat by Limerick left them needing to beat Waterford in the last game which proved beyond them. Marks: 7

Wicklow (4) P8,W5, D1, L2

Maintained the trend which has applied under Mick O'Dwyer where they're better in the Championship than the League. Disappointing to have missed promotion again. Marks: 5

Leitrim (5) P8, W4, L4

Comment would be insensitive in a week when the county is united in grief at the tragic death of Philly McGuinness. May he rest in peace.

Carlow (6) P8, W3, D1, L4

Beat Longford, drew with Waterford early on. Couldn't build on it. Marks: 4

Longford (7) P8, W2, D1, L5

Never recovered from the disappointment of losing controversially to Limerick, but over eight games, they were very disappointing for a team that was in Division 3 last year. Marks: 3

London (8) P8, W1, L7

One win (v Kilkenny) was always likely to be their haul. So it proved. Marks: 2

Kilkenny (9) P8, W0, L8

No wins but second in the Fair Play table so, if leaders Limerick pick up a few cards tonight, Kilkenny get the €10,000 prize which would be some satisfaction in a season where they lost every game by an average of 23 points. Marks: 1

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport