Thursday 20 June 2019

Gaelic football power rankings: Galway the best of the rest but the Dubs remain untouchable

Other counties could only look on in envy as Gavin's side became history-makers in 2018

At arm’s length: Stephen Cluxton holds off Ian Burke during Dublin’s All-Ireland semi-final victory over Galway in which, as so often this year, the opponents never really got close to Jim Gavin’s men
At arm’s length: Stephen Cluxton holds off Ian Burke during Dublin’s All-Ireland semi-final victory over Galway in which, as so often this year, the opponents never really got close to Jim Gavin’s men
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

High-powered business as usual for Dublin; Kerry and Mayo losing their places at the head of the pursuing pack; Galway enjoying their best year since 2001; Tyrone battling on with trademark grit; Monaghan showing yet again that a small population isn't necessarily a hindrance.

And what of the rest in 2018? Here are my end-of-year ratings, from 1 to 32.

1.DUBLIN
Played 16, Won 14, Drew 1, Lost 1 (league and championship)

Perched on the summit for a fourth successive year and for the sixth time in eight seasons, the only real question is whether they are further ahead of the chasing pack than before.

Results suggest that they probably are as Tyrone were the only ones to really stretch them in the championship when losing by three points in the 'Super 8s' in Omagh. Dublin's sole defeat was against Monaghan in the final round of the league, but it was of no consequence as they had already qualified for the final. Dublin's only other minor glitch was a draw with Galway earlier in the league. Otherwise, it was 14 wins against Tyrone (3), Galway (2), Donegal (2), Kildare, Mayo, Kerry, Wicklow, Longford, Laois and Roscommon.

Dublin's overall record under Jim Gavin in the past six seasons reads: Played 91, Won 74, Drew 9, Lost 8. It's an 86pc success rate, by far the highest in GAA history.

2. GALWAY
P15, W11, D1, L3

It's difficult to separate Galway, Tyrone and Monaghan for second spot. Galway's case is strengthened by winning the Connacht title and reaching the Division 1 final without losing a game. What's more, they conceded only one goal in eight league games. After a good start, Galway caved in the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin but had earlier drawn with them in the Division 1 campaign and remained competitive all the way in the final. They also beat Tyrone and Monaghan in the league and while the latter avenged the defeat in the Super 8s, Galway had already qualified for the semi-final, which inevitably lowered their motivation levels.

3. MONAGHAN
P16, W12, D1, L3

They are marginally ahead of Tyrone in the tightest of calls after winning two and losing one of their three clashes with the Red Hand in league and championship. The total score from the three games was Monaghan 1-48 (51) Tyrone 2-43 (49), which underlines how evenly matched they were.

Monaghan's defeat by Fermanagh in the Ulster semi-final was one of the shocks of the season and may well have cost them a title in a season when their overall consistency levels deserved better reward.

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4. TYRONE
P17, W11, D1, L5

Their percentage success rate isn't as good as Galway or Monaghan but they would still feel they are entitled to be ahead of both after testing Dublin to the limit in the Super 8 clash in Omagh and coming within six points of them in the All-Ireland final. On balance though, the other pair deserve to be ahead of Tyrone when the entire season is taken into account.

5. DONEGAL
P14, W6, D1, L7

A disappointing league campaign left them relegated after being caught for a draw late on in the final game against Mayo. They had earlier lost to Galway and Kerry by a point each so they weren't exactly blessed with good luck.

They had better fortune in the summer when they won the Ulster Championship without having to play Tyrone or Monaghan, both of whom were well ahead of the other title contenders. Donegal later lost to Tyrone in the Super 8s, which tarnished their status as Ulster champions to some degree.

6. KERRY
P12, W6, D1, L5

Well off the pace in the league where they won only three of seven games (two of the successes were against the bottom two, Kildare and Donegal), they weren't tested in the Munster Championship. That, in turn, left them unprepared for the Super 8s, where they lost to Galway, drew with Monaghan and beat Kildare. By their standards it was a poor year after starting out with the tag of being most likely to beat Dublin. Instead, they lost to the all-conquering Dubs by 12 points in the league and didn't get to play them in the championship.

7. KILDARE
P15, W4, L11

Four wins (all in the qualifiers) out of 15 games paints a bleak enough picture but they did manage to reach the Super 8s, with the win over Mayo the highlight after being unexpectedly forced into the qualifiers by Carlow. They lost all three Super 8 games. Out of sorts in Division 1, Kildare lost all seven games but could consider themselves unlucky not to have got some rewards against Monaghan, Tyrone and Donegal.

8. MAYO
P11, W4, D1, L6

Their lowest rating since 2010, they slipped well down the pecking order. Lucky to survive in Division 1, they lost to Galway in Connacht for the third successive year - something that hadn't happened since 1982-83-84 - and were eliminated from the qualifiers by Kildare. The decline suggests that extensive rebuilding work is required.

9. ROSCOMMON
P14, W8, D 1, L5

Some perspective please. Heavy defeats by Tyrone, Donegal and Dublin in the Super 8s, the departure of Kevin McStay and the messy process involved in finding his successor prompted unrest in the county but on the positive side, they won promotion to Division 1 and reached the last eight in the championship.

Those were no mean achievements for a county with fewer resources than several others who have not reached Roscommon's levels in recent seasons.

10. CAVAN
P12, W8, D1, L3

Mickey Graham has inherited a squad that's returning to Division 1, where they are already favourites for relegation. Cavan haven't made any real impression in the Ulster Championship for quite some time and this year's draw hasn't been kind, pitting them against Monaghan in the quarter-final. Graham will need to bring some of the Mullinalaghta magic to his home county.

