Tuesday 23 January 2018

State of play: What will the new season hold for GAA teams

With 2011 just weeks away, attention is already turning to what the new season will hold for GAA teams and counties all over the country. So how do they rate as they exit the closed season and head for official training in early January? Martin Breheny gives his verdict from top to bottom of the football charts

Cork's Daniel Goulding, left, and Colm O'Neill celebrate with the Sam Maguire Cup after Conor Counihan's men edged out Down in the final. Photo: Sportsfile
Cork's Daniel Goulding, left, and Colm O'Neill celebrate with the Sam Maguire Cup after Conor Counihan's men edged out Down in the final. Photo: Sportsfile

Last year's ratings in brackets Results relate to League and Championship only

Played 16, Won 12, Drew 1, Lost 3.

2011 odds: All-Ireland: 5/2; NFL (Div 1) 5/2.

Parked on the summit for the first time since 1990, they won the All-Ireland and NFL (Div 1) double, leaving the Munster title as the only prize to elude them.

The provincial semi-final defeat by Kerry (in extra-time) was one of only three defeats all season, the others coming against Tyrone and Mayo in the league, although Cork avenged the latter (which occurred after they had qualified for the final) with a comprehensive win in the decider.

An interesting aspect of Cork's season was that they won four games by one point (including the All-Ireland semi-final and final) and four others by two points. Surviving so many close calls underlined the level of resilience accumulated during the disappointing years.

P 12, W 6, D 1, L 5.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 3/1; NFL (Div 1) 5/2.

Why so high? One, they were the only team to beat Cork in the championship, while there's justifiable reason to believe that if they were at full strength for the All-Ireland quarter-final against Down, their season would have taken on a totally different look.

Forget about the impact of retirements and Australian Rules, Kerry were also without the suspended Tomas O Se and Paul Galvin for the Down clash. It was a serious double-hit in a game where that pair's ball-winning talents would have been crucial. Indiscipline cost Kerry dearly this year, but if they can correct that, they will be close to all the main rewards next year. After all, they have excellent forwards, which always gives a team a real chance.

P 15, W 11, L 4.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 6/1; NFL (Div 1) 5/1.

Should they be ahead of Ulster champions, Tyrone and Meath, who blitzed them? Yes!

Meath's five-goal surge in their 11-point win over Dublin was a complete freak, a theory supported by the previous and subsequent form of both teams.

As for Tyrone, Dublin beat them in league and championship by a combined margin of 11 points. Cork (twice), Galway and Meath were the only teams to beat Dublin, who ran their best NFL campaign for over a decade and came closer to reaching the All-Ireland final than at any time since 1995. Their big challenge next season will be to build on the progress made this year. It's an area where they have failed in the past.

P 11, W 5, L 6.

2011 odds: All-Ireland: 7/1; NFL (Div 2) 7/4.

Winning the Ulster title no longer makes it a satisfactory season in Tyrone, which shows just how far they have advanced over the last decade. Overall, it wasn't a season Tyrone will look back on with any great fondness.

Two wins in seven games left them relegated to Division 2 and while they improved in the Ulster champion-ship, the season ended with a five-point defeat by Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

Now, the big question is whether all the young talent, which was supposed to be ready to step up, is there because clearly the squad needs to be refreshed and re-energised.

P 16, W 12, D 1, L 3.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 18/1; NFL (Div 1) 8/1.

They show the steepest upward graph of all this year, having barely squeezed into the top 20 last December. Promotion to Division 1 and six championship wins, culminating in the closest possible call against Cork in the All-Ireland final, transformed Down football after a dismal decade where they fell well behind Tyrone and Armagh in Ulster and made no impression in the qualifiers.

Down's dramatic improvement was most encouraging, but they will be on everybody's target list next year, leaving them with a whole new set of challenges. The favourites' tag can weigh heavier than it looks.

P 15, W 8, D 1, L 6.

2011 odds: All-Ireland: 16/1; NFL (Div 2) 7/2.

They maintained the upward curve (they were rated 14th two years ago) and remain convinced that the awarding of Benny Coulter's controversial goal in the All-Ireland semi-final, plus the absence of the injured Dermot Earley, cost them a place in the final. They're probably right.

The one inexplicable blip on their landscape was the six-point defeat by Louth in the Leinster championship.

The big fear for Kildare now must be that they're operating at full power and that they won't actually get any better.

They'll need to if they are to land a major title.

P 13, W8, D1, L 4.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 14/1; NFL (Div 2) 11/2.

All-Ireland semi-finalists in 2009 and quarter-finalists this year after winning the Leinster title for the first time since 2001, these should be optimistic times in Meath, yet there is no great sense that an All-Ireland title will arrive any time soon.

Voting out Eamonn O'Brien, the man who steered them to a high championship rating over the last two seasons and bringing in an outsider (Seamus McEnaney) for the first time, shows how volatile the Royal mood really is.

It will be a tough environment for 'Banty' and Co, who only have to look at the O'Brien experience to realise how high expectations are in Meath right now.

P10, W6 L4.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 25/1; NFL (Div 1) 6/1.

