Saturday 16 December 2017

Leinster SFC Preview: 11 teams but one clear favourite

County by County guide

Jason Ryan speaks with his goalkeeper Shane Connolly. Photo: Sportsfile.
Jason Ryan speaks with his goalkeeper Shane Connolly. Photo: Sportsfile.
Meath’s Shane O’Rourke.
Denis Glennon will be vital for Westmeath
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

In a preview of Leinster, there are no suprises as to which team is the favourite to emerge.

Carlow

All-Ireland titles: 0

Leinster titles: 1 (1944)

Manager: Anthony Rainbow (second season)

Captain: Brendan Kavanagh

Last year: Westmeath 3-15 Carlow 1-10 (Leinster Rd 1); Laois 3-13 Carlow 0-12 (Rd 1 qualifiers)

2014 NFL: 8th Division 4 (P7, W1, D1, L5)

Last big Championship achievement: 1944 Leinster champions.

Key man: Paul Broderick. An opportunist finisher when the chances arrive.

Who could make a name for himself? Andrew O'Brien. Likely to have a busy time in goal.

Prospects: Poor. They finished bottom of Division 4, scarcely encouraging for a clash with Meath next month. Would need to draw fellow basement strugglers in the first round qualifiers to have a chance of surviving.

Betting: All-Ireland 500/1; Leinster 500/1

First game: June 15 v Meath, Dr Cullen Park.

Dublin

All-Ireland titles: 24 (2013)

Leinster titles: 52 (2013)

Manager: Jim Gavin (second season)

Captain: Stephen Cluxton

Last Year: Dublin 1-22 Westmeath 0-9; Dublin 4-16 Kildare 1-9; Dublin 2-15 Meath 0-14 (Leinster final); Dublin 1-16 Cork 0-14; Dublin 3-18 Kerry 3-11; Dublin 2-12 Mayo 1-14 (All-Ireland final)

2014 NFL: Division 1 champions (P9, W6, D1, L2)

Last big Championship achievement: 2013 All-Ireland champions.

Key Man: Michael Darragh Macauley. Dublin have loads of options in attack but need motor man to stay sound in midfield.

Who could make a name for himself? Cormac Costello. He has already made an impact but could be primed to force his way into the starting 15 even when everybody is available.

Prospects: As good as it gets after retaining the league title.

Betting: All-Ireland 1/1; Leinster 1/7.

First game: June 8 v Laois/Wicklow, Croke Park.

Kildare

All-Ireland titles: 4 (1928)

Leinster titles: 13 (2000)

Manager: Jason Ryan (first season)

Captain: Morgan O'Flaharty

Last year: Kildare 0-19 Offaly 1-12; Dublin 4-16 Kildare 1-9 (Leinster semi-final); Kildare 1-19 Louth 0-15; Tyrone 1-11 Kildare 0-12 (Round 3 qualifiers).

2014 NFL: 7th Division 1 – relegated (P7, W2, L5)

Last big Championship achievement: 2010 All-Ireland semi-finalists

Key man: Mick Foley. Remains one of their defensive anchors.

Who could make a name for himself? Tommy Moolick could be ready for a big season if not hampered by injury.

Prospects: The momentum of previous seasons isn't there. Might have to settle for a top-12 finish.

Betting: All-Ireland 50/1; Leinster 14/1.

First game: June 8 v Westmeath/Louth, Croke Park.

Laois

All-Ireland titles: 0

Leinster titles: 6 (2003)

Manager: Tomas O Flatharta (first season)

Captain: Ross Munnelly

Last year: Louth 1-16 Laois 1-6 (Leinster Rd 1); Laois 3-13 Carlow 0-12; Laois 3-17 Clare 0-10; Laois 0-16 Wexford 2-8; Donegal 0-14 Laois 0-8 (Rd 4 qualifiers).

2014 NFL: 5th Division 2 (P7, W3, L4)

Last big Championship achievement: 2003 Leinster champions.

Key man: John O'Loughlin. On his day, he's one of the best midfielders in the country.

Who could make a name for himself? Graham Brody. An excellent young goalkeeper.

Prospects: Survived in Division 2 with a win over Down in the final round so they should, in theory, be too good for Wicklow. However, that disregards the Aughrim factor, something Laois recall with dread ever since they were beaten there a few weeks after winning the 1986 league title.

Betting: All-Ireland 150/1; Leinster 55/1.

First game: May 18 v Wicklow, Aughrim.

Longford

All-Ireland titles: 0

Leinster titles: 1 (1968)

Manager: Jack Sheedy (first season)

Captain: TBC

Last year: Wicklow 1-15 Longford 0-16 (Leinster Rd 1); Longford 2-14 Limerick 0-9; Wexford 2-15 Longford 0-16 (AET) (Rd 2 qualifiers)

2014 NFL: 7th Division 3 – relegated (P7, W 2, L5)

Last big Championship achievement: 1968 Leinster champions.

Key man: Sean McCormack. Will need to be as close to perfect as possible from frees.

Who could make a name for himself? Mark Hughes: The Killoe youngster has plenty of potential.

Prospects: They beat Offaly in Tullamore in the league in March and would expect to repeat the success at home in the Leinster first round. Wexford, two-point winners over Longford in April, await the winners so it's a reasonably good draw for Jack Sheedy's men.

Betting: All-Ireland 500/1; Leinster 75/1.

First game: May18 v Offaly, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park.

