Monday 16 September 2019

Martin Breheny: Kerry top the 2014 football table but where is your county?

Fionn Fitzgerald, Killian Young and Shane Enright take it all in after Kerry's victory in the All-Ireland final
Fionn Fitzgerald, Killian Young and Shane Enright take it all in after Kerry's victory in the All-Ireland final
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Kerry will go into 2015 with ambitions of two in a row, but how is your county shaping up?

1.  Kerry

 (Championship & League): P13, W8, D1, L4

As All-Ireland champions, achieved through the direct route as opposed to the 'back door', they are entitled to the No. 1 slot. All the more so since they beat, Donegal and Mayo, two of the other three provincial champions as well as Connacht runners-up, Galway and a Cork team that started the summer ahead of them in the rankings.

Would Kerry have beaten Dublin? One suspects they were very happy to see Donegal eliminate Dublin so dramatically in the semi-final.

Kerry's latest group of achievers proved that they retain one of the county's most enduring traditions - the capacity to emerge from the pack with precision timing.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 5/2; Munster 8/15; League (Div 1): 5/1

2. Donegal

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2014: P14, W10, D1, L3

They produced the most remarkable performance of the year when recovering from an unsteady start against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final to win by six points. And while they came up short against Kerry in the final, undermined to a large degree by their own mistakes, it was still a very successful year for Donegal, especially after the 2014 slump.

Karl Lacey, Donegal, in action against Paul Murphy, Kerry
Karl Lacey, Donegal, in action against Paul Murphy, Kerry

The Ulster championship is the most difficult of the provincials to win, but Donegal achieved it for a third time in four seasons. It was the year Donegal got their systems back to working order, only to find it wasn't quite enough against Kerry.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 11/1; Ulster 4/1; League (Div 1) 13/2

3. Dublin

2014: P14, W10, D1, L3

Having won the 2013 All-Ireland and Division 1 titles and the 2014 Division 1 crown, Dublin were unbackable favourites to retain Sam Maguire, only to suffer the implosion of the year against Donegal.

Really, it was a game they should have secured in the first half-hour but, once they didn't, everything changed.

Eoghan O'Gara, in action here against Kevin Reilly and Eoghan Harrington, is Dublin's best option for full-forward
Eoghan O'Gara, in action here against Kevin Reilly and Eoghan Harrington, is Dublin's best option for full-forward

Dublin's response to Donegal's power press was incredibly weak, an occasion where so many players came nowhere close to performing at maximum efficiency. Did their dominance over the previous 18 months allowe over-confidence to seep into their consciousness?

It's as credible an explanation as any for their collapse against Donegal,certainly as valid as allegations of a systems failure.

Interestingly, Dublin are hot favourites for all the big prizes next year.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 5/4; Leinster 1/8; League (Div 1): 11/8

4. Mayo

2014: P 14, W8, D2, L4

And so it goes on. Utterly dominant in Connacht but still finding the All-Ireland impossible to crack, Mayo's frustration levels are at an all-time high. In 2012, they were undermined by conceding two early goals against Donegal. In 2013, they failed to build on early dominance against Dublin. This year, they twice surrendered substantial leads against Kerry.

The problem is different each time, which adds to the puzzle.For all that, they continue to be among the top contenders. Once that doesn't change - and there's no apparent sign of it happening - they have a genuine chance of finally fitting all jigsaw pieces into place.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 7/1; Connacht 8/11; League (Div 1) 5/1

Lee Keegan
Lee Keegan

5. Cork

2014: P12, W7, D1. L4

The great enigmas, it's impossible to know where exactly they stand. Hugely impressive throughout the Division 1 group games and up to the early stages of the second-half against Dublin in the semi-final, their collapses in the remainder of that game and in the Munster final against Kerry were inexplicable.

Aidan Walsh, Cork, left, supported by teammate Michael Shields, contests a high ball with Pat Hughes, Sligo
Aidan Walsh, Cork, left, supported by teammate Michael Shields, contests a high ball with Pat Hughes, Sligo

They finished the season one point adrift of Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-final, so there are plenty of positives to work on. Enough indeed, to take them right into the contender mix for 2015.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 7/1; Munster 7/4; League (Div 1) 8/1

6. Monaghan

2014: P13, W8, D2, L3

Surrendering the Ulster title to Donegal and suffering a calamitous power failure against Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final suggest a step back on 2013 but, significantly, Monaghan won the Division 2 title, which should bring benefits next year. A top six rating represents stability for Malachy O'Rourke's troops, who are still learning, They will be genuine contenders for the Ulster title again next year, helped by being on the easier side of the draw.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 40/1; Ulster 11/4; League (Div 1) 16/1

Monaghan's Kieran Hughes
Monaghan's Kieran Hughes

7. Armagh

2014: P14, W6, D2, L6

Relegated from Division 2 after winning only two of seven games, their improvement in the championship, which ultimately took them to within a point of Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-final, was one the turnarounds of the summer.