Why so high after losing to Sligo and Longford in the championship? Something very strange happened in Mayo after winning six of seven games to reach the NFL Division 1 final and one suspects the decline was a one-off that won't be repeated.

Mayo impressed as they beat Galway, Tyrone, Kerry, Monaghan, Derry and Cork in the league and, while they were hammered by Cork in the final and then misfired on the double in the championship, they are much better than that.

New manager James Horan is taking over at a good time. Mayo are being written off, but that ignores the fact that they have lots of fine talent in the county and are sure to return stronger from this year's experience.

P11, W4, D1, L 6.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 20/1; NFL (Div 1) 10/1.

How different would Galway's season have been if Michael Meehan had been fit and at his sniping best? They would probably have won the Connacht title, tested Cork to the limit in the All-Ireland quarter-final and be heading into 2011 with Joe Kernan still in charge.

With Padraic Joyce enjoying his best season for some time and with a fully tuned Meehan alongside him, Galway would have stretched any defence, going some way to making up for their defensive/midfield shortcomings.

Kernan, a manager whose record should be judged on his terms with Crossmaglen and Armagh rather than with Galway, had an unlucky stint out west. Now, it's Tomas O Flaharta's turn to try to get the Galway juggernaut moving. Meehan's return will be crucial to that manoeuvre.

P 11, W4, L7.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 28/1; NFL (Div 1) 14/1.

Four wins from 11 games looks poor, but to give Monaghan their due, they were in Division 1, where they survived, while Tyrone and Derry did not. Monaghan later beat Armagh and Fermanagh in the championship, but lost to Tyrone and Kildare.

In fairness (or should that be unfairness?), they played Kildare just six days after losing to Tyrone in the Ulster final, so it wasn't a true test.

It will be interesting to see how the change of management (Eamonn McEneaney replacing Seamus McEnaney) impacts on the squad next year. Eamonn Mc comes with plenty of experience as a former Monaghan star and a former Louth manager.

P13, W9, L4.

2011 odds: All-Ireland: 28/1; NFL (Div 1) 14/1.

They were promoted to Division 1, beat Derry in the Ulster championship and then suffered their worst defeat for many years when losing to Monaghan by 12 points before exiting the qualifiers against Dublin.

Views are mixed in Armagh over precisely where the squad stands, but they will be playing in Division 1 next spring, so they have plenty of positives to take into the new campaign. Mind you, their case would be helped by restoring Aaron Kernan to the defence rather than playing him in the half-forwards. He's a specialist wing-back and should be left there.

P11, W4, D0, L7

2011 odds: 33/1; NFL (Div 2) 9/2.

A dramatic decline this year, slipping seven places. They're better than they looked in a troubled season where, once again, internal strife drew as much negative attention to Derry as anything they did on the pitch. Derry really do need to tidy up their act. It's difficult enough to succeed in a competitive world without piling up local problems. What makes it all the more frustrating for their supporters is that counties with lesser talent are making more of it. They will start next season in Division 2 for the first time in several seasons.

P13, W 7, D1, L5

2011 odds: All-Ireland 50/1; NFL (Div 2) 16/1.

They're ranked higher than Roscommon, who beat them in the Connacht final, Louth, who were so unlucky to lose the Leinster final and Limerick who ran Kerry and Cork so close. Here's why: Sligo won promotion to Division 2, beating both Louth and Roscommon (who were relegated) in Division 3; Sligo beat Mayo and Galway and while they lost the final to Roscommon, the margin was just one point. Sligo's heavy defeat by Down in the qualifiers came just six days after losing the Connacht final, a factor which has to be taken into account.

P9, W4, L5.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 66/1; NFL (Div 2) 15/2.

How would their season have turned out if, instead of losing to Down in extra-time in the Ulster quarter-final, they had edged through? Would they have followed Down's spectacular surge through the qualifiers?

Jim McGuinness takes over as manager at a good time. Expectations aren't high, but he has some decent talent to work with, having been involved with a very good U-21 team.

P12, W8, D1, L3

2011 odds: All-Ireland 50/1; NFL (Div 3) 3/1.

Promoted to Division 3, they later ran Kerry to three points in the Munster final before taking Cork to extra-time in a Round 4 qualifier. All of which suggests that, at their best, Limerick are a match for the very best. Their problem is that they're stuck in the same province as two of the consistent super-powers of Gaelic football, which greatly limits their chances of surviving the summer wars.

P12, W7, L 5.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 80/1; NFL (Div 3) 9/2.

The unluckiest team of 2010 where that famous Meath 'goal' robbed them of a first Leinster title since 1957 after earlier recording victories over Longford, Kildare and Westmeath. However, the time for regret is long past. It's vital for Louth that they take the experience gained last year, rather than perceived grievances, into 2011. Otherwise, their momentum will stall.

P11, W7, L4.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 80/1; NFL (Div 3) 10/3.

A much better year than 2009 when they won just one competitive game. They just missed out on promotion to Division 2 on scoring difference last April before coming so close to beating Dublin in the Leinster championship. They later beat Galway in the qualifiers before being beaten by eventual All-Ireland winners Cork. They appear to be back on track after last year's dip.

