Saturday 16 December 2017

Fading fast

Sixteen counties face the high-wire act of the qualifiers this weekend, Martin Breheny analyses where they stand

Dejected Armagh players, from left, Andy Mallon, Kieran Toner and Jamie Clarke after the team's defeat to Monaghan in the Ulster Championship. Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile
Dejected Armagh players, from left, Andy Mallon, Kieran Toner and Jamie Clarke after the team's defeat to Monaghan in the Ulster Championship. Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny


This is not where Mayo expected to find themselves. Favourites to retain the Connacht title, they performed poorly against Sligo and badly need a quick boost to revive their championship. John O'Mahony has likened their position to Galway in 2001, when the Tribesmen used the qualifiers to win the All-Ireland, but there is one significant difference -- Galway knew what it was like to win an All-Ireland, having triumphed in 1998, whereas Mayo have no such background comforts. Well, not for 59 years anyway.

2009 qualifiers: Not involved, having won the Connacht title.

All-Ireland odds: 28/1; Pre-c'ship: 12/1.


They expected to do much better after being crowned NFL Division 2 champions and beating Derry in the first round of the Ulster championship. Their 12-point defeat by Monaghan in the quarter-final was their worst defeat in Ulster for many years, leaving them with a big clean-up operation. Fortunately for them, they have the comforting surrounds of Crossmaglen to help them begin mopping up.

2009 qualifiers: Lost to Monaghan by a point in Clones after extra-time in Round 1.

Odds: 66/1; Pre-c'ship: 33/1.


They created the impression that their patchy league form was part of a cunning plan that would yield dividends in the Ulster championship. It didn't. They were extremely poor against Armagh, who didn't exactly frank the form against Monaghan. Derry have a good record in the qualifiers and have been handed what would be regarded as one of the easier starts against Carlow.

2009 qualifiers: Came in for Round 2 where they put 3-16 past Monaghan in a five-point win before losing to Donegal by a point after extra-time in Round 3.

Odds: 66/1; Pre-c'ship: 33/1.


It took Kildare a long time to make any impression in the qualifiers, but they finally turned things around in 2008, winning three rounds to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals. They did well in last year's championship too, but their performance against Louth a few weeks ago was their worst for a long time. They need to bounce back quickly to avoid losing the momentum they appeared to have built up.

2009 qualifiers: Entered in Round 4 after losing the Leinster final to Dublin and beat Wicklow by four points before losing to Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

Odds: 80/1; Pre-c'ship: 40/1.


There were positive vibes coming out of Laois this year and they increased further following a fine effort in the drawn tie against Meath last Sunday week. However, Laois were deplorable in the replay, leaving huge doubts about where they stand. Quite frankly, they melt too easily under real heat.

2009 qualifiers: Came in for Round 2 where they performed dismally against Down, losing by eight points in Newry.

Odds: 125/1; Pre-c'ship: 100/1.


Having blown a great chance against Down in the Ulster quarter-final, they now face one of the toughest first-round tests away to Armagh. Donegal won four qualifiers last year but, significantly, three of them were at home and one at a neutral venue. Heading to Crossmaglen to take on Armagh is an altogether different prospect.

2009 qualifiers: Beat Carlow, Clare, Derry and Galway to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals, where they lost to Cork.

Odds: 150/1; Pre-c'ship: 66/1.


After losing their last three championship games to Tyrone (twice) and Kerry, they deserved an easier draw than Kildare. It's quite a challenge, but if they get their game right, they will have no fears, even in Newbridge.

2009 qualifiers: Entered in Round 4 after losing the Ulster final to Tyrone and put up a good performance against Kerry before being beaten by five points.

Odds: 250/1; Pre-c'ship: 200/1.


Disappointing against Fermanagh. The best any team can hope for in the championship when they draw a team of broadly similar standard is to have home advantage, but Cavan never exploited it. Still, they will feel they owe Wicklow one from last year.

2009 qualifiers: The second victims of the Wicklow surge, they were beaten by seven points in Round 2.

Odds: 300/1; Pre-c'ship: 150/1.


They needed a good draw after the disappointment of losing to Dublin in extra-time and they got it, even if they have to travel to London. They'll win this one and could continue to do well in the qualifiers. That's assuming, of course, they don't draw Cork in the next round.

2009 qualifiers: Beat Offaly by a point in Round 1 before losing a Round 2 replay to Roscommon by three points in Dr Hyde Park.

Odds: 300/1; Pre-c'ship: 200/1.


They conceded a total of 5-49 in their past three competitive games (versus Offaly and Louth in the league and Meath in the championship) so it's pretty clear where their problems lie. Still, drawing Clare gives them a decent chance of beginning the stabilisation process.

2009 qualifiers: Lost by a point to Wexford in Round 1 at Wexford Park.

Odds: 500/1; Pre-c'ship: 300/1.


Unlucky to lose by a point to Westmeath in the Leinster quarter-final, can they embark on another exciting championship adventure? The big difference is that whereas they had three games in 'Fortress Aughrim' last year, they begin this campaign in Cavan, which greatly increases the workload.

2009 qualifiers: Enjoyed their best championship run, beating Fermanagh, Cavan and Down before losing to Kildare by four points in Round 4.

Odds: 350/1; Pre-c'ship: 250/1.


They have taken some big scalps in the qualifiers from time to time and, while they lost to Kerry last year, it was one of their better

performances. Sluggish against Louth last month, but will be heartened by the Wee County's impressive dismissal of Kildare. With home advantage, they will relish the challenge against Mayo.

2009 qualifiers: Beat Leitrim in Round 1 and produced an excellent second-half display against Kerry at Pearse Park before losing by four points.

Odds: 750/1; Pre-c'ship: 500/1.


They have made considerable progress over the past two years and with home advantage against Laois will fancy their chances on Sunday. However, they have lost some key players, which leaves them facing a big handicap.

2009 qualifiers: Beat Louth by a point in Round 1 in Drogheda before losing by a point to Sligo in Thurles.

Odds: 750/1; Pre-c'ship: 300/1.


Haven't won a qualifier since that famous success over Offaly in 2005. It's difficult to see the trend changing against Derry.

2009 qualifiers: Beaten by 10 points by Donegal in Ballybofey.

Odds: 1,000/1; Pre-c'ship: 750/1.


Have home advantage against Wexford, but it won't be enough to mask the difference in standards.

2009 qualifiers: Lost to Down by nine points in Round 1 in Newry.

Odds: 1,500/1; Pre-c'ship: 2,000/1.


They had a progressive run in Division 4, just missing out on promotion before losing to Waterford in the Munster championship. Could have done with a home draw in the qualifiers, but must travel to Tullamore to take on Offaly.

2009 qualifiers: Came in at Round 2 level where they put up a good performance against Donegal, losing by three points in Ballybofey.

Odds: 1,000/1; Pre-c'ship: 750/1.

First-Round Qualifiers


Offaly v Clare, Tullamore, 2.0.

Armagh v Donegal, Crossmaglen, 3.30 (Live on RTE).

Carlow v Derry, Dr Cullen Park, 5.0.

Longford v Mayo, Pearse Park, 7.0.

Cavan v Wicklow, Kingspan Breffni Park, 7.0.

Kildare v Antrim, Newbridge, 7.0.


London v Wexford, Ruislip, 2.30.

Tipperary v Laois, Semple Stadium, 3.30.

Irish Independent

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