Being in Division 3 next spring will present them with lots of winning opportunities but won't do anything to hone them for the summer action. So while they will be pleased with the recovery this year, their sloppiness last spring could have damaging repercussions next season.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 22/1; Ulster 9/2; League (Div 3) 8/11

8. Tyrone

2014: P12, W5, D3, L4

When they took seven of 10 points from their first five League games in February-March, they would never have expected that the rest of the season would would yield only two more wins (v Down and Louth in the championship).

Stefan Campbell of Armagh, holds off the challenge of Dessie Mone
Stefan Campbell of Armagh, holds off the challenge of Dessie Mone

The All-Ireland qualifier defeat by Armagh was a watershed event for Tyrone. For while they contributed enormously to their own problems, there was something most un-Tyrone like about the performance in terms of drive and intensity.

It looked like the end of an era, so expect lots of changes, both in personnel and structure next season as Mickey Harte re-builds all over the pitch.

It simply has to happen if Tyrone are to return to being serious contenders, as was the case for so long.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 25/1; Ulster 6/1; League (Div 1) 8/1

9. Derry

2014: P11, W5, D1, L5

Why have Derry so high in the rankings after losing at home to Longford (earlier relegated to Division 4) in the All-Ireland qualifiers in Celtic Park?

One aberration can't be allowed to define a season and, prior to the defeat by Longford, Derry's form had been good enough to suggest that they were making real progress.

The big defeat by Dublin in the Division 1 semi-final was a setback but they had earlier beaten Kerry, Westmeath, Dublin, Kildare and Mayo and drawn with Tyrone. They had also lost narrowly to Donegal in the Ulster championship. They are on the right side of being a work-in-progress.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 33/1; Ulster 9/2; League (Div 1) 14/1

10. Meath

2014: P11, W6, D1, L4

They make the top ten ahead of Kildare on the basis of their five-point win over the Lilywhites in the Leinster semi-final. Meath finished third in Division 2 behind Monaghan and Donegal and after being overwhelmed by Dublin in the Leinster final, they were out-gunned by resurgent Armagh in the qualifiers. They still look more likely than the rest of Leinster to trouble Dublin.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 66/1; Leinster 15/2; League (Div 2) 11/2

11. Kildare

2014: P11, W6, D1, L4

Just outside the top 10 after being relegated from Division 1 and losing to Meath in the Leinster semi-final, they will argue that their All-Ireland qualifier revival, which took them to the fourth round where they were unlucky to lose to Monaghan in extra-time, merits a higher ranking. The counter view is that their consistently poor record in a moderate Leinster championship (Dublin excluded) cannot be ignored.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 40/1; Leinster 14/1; League (Div 2) 3/1

12. Galway

2014: P12, W5, D1, L6

As All-Ireland quarter-finalists, they may feel entitled to a top eight place but that would overrate them. The reality is that they were lucky to avoid relegation to Division 3 and their advance to the All-Ireland quarter-finals was achieved with wins over Div 3 and 4 counties (Sligo, Tipperary, London).

Once they moved up in class they were found out, losing to Mayo (3-14 to 0-16) and Kerry (1-23 to 2-10) by identical total scorelines. It proved conclusively that Galway were seven points inferior to the top teams. Improving defensive security will be an early priority for new manager, Kevin Walsh.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 25/1; Connacht 11/4; League (Div 2) 10/3

13. Laois

2014: P 12, W6, L6

A fifth place finish in Division 2 was followed by championships defeats by Dublin (expected) and Tipperary (unexpected). Tipperary hit Laois for 3-17 in a Round 3 qualifier which was preceded by concessions of 0-17 (v Wexford), 2-15 (v Fermanagh) and 2-21 (v Dublin). Tomas O Flaharta needs to have a better defensive alignment in place for 2015.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 100/1; Leinster 33/1; League (Div 2) 13/2

14. Down

2014: P11, W4, D2, L5

Having dropped out of Division 1 in 2013, their attempt at a quick return came up four points short of promoted pair, Donegal and Monaghan. Ironically, they beat Donegal and drew with Monaghan but took only four points from their other five games against Armagh, Louth, Galway, Meath and Laois.

They were equally inconsistent in the championship, drawing with Tyrone before losing heavily, a fate which also befell them against Kildare in the qualifiers.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 80/1; Ulster 9/1; League (Div 2) 9/2

15. Roscommon

2014: P12, W9, L3

An improving team, they romped to promotion from Diviosion 3 and were unlucky to lose to Mayo by a point in the Connacht semi-final in a game they dominated most of the way.