Louth

All-Ireland titles: 3 (1957)

Leinster titles: 8 (1957)

Manager: Aidan O'Rourke (second season)

Captain: Paddy Keenan

Last year: Louth 1-16 Laois 1-6; Wexford 2-13 Louth 1-15 (Leinster quarter-final); Louth 1-17 Antrim 1-11; Kildare 1-19 Louth 0-15 (Rd 2 qualifiers)

2014 NFL: 8th Division 2 – relegated (P7, W0, D2, L5)

Last big Championship achievement: 1957 All-Ireland champions.

Key man: Paddy Keenan. Still the main rock on which Louth's challenge is founded.

Who could make a name for himself? Paddy Reilly. A versatile performer and improving all the time.

Prospects: Likely to be heading for the All-Ireland qualifiers after their visit to Mullingar. While Westmeath lost all seven games in Division 1, they were operating at a much higher level than Louth who finished bottom of Division 2.

Betting: All-Ireland 300/1; Leinster 100/1.

First game: May 17 v Westmeath, Mullingar.

Meath

All-Ireland titles: 7 (1999)

Leinster titles: 21 (2010)

Manager: Mick O'Dowd (second season)

Captain: Kevin Reilly

Last year: Meath 1-17 Wicklow 1-12; Meath 0-18 Wexford 0-13; Dublin 2-15 Meath 0-14 (Leinster final); Tyrone 0-17 Meath 2-9 (Rd 4 qualifiers).

2014 NFL: 3rd Division 2 (P7, W4, D1, L2)

Last big Championship achievement: 2010 Leinster champions.

Key Man: Shane O'Rourke. If he has an injury-free season, he will make a big impact.

Who could make a name for himself? Bryan McMahon. A lively addition to the attack.

Prospects: Second favourites behind Dublin in Leinster, they are on the opposite side to the champions which gives them an excellent chance of reaching the final. Likely to be qualifier-bound after that.

Betting: All-Ireland 33/1; Leinster 9/1.

First game: June 15 v Carlow, Dr Cullen Park.

Offaly

All-Ireland titles: 3 (1982)

Leinster titles: 10 (1997)

Manager: Emmet McDonnell (second season)

Captain: Niall McNamee

Last year: Kildare 0-19 Offaly 1-12 (Leinster quarter-final); Tyrone 1-27 Offaly 0-8 (Rd 1 qualifiers)

2014 NFL: 8th Division 3 – relegated (P7, W0, D1, L6)

Last big Championship achievement: 1997 Leinster champions.

Key man: Niall McNamee. He would command a huge fee on any transfer market.

Who could make a name for himself? Joe Maher. The Ferbane youngster is one for the future.

Prospects: Nine defeats and one draw is Offaly's dismal return from their last 10 league and championship games, scarcely an encouraging sign for the summer campaign. Still, all bad sequences come to an end eventually, which will leave Longford very wary in the first round.

Betting: All-Ireland 1000/1; Leinster 150/1.

First game: May 18 v Longford, Glennon Brothers, Pearse Park.

Westmeath

All-Ireland titles: 0

Leinster titles: 1 (2004)

Manager: Paul Bealin (first season)

Captain: Paul Sharry

Last year: Westmeath 3-15 Carlow 1-10; Dublin 1-22 Westmeath 0-9 (Leinster quarter-final); Fermanagh 3-10 Westmeath 1-15 (Rd 1 qualifiers).

2014 NFL: 8th Division 1 – relegated (P7, L7)

Last big Championship achievement: 2004 Leinster champions.

Key man: Denis Glennon. Still a powerful finisher when the mood takes him.

Who could make a name for himself? Ray Connellan. Comfortable in midfield or attack.

Prospects: Out of their depth in Division 1 this year but have Louth at home in the Leinster first round which offers an opening to progress, although the Wee County men stunned Laois in the first round in Portlaoise last year.

Betting: All-Ireland 300/1; Leinster 100/1

Wexford

First game: May 17 v Louth, Mullingar.

All-Ireland titles: 5 (1918)

Leinster titles: 10 (1945)

Manager: Aidan O'Brien (second season)

Captain: Graeme Molloy.

Last year: Wexford 2-13 Louth 1-15; Meath 0-18 Wexford 0-13 (Leinster semi-final); Wexford 2-15 Longford 0-16 (aet); Laois 0-16 Wexford 2-8 (Rd 2 qualifiers)

2014 NFL: 3rd Division 4 (P7, W3, L4)

Last big Championship achievement: 2008 All-Ireland semi-finalists

Key man: Daithi Waters. Consistently reliable.

Who could make a name for himself? David Breen. Filling big boots at centre-back following the retirement of David Murphy.

Prospects: They came close to dropping from Division 2 to 4 in successive seasons but saved themselves with a final-round win over Longford, who could be coming their way again in the Leinster quarter-final.

Betting: All-Ireland 400/1; Leinster 40/1.

First game: June 7/8 v Longford/Offaly, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park or Wexford Park.

Wicklow

All-Ireland titles: 0

Leinster titles: 0

Manager: Harry Murphy (third season)

Captain: Leighton Glynn

Last year: Wicklow1-15 Longford 0-16; Meath 1-17 Wicklow 1-12 (Leinster quarter-final); Armagh 2-21 Wicklow 0-2 (Round 1 qualifiers).

2014 NFL: 3rd Division 4 (P7, W5, L2)

Last big Championship achievement: 2010 fourth round qualifiers.

Key man: Seanie Furlong. One of the best finishers in the business.

Who could make a name for himself? Kevin Murphy. The Baltinglass man has done well at wing-back.

Prospects: Can the Aughrim factor bridge the gap between themselves and Laois, who finished 14 places ahead of Harry Murphy's men in the championship? It's possible, but the more likely scenario is that Wicklow will be heading for the first round of the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Betting: All-Ireland 1000/1; Leinster 175/1.

First game: May 18 v Laois, Aughrim.

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