| 19.5°C Dublin

comment Why the All-Ireland football championship is irrelevant for most counties

Close

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell, centre, lifts the Sam Maguire Cup with selectors and coaches, from left, Mick Galvin, Brian O'Regan, Shane O'Hanlon and Darren Daly after last December's All-Ireland SFC final victory over Mayo. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell, centre, lifts the Sam Maguire Cup with selectors and coaches, from left, Mick Galvin, Brian O'Regan, Shane O'Hanlon and Darren Daly after last December's All-Ireland SFC final victory over Mayo. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell, centre, lifts the Sam Maguire Cup with selectors and coaches, from left, Mick Galvin, Brian O'Regan, Shane O'Hanlon and Darren Daly after last December's All-Ireland SFC final victory over Mayo. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

FOR most counties the All-Ireland football championship is irrelevant.

Of course, nobody would dare admit this to be the case.

But let’s be frank.

Does anybody seriously think that any of Derry, Antrim, Down, Fermanagh, Cavan, Louth, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Kildare, Offaly, Laois, Carlow, Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford, Tipperary, Clare, Cork, Limerick, Roscommon, Leitrim or Sligo are going to secure the Sam Maguire Cup in August.

And what of the chances of the others: Donegal, Armagh, Monaghan, Tyrone, Dublin, Kerry, Mayo and Galway?

Realistically, there are not eight real contenders. Armagh, Monaghan and Tyrone – given the way they are playing right now – can probably be deleted.

So too can last year’s beaten finalists Mayo if, as feared, Cillian O’Connor will be ruled out for the rest of the summer with an Achilles tendon injury.

There are huge question marks hanging over Donegal and Galway, though both could end up winning their respective provincial series. Padraic Joyce’s team somehow contrived not to beat Monaghan last Sunday despite dominating the game and will play in Division 2 next season.

In the last three campaigns Donegal have collapsed within sight of securing a place in the last four. They last contested an All-Ireland semi-final in 2014 and there are major questions surrounding the fitness of Michael Murphy.

No more than Mayo have no chance of winning the All-Ireland without the presence of the leading championship scorer of all time, Donegal’s prospects are similarly linked to Murphy. Without him they are unlikely to win in Ulster never mind reach the All-Ireland final.

So, there are two contenders: six-in-a-row winners Dublin and Kerry who have won one All-Ireland since 2009. Their record is not a ringing endorsement of their chances. But at least the outcome of a Dublin v Kerry is not a foregone conclusion.

Last weekend was by far the most significant 48 hours for the 20 counties involved in the promotion/relegation play-offs in Division 2, 3 and 4.

What happened in the Division 1 semi-finals was largely irrelevant given that Dublin, Kerry, Donegal and Tyrone were already assured of their Division 1 status for another year.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

But for Monaghan, Galway, Armagh, Roscommon, Kildare, Meath, Mayo, Clare, Cork, Westmeath, Down, Laois, Offaly, Fermanagh, Derry, Limerick, Wicklow, Cavan, Longford, Tipperary, Louth and Carlow last weekend’s results probably set the tone for their 2022 season.

In the case of Monaghan, Galway, Armagh and Roscommon they were fighting to stay in the top-flight of the league. Few teams have a realistic chance of reaching an All-Ireland final. And in the case of those playing outside Division 1 the chances of progressing to the business end of the series are virtually zero.

Granted, when the All-Ireland series is played on a straight knock-out format as was the case in 2020 and again this summer there is always the prospect of the big guns falling by the wayside. Kerry and Donegal don’t need to be reminded of their fate last winter.

By next year hopefully something close to normality will have returned and the All-Ireland being played on a knock-out basis will be consigned to history or maybe until the world is confronted by another pandemic.

Likewise, there was much at stake in Ennis and Newbridge where the winners were guaranteed a coveted spot in Division 1 next season.

Colm Collins’s Clare will go down in history as one of the unluckiest teams around.

In five of the last seven championship they have been pitted against Kerry. Even when they battled through the qualifiers to reach the quarter-finals they faced the Kingdom in 2016.

Mayo was the one team they need to avoid if they wanted to make that historic leap to Division 1. On this occasion they were the authors of their own downfall.

A draw at home against Cork in their last round robin game would have secured them top spot in their section and a promotion play-off against Meath. But John O’Rourke’s injury time point gave the Rebels what turned out to be a meaningless win.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Clare would have beaten Meath. But it was a more realistic prospect than a win, even at home, against last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists who were aiming for rapid return to the top-flight.

The clash between Kildare and Meath was really a contest about being second best in Leinster. Based on their underage record Kildare looked to be team best positioned to finally end Dublin’s monopoly of the Leinster championship.

It won’t happen this year or next year, but it might someday.

Kildare has won four of the last seven Leinster minor championships compared to two for Dublin and one for Meath.

In the U-20/21 grade Kildare are the only county to offer any resistance to Dublin since 2012 – winning in 2-13 and 2018 when they went on to secure the All-Ireland.

Meanwhile, as well as winning seven provincial titles in the same time frame Dublin has also secured three All-Ireland wins in the trade. Kildare has a lot of ground to make up.

But beating Meath and securing Division 1 status for the first time since 2018 might ultimately prove the most significant result of the year outside the All-Ireland final.


Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Top Videos





Privacy