P10, W4, L6.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 200/1; NFL (Div 4) 2/1.

Their season was made by winning a first Connacht title in nine years, but it's got to be kept in perspective in terms of overall ratings. Relegated to Division 4 after winning just one of seven games, they beat London, Leitrim and Sligo in the Connacht championship, but didn't have to play either of the 'Big Two', Galway or Mayo. Roscommon are improving and will be boosted by the confidence gained this year. Winning promotion out of Division 4 will be the first -- and hugely important -- target.

P10, W3, D1, L6

2011 odds: All-Ireland 400/1; NFL (Div 3) 10/1.

Unlucky to be relegated from Division 2 (where they beat Meath and Westmeath and drew with Down), it was their bad luck to draw Kerry in the first round of the Munster championship before being paired with Dublin later on in the qualifiers.

They're still very much on the right track.

P11, W 5, D1, L5.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 150/1; NFL (Div 2) 22/1.

It was always going to be a tough season after making rapid progress a year earlier, but Antrim achieved one major target when they were promoted to Division 2. They were also unlucky to draw Tyrone in the first round of the Ulster championship and then ran into a determined Kildare squad as it began its rehabilitation.

P10, W3, D1, L6.

2011 odds: 80/1; NFL (Div 2) 11/1.

Drawing with Meath in the Leinster quarter-final (they were well beaten in the replay) was the only beacon of light in a dark tunnel. The exciting Mick O'Dwyer days of 2003-2006 are a distant memory and Laois have now turned to Justin McNulty in an effort to revive them. He has talent to work with, but the will must be there too.

P10, W1, L 9.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 100/1; NFL (Div 3) 11/2.

Down seven places on last year and 13 on the previous year, Westmeath won only one competitive game all year (v Wicklow in the Leinster championship). A change of manager after a dreadful league campaign was always going to be disruptive so it was a case of hoping for the best and looking ahead to next year. Westmeath are better than this year's results have showed and they are capable of recapturing former glories.

P10, W2, L 8.

2001 odds: All-Ireland 200/1; NFL (Div 4) 11/4.

Down four places on last year and 14 on the year before, it was a poor season, with a win over Cavan in the Ulster championship the only high point. Relegation to Division 4 after a rapid descent down the tables in recent years was hugely disappointing as it's not an easy group from which to escape.

P10, W5, L5

2011 odds: All-Ireland 125/1; NFL (Div 3) 7/1.

Cavan were wildly unpredictable in the league where they won games they might be expected to lose and vice versa. Losing at home to Fermanagh in the Ulster championship was a serious setback, and while they beat Wicklow in the qualifiers, they managed just four points as they were hammered by Cork next time out. Clearly, no sign of a Breffni revival.

P11, W5, L6.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 200/1; NFL (Div 3) 9/2.

Ran Down to two points in the All-Ireland qualifiers in a game they might well have won. That was very encouraging, but they lack consistency and also have defensive problems they need to eradicate if they are to show improvement.

P12, W7, D2, L3.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 300/1; NFL (Div 3) 25/1.

Promoted to Division 3, which represented progress and also gave them plenty to build on for next year, but couldn't cope with Limerick in either the Division 4 final or Munster championship.

P11, W3, D1, L7.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 300/1; NFL (Div 4) 4/1.

Two wins from eight games was a terrible return in Division 4, but they did much better in the championship where they lost by four points to Louth, sensationally beat Mayo in the qualifiers by a point, before losing by four to Down. It leaves them well placed for a much more coherent attempt at promotion next spring.

P10, W6, L4.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 750/1; NFL (Div 4) 14/1.

Unlucky to miss out on a promotion place from Division 4. Clare lost to Waterford in the Munster championship before being beaten by Offaly in extra-time in the qualifiers. Plenty of scope for improvement under Micheal McDermott.

P10, W5, D1, L4.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 250/1; NFL (Div 4) 11/4.

A frustrating year after the excitement of 2009. Lost to Westmeath and Cavan by a point each in the championship after finishing fourth in Division 4. Wicklow are still capable of punching solidly against heavier hitters but lack consistency and there's only so much Mick O'Dwyer can do to organise and inspire them. The rest is up to the players themselves.

P10, W4, L 6.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 500/1; NFL (Div 4) 16/1.

They're going through one of their down phases at present, but have always risen in the past and will do again.

P10, W 3, D1, L 4

2011 odds: All-Ireland 1000/1; NFL (Div 4) 22/1.

The hurlers are going better than the footballers nowadays.

P10, W1, L 9

2011 odds: All-Ireland 2000/1; NFL (Div 4) 66/1

Unfortunately for every county in the country, London's playing numbers will increase due to the economic downturn.

P8, L8.

2011 odds: All-Ireland (Not participating); NFL (Div 4) 500/1.

Despite the poor results, it's important that they continue to compete in the NFL.

P1, L1.

2011 odds: All-Ireland 5000/1; NFL (Not competing)

Like London, their playing numbers are increasing due to emigration.

Irish Independent

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