National Football League ratings game: We name the top performers and the top teams based on our special ranking system

Ciarán Kilkenny. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile Sportsdesk

The margins are tight but Ciáran Kilkenny will head into the All-Ireland championship as favourite to land the Footballer of the Year award.

With Dublin well-fancied to complete the All-Ireland four-in-a-row, his prospects of building on the slender lead he established during the spring look better than the trio ranked just behind him.

Paddy McBrearty. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Based on their Allianz League form, Paddy McBrearty (Donegal), Damien Comer (Galway) and Lee Brennan (Tyrone) are next in line, followed by Dublin midfielder Brian Fenton.

The placings are compiled from ratings in Irish Independent match reports for all 112 League games.

This is the only newspaper to undertake the ratings game on such a detailed basis.

Every Monday during the League and championship, we carry a rating for each player and we have now worked through all the figures for the season so far to come up with the top individuals, as well as selecting a team from each Division.

Damien Comer. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Just as strikers in soccer and backs in rugby get most credit, forwards are almost always rated higher than the defensive players in football and hurling. That's reflected across all four divisions.

Kerry's Paul Murphy and Eoghan Kerin (Galway) are the highest ranked defenders in Division 1, coming seventh and eighth respectively behind five forwards and a midfielder.


Kilkenny, who played in seven of Dublin's eight games, scored a total of 2-18 (all from play) in a campaign where he averaged 7.9 (out of 10).

That's a very high rating in such a competitive League and underlines the level of consistency which Kilkenny continues to bring to his game. He is just ahead of McBrearty, who played five games.

The Donegal man scored a total of 0-34 (0-14 from open play) in a difficult League, where his side were relegated after taking three of a possible 14 points.

However, they will feel that if McBrearty had been fit to play in all seven games, they might well have survived in the top flight.

He missed Rounds 5 and 6 through injury before returning for the relegation shoot-out with Mayo in the last round. A late point by Kevin McLoughlin snatched a draw for Mayo and sent Donegal hurtling into Division 2 with Kildare.

Despite not being fully tuned-in after his absence, McBrearty scored 0-4 (0-2 from open play).

Comer (0-14 from play) is one of Galway's prize assets as they continue to improve. His bustling style caused all sorts of problems for defences, including in the League final when he tested Philly McMahon - and some other Dublin defenders too - to the very limit.

Galway's rate of progress on returning to Division 1 after six seasons in Division 2 was one of the highlights of the League and leaves them very optimistic for the championship, where they will begin their campaign against Mayo in Castlebar on May 13. Galway have four players on the Team of the Division, with debutant full-back Sean Andy O Ceallaigh, Eoghan Kerin and Paul Conroy joining Comer.

Dublin, who beat Galway by four points in the final also have four (Kilkenny, James McCarthy, Jonny Cooper and Brian Fenton).

Goalkeeper, Stephen Cluxton had the same average (7.3) as Rory Beggan but the advantage goes to the Monaghan goalkeeper, who played in all seven games, whereas Cluxton missed two.

Beggan was beaten only once (v Donegal) during the entire League, a feat also matched by Galway's Ruairí Lavelle, who also had an excellent campaign. Monaghan (2), Tyrone (2), Kerry, Donegal and Kildare (1 each) are also represented on the team, leaving Mayo as the odd ones out.


Caolan Mooney (Down), Dara McVeety (Cavan), Conor Sweeney (Tipperary) and Eoin Cleary (Clare) lead the way on the individuals lists. Cavan have four on the Team of the Division, two more than Roscommon, who were promoted as champions.

Clare have three aboard, with Tipperary and Cork on two each and Meath and Down one each. Louth, who lost all seven games by an average of almost ten points, are the only absentees.


Would Longford have been promoted if Michael Quinn was available for the promotion decider with Fermanagh in the last round? He was away on honeymoon at the time and, in his absence, Longford lost by a point.

Quinn came second on our ratings list, losing out narrowly to John Heslin (Westmeath). Quinn is the highest ranked defender in any of the divisions so it's fair to assume that if he had been aboard for the clash with Fermanagh, Longford would now be heading for Division 2.

Even without Quinn, they were unlucky to lose, having been hit by a late controversial point, which won the game for Fermanagh. A draw would have been enough to secure promotion for Longford.

Six of the eight counties are represented on the Team of the Division, with only Derry and Sligo losing out.


Gary Walsh (Laois), Keith Beirne (Leitrim) and Brendan Murphy (Carlow) lead the individual ratings while the Team of the Division is dominated by Laois (5) and Carlow (4), who were promoted.

Walsh (8.2) has the highest individual rating across all four after scoring 4-41 (4-11 from open play) in six games before missing the final, having fallen foul of the Laois county board, arising from a tweet about the Belfast rape trial.

Antrim, who finished third on the table, have three on the team. London (2) and Leitrim (1) are also represented, leaving Limerick, Waterford and Wicklow, who finished in the bottom three, on the outside. Carlow, who escaped from the bottom tier for the first time since 1984, are represented in defence midfield and attack which befits their status as a well-balanced outfit.

The same applies to Laois, who also provide goalkeeper Graham Brody.