Monday 23 October 2017

Leinster crisis

Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney and his players must regroup if they are to make any impact this season
Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney and his players must regroup if they are to make any impact this season
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Leinster football is plummeting to new depths of poverty after the latest round of league results saw counties from the province lose all but two of their games.

The figures at championship level, senior and underage, are already well documented.

No senior All-Ireland in the last decade, just one All-Ireland finalist since the back-door was introduced in 2001 (Meath in 2001) and just six All-Ireland semi-finalists across the same period of time (Meath in 2001, 2007 and 2009, Dublin in 2002 and 2006 and Wexford in 2008).

At underage level, the picture is just as bleak. No Leinster team has won an All-Ireland title since 2003 when Dublin (U-21) and Laois (minor) were triumphant.

Since Laois defeated Dublin in the 2003 minor final replay, no Leinster team has even won a semi-final.

The figures are only slightly better at U-21 level, where no back-door exists. But Leinster champions have still won just two of their six semi-finals, Laois in 2007 and Kildare 12 months later.

The scale of Leinster's fall is best reflected by the current league positions and it points to a poor championship on the east coast and midlands in the months ahead.

The tale of woe (not even mentioning Kilkenny's dismal Division 4 record) continued over the weekend:

  • Dublin coughed up an early lead to lose further momentum in Division 1.
  • Kildare's great inconsistency manifested itself further with their failure against Laois.
  • Meath's campaign in Division 2 has been most unremarkable as Saturday night's defeat to Donegal underlined.
  • Westmeath suffered another heavy Division 2 defeat, this time against Down.
  • Louth were never in the running against Antrim in Division 3 and lost by eight points.
  • Offaly suffered a six-point reversal to Cavan in the same division.
  • Wicklow's early league momentum stalled further with a six-point defeat to Waterford.
  • Carlow were on the receiving end of a four-point beating from struggling Leitrim.
  • Longford failed to score in the first half and trailed Clare by nine points before losing by three.

In contrast, six of Ulster's nine counties won games, with four of Munster's six triumphant and four from five in Connacht victorious.

The only bright light on the horizon in Leinster was Wexford's win over Roscommon in Dr Hyde Park and of course that Laois success in their all-provincial clash with Kildare. But two wins out of a potential 10 for Leinster teams represents poor business for the biggest province.

The malaise in Leinster, which has been flagged for some time, appears to be getting worse. By a simple calculation, on current status it now has the poorest record of all four provinces in the current league.

By adding the current positions (1 -31 excluding London and Kilkenny) of each set of counties in a province together and dividing that figure by the number of counties, an average placing on an order of merit can be calculated.

Leinster's average placing is 18th, three behind both Munster and Connacht whose average is 15th, while Ulster lead the way on 11th.

Dublin have begun to slip after so much early promise but as the only Leinster team in the premier flight, they still look a cut above the rest.

Four straight wins may have been the legacy of an intensive training schedule in January, the effect of which may now have tapered off.

They have unearthed a few players who will at least stabilise them after last August, and a sixth successive provincial title is still very much in focus -- even if it is not a priority.

The most disappointing counties have been Kildare and Meath, neither of whom have kicked on from the promise of last summer. Both counties should have been entertaining strong hopes of promotion to the division where they need to be but with a round of fixtures left, they are out of the reckoning.

Meath are lucky that Tipperary and Westmeath are so far adrift in the same division; the Royals have shown nothing to back up their surprise progression to an All-Ireland semi-final last year. Kildare's only satisfactory victory came against Donegal, but they were soundly beaten by Down, Armagh and Laois. Was 2009 as good as it is going to get for them?

Westmeath's slide has been alarming and their score difference is minus 46 after six rounds.

A victory over Kildare gives Laois mild optimism after an indifferent start but they are still one of four Leinster teams that occupy the bottom five placings in Division 2.

Further down only Wexford, with four wins from six, look like making any headway and even that is not guaranteed as they have to beat Antrim at home to keep their hopes alive. Louth and Offaly have petered away, while Wicklow have not been able to sustain a decent start to their Division 4 campaign.

The picture is certainly bleak in Leinster football.

Irish Independent

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