11. MEATH
P9, W3, D1, L5

Which is the real Meath? The underperformers that lost to Longford in the Leinster quarter-final or the outfit that came so close to beating Tyrone in the qualifiers?

The contrast is inexplicable but there's no getting away from one reality as shown by the league where they haven't been in Division 1 since 2006. Indeed, they were closer to relegation than promotion in Division 2 this year.

12. CLARE
P11, W5, D2, L4

Third in Division 2, they remain hamstrung by being in Munster where Kerry's historic dominance over them continues to be a major psychological handicap.

They lost to Armagh in the qualifiers after squandering a four-point lead late on in the Athletic Grounds? Would it have been a different story in Ennis? Quite probably.

13. FERMANAGH
P12, W7, D1, L4

Promoted to Division 2, Fermanagh beat Armagh and Monaghan in Ulster, lost the final heavily to Donegal and were also trimmed by Kildare in the qualifiers. Still, it was a positive season overall and now the big challenge is to survive in Division 2, where they are priced in the relegation zone.

14. ARMAGH
P13, W9, D1, L3.

Came within one win (v Roscommon) of qualifying for the Super 8s after being promoted from Division 3, which was a double positive. However, their dismal run in the Ulster Championship continued, losing to Fermanagh in the quarter-final. Without a win in Ulster since 2014, they will play Down in the quarter-final next year.

15. CORK
P10, W4, L6

They lost to Kerry and Tyrone in the championship by a combined total of 33 points, a dismal reminder for Leeside supporters of just how tarnished the Cork football brand has become.

Few expected an extended run in Division 2 when they were relegated in 2016 but after two seasons when they won only five of 14 games, there can be no great optimism that 2019 will see them return to Division 1. Nor do they look to be getting any closer to Kerry in Munster.

16. DOWN
P10, W4, L6

Relegated to Division 3, they made no impression in the championship either. New manager Paddy Tally (below) has a big rebuilding job ahead but has he got the material? Based on recent years, the answer is no.

17. TIPPERARY
P10, W4, D1, L5

A frustrating year. After a mixed Division 2 campaign, hopes were high that they would capitalise on Cork's decline and reach the Munster final but instead they bombed in the semi-final, losing by 11 points, before being well beaten by Mayo in the qualifiers.

18. LONGFORD
P10, W5, D1, L4

Unlucky not to be promoted from Division 3, they stunned Meath in the Leinster Championship before being demolished by Dublin. Kildare saw them off in the qualifiers. New manager Padraic Davis has a lot to work with, but Mullinalaghta's All-Ireland club adventures will weaken the county team in the early stages of the league at least.

19. LAOIS
P12, W10, L2

They lost only two games (Dublin and Monaghan) all year but seven of their wins were in Division 4, territory in which they should never have found themselves. Still, their graph is going very much the right direction.

20. WESTMEATH
P9, W4, L5

Fourth in Division 3, they had only two championship games, losing quite heavily to Laois and Armagh. A disappointing year overall, leaving new manager Jack Cooney facing a massive challenge to move them on in 2019.

21. SLIGO
P10, W3, D2, L5

Mid-table in Division 3 has been their natural habitat for several years and is likely to remain so. And with Connacht very competitive, their championship prospects rely essentially on the qualifiers. They remain a classic example of a county who would benefit from a secondary summer competition.

22. CARLOW
P12, W8, L4

One of their best seasons for many years, they were promoted to Division 3 and later stunned Kildare in the Leinster Championship. It was a double hit of significant proportions. That's where the run ended (they lost to Laois and Tyrone) but it still left Turlough O'Brien and his ambitious squad with a warm glow as the upward curve continued.

23. LOUTH
P10, W1, D1, L8

They started the season in Division 2 but suffered a series of catastrophic power failures, losing seven league games by an average of nine points. The downward spiral continued in the championship where they lost to Carlow by 11 points and to Leitrim by 10. A truly dismal year.

24. OFFALY
P10, W3, D1, L6

Narrowly missed the relegation cut in Division 3 and later lost to Wicklow in extra-time in the first round in Leinster. Managerial turmoil followed, but they gave a good account of themselves when running Clare to two points in the qualifiers. New manager John Maughan will need all of his vast experience to drive them on.

25. DERRY
P9, W2, L7

Their worst year for a very long time, they tumbled into Division 4 and were well beaten by Donegal and Kildare in the championship. Grim times for Derry football, coming just four years after they reached the Division 1 final.

26. WEXFORD
P9, W1, L8

Tumbled out of Division 3 and lost to Laois and Waterford in the championship in a season which they sincerely hope will be a one-off.

27. ANTRIM
P8, W4, D1, L3

Headed off by Laois and Carlow in the Division 4 promotion race, they were later well beaten by Down and Offaly in the championship.

28. LEITRIM
P9, W4, L5

Bad weather left them playing only five league games in a disrupted campaign. The big championship highlight was a 10-point win over Louth in the qualifiers before losing heavily to Monaghan.

29. WATERFORD
P9, W2, D1, L6

The qualifier win over Wexford was the highlight of their year, but they had shown some good form in the league where they were unlucky on a few occasions, while also beating London and drawing with Wicklow.

30. WICKLOW
P9, W1, D2, L6

They had only one win all year (v Offaly in the Leinster Championship), having earlier endured a very poor Division 4 campaign. They are better than their overall results suggest.

31. LIMERICK
P8, W1, D1, L6

Not much to take from a season where their only win was against Waterford in the league.

32. LONDON
P8, W1, D1, L6

Beat Wicklow in the league in what was their only win of the season.

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