They later lost to Armagh in the qualifiers, a result which which looked better for Roscommon over the following weeks as the Orchard men reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals where they lost by a single point to Donegal.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 66/1; Connacht 10/3; League (Div 2) 7/1

16. Cavan

2014: P11, W8, L3

Eight wins from 11 games and promotion to Division 2 looks good but if they are to rise to the next level, a tactical adjustment is required. Their low-score/low giveaway approach will only take them so far. They finished the season with an 11-point defeat by Roscommon in the qualifiers after scoring only 0-5, the lowest of the 64 championship games.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 150/1; Ulster 15/2; League (Div 2) 10/1

17. Wexford

2014: P10, W4, L6

Four wins from 10 games, seven of which were in Division 3, was not a good return. Indeed, they needed to beat Longford in the final round of avoid relegation.

They were unlucky to lose to Laois by a point in the qualifiers, which is closer to the level expected of them.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 300/1; Leinster 50/1; League (Div 3) 12/1

18. Louth

2014: P10, W1, D2, L7

The Leinster first round win over Westmeath was their only success of a miserable season, where their defensive frailties regularly undermined them.

New manager Colin Kelly knows how important it is to mount a serious challenge for an immediate return to Division 2, no easy task, given that Armagh looked nailed-on certainties to take one of the promotion places.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 500/1; Leinser 150/1; League (Div 3) 14/1.

19. Tipperary

2014: P13, W9, D1, L3

Promoted to Division 3; ran Cork to two points in the Munster semi-final and reached the last 12 in the All-Ireland race - a very progressive season.

They beat Longford and Laois from Divisions 3 and 2 respectively in the qualifiers and hit Galway for 4-12. However, they conceded 4-17, a reminder of how the defensive pressures increase the higher up the ladder a team goes. They had some other bad days defensively too.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 150/1; Munster 20/1; League (Div 3) 9/2

20. Westmeath

2014: P 9, L 9

A 20th place ranking might look harsh for a team that spent last spring in Division 1. However, they lost all of their seven Division 1 games by an average of 10 points before being beaten in the championship by Louth, who had been relegated to Division 3, and Cavan, who had managed to get out of Division 3.

Westmeath are definitely better than their record suggests but they need to start showing it under new manager Tom Cribbin. Expect a big improvement.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 400/1; Leinster 50/1; League (Div 2) 16/1

21.Sligo

2014: P 11, W5, L6

A place in the last 12 in the All-Ireland championship ended the season on a promising note for Sligo, who will start 2015 with their third manager manager in as many seasons.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 400/1; Connacht 14/1; League (Div 3) 12/1

22. Clare

2014: P13, W7, D2, L4

Promoted to Division 3; ran Kerry to four points and Kildare to one

point in the championship. Clare are an improving force.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 250/1; Munster 30/1; League (Div 3) 12/1

23. Longford

2014: P11, W4, L7

They stunned Derry in the qualifiers but the rest of the season was disappointing, including relegation to Division 4 and a 17-point qualifier defeat by Tipperary.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 500/1; Leinster 80/1; League (Div 4) 7/4.

24. Fermanagh

2014: P9, W3, D1, L5

Defensive problems cost them dearly all year.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 400/1; Ulster 50/1; League (Div 3) 10/1

25. Limerick

2014: P11, W5, L6

Survived in Division 3 but more is expected of them. They will be vying with Clare and Tipperary for third place in Munster next year.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 750/1; Munster 100/1; League (Div 3) 22/1

26. Wicklow

2014: P10, W6, L4

Third in Division 4, form that held good in the championship. New manager, Johnny Magee inherits a solid base from Harry Murphy.

2015 odds: All-Ireland: 100/1; Leinster 375/1; League (Div 4) 11/2

27. Offaly

2014: P9, W0, D1, L8

A dismal year for a county now in deep depression. One point from a possible 14 in Div 3 left them easy pickings in the championship where they lost to Longford and Wicklow. New manager, Pat Flanagan faces a big challenge.

2015 odds: All-Ireland: 1000/1; Leinster 325/1; League (Div 4) 11/4

28. Leitrim

2014: P9, W4, D1, L4

Did well enough in Division 4 but no match for Roscommon and Down in the championship, which was to be expected.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 1000/1; Connacht 250/1; League (Div 4) 10/1

29. Carlow

2014: P10, W2, D1, L7

Serious defensive problems undermined them all the way.

2015 odds: All-Ireland: 1000/1; Leinster 500/1; League (Div 4) 20/1

30. Antrim

2014: P10, W3, L7

Dropped into Division 4 in 2013 and made a dismal attempt at getting out of it this year, winning only two of seven games.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 400/1; Ulster 50/1; League (Div 4) 7/2

31. Waterford

2014: P10, W2, D2, L6

Another mediocre season in the bottom half of Division 4. A draw with Clare in the Munster championship raised hopes but they disappeared just as quickly.

2015 odds: All-Ireland 1000/1; Munster 500/1; League (Div 4) 12/1

32. London

2014: P9, P1, D1, L7

A big drop from the highs of 2013, but this was always a possibility for the Exiles.

2015 odds: All-Ireland: 1000/1; Connacht 175/1; League (Div 4) 50/1

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