With the Allianz Leagues officially coming to an end and the build-up to the All-Ireland Championship beginning, it’s time to assess each of the teams competing in 2019.
While Mayo may have won the league, are they really top of the pile? Does a first national title in 18 years mean you should leapfrog the team going for five-in-a-row?
Where do Kerry lie? The Kingdom had such a dominant league campaign, but the wheels came off towards the end with back-to-back defeats to Mayo.
Further down the table, where do Leitrim come in following there display in Division 4?
With that in mind, we have ranked all 33 competing teams from the top down ahead of the championship season.
Whilst it may have been a dismal league campaign for Jim Gavin’s Dublin side with three losses to Monaghan, Kerry and Tyrone, it would be silly to rank them anywhere but number one on our list.
The vast majority expected the Dubs to win this year’s league title, however, given that they returned late from their team holiday coupled with the experimental rule changes that won’t come into effect until next year, it’s no surprise that Dublin didn’t prioritise this year’s league.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Losing three times in seven games has given the chasing pack hope that Dublin’s drive-for-five can be stopped. Expect a huge backlash come summertime.
Dublin’s drive-for-five begins on May, 25th when they face the winner of Louth and Wexford in the Leinster Championship quarter-final.
James Horan’s men could very easily be further down the list. It was a topsy-turvy league campaign for Mayo, winning their first three games before succumbing to back-to-back defeats against Dublin and Galway.
However, they turned it back around to defeat Kerry and Monaghan in the final two games before defeating the Kingdom yet again in the final to secure a first league title in 18-years.
The victory will give Mayo a major confidence boost heading into the championship and ending their Croke Park final losing streak will renew hope within the county that they can stop the Dubs this year.
Mayo’s championship campaign kicks off next month when they travel across the Atlantic to face New York on May, 5th.
Life as Kerry manager got off to the perfect start for Peter Keane. Undefeated through their first five games, Kerry charged their way to the league final losing just one game to Mayo down in Killarney in weather that even the ducks didn’t enjoy.
They bounced back from their first defeat to hammer Roscommon, condemning them to Division 2 in the process and qualifying for the League Final where Mayo lay in wait.
Unfortunately, the Kingdom didn’t show the best of themselves last Sunday in Croke Park falling to a 4-point defeat in the end. Kerry will, however, be there or thereabouts come the business end of the championship.
Munster will be cakewalk for them, so their next big test will more than likely come in the Super 8s, however, with Sean O’Shea in red-hot form and David Clifford making his way back to the plate, lest we forget the likes of Gavin White, Dara Moynihan, James O’Donoghue and Paul Geaney, it’s hard to rule out the Kerry men after one bad performance.
Kerry’s championship campaign gets underway on June, 1st when they take on the winners of Clare and Waterford for a place in the Munster Final.
Apart from Mayo, quite possibly the happiest of the Division 1 teams come the end of the league campaign.
It started so badly for Mickey Harte’s men picking up just one point from their first three games, however, winning their final four games in a row, including a comprehensive victory over Dublin at Croke Park will fill the Tyrone men full of confidence heading into the 2019 championship.
Their campaign kicks off against Derry on May, 12th in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship.
From four down it starts to get tricky. We’ve opted for Galway in fifth spot given their strong league campaign in 2019 off the back of a league final appearance in 2018 followed by an All-Ireland semi-final showing.
Galway finished fifth in the Division 1 table but did stand an outside chance of making the final going into the last round of games.
A strong win over rivals Mayo has set them up for another tilt at Connacht and All-Ireland glory in 2019.
Galway’s campaign gets underway when they travel to face London on May, 5th.
Our first controversial call. Donegal did indeed operate in Division 2 in 2019 and despite winning it outright, they rode their luck on the way.
It’s important to note however that the Tir Conaill men missed some key personnel throughout the campaign and Michael Murphy only returned for the final few games.
To add to that, Donegal were extremely unlucky to be relegated last season following a last-gasp point from Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin after he took 13 steps.
Donegal are back where they need to be at, in Division 1 and with Murphy seemingly returning to form added with Paddy McBrearty’s return to club action, it’ll take a great team to stop them in their tracks this season.
Declan Bonner’s side kick off their championship campaign on May, 26th when they’ll face Fermanagh.
Last year’s All-Ireland semi-finalists had a poor league campaign by there standards and it all started with an opening day win over Dublin.
However, their only other win game against rivals, Cavan in the fifth round as they went on to narrowly escape relegation.
Despite the poor campaign, Malachy O’Rourke’s side are still among the top teams in the country and with Conor McManus in the corner alongside Stephen O’Hanlon, they’ve added to their attack in 2019.
Monaghan face rivals, Cavan on May, 18th in the Ulster Championship quarter-final.
Anthony Cunningham’s side are still a top-eight side in our estimations, but just barely.
Despite relegation, Roscommon performed admirably in most of their games and with their recent success in the Connacht Championship as well as making the last eight two year’s running, let’s not write them off just yet.
Roscommon face Leitrim on May, 12th.
What a league campaign for the Royals. Promotion to the top-tier for the first time in 13-years and a Croke Park final. Andy McEntee’s side breaks into our top-10 following a campaign that saw them as the most in-form team in Division 2.
Meath will be brimming with confidence in 2019.
Their campaign kicks off against Offaly on May, 12th.
We are keeping Cavan inside the top-10 despite a second relegation in three years.
Mickey Graham is building in the Breffni County and expect them to make a huge push in this year’s championship.
Their season kicks off against rivals, Monaghan on May, 18th.
A poor campaign for Cian O’Neill’s men who would have expected to gain promotion back to Division 1 following relegation last season.
Kildare finished fourth in Division 2 with their three losses coming against the three teams above them, hence the reason that they drop out of our top-10.
Kildare’s campaign throws in against Wicklow on May, 11th.
Fans from the Erne County will be angry that we have them so far down our list considering that they only lost twice in a tough Division 2 and very nearly found themselves promoted to the top-tier.
However, Fermanagh’s shortcomings come from their forward division, without the likes of Seamus Quigley in their ranks it’s difficult to see how they can challenge any of the top-teams.
Their defensive structures are solid and they conceded the lowest amount across all four divisions in 2019 but the simple fact is you need star power up front and Fermanagh don’t have it currently.
Fermanagh face Donegal on May, 26th.
The Orchard County have made steadied improvements under Kieran McGeeney. A solid Division 2 campaign this year, while they may have finished in fifth place they performed admirably across the seven games and drew a few encounters that they ought to have won.
The challenge now is to pick up a first Ulster Championship win in five seasons when they face arch enemies, Down on May, 19th.
A solid league campaign yet again for Colm Collins’ charges who retained their Division 2 status despite going into the final round of games in a relegation scrap.
Clare have improved year on year under Collins and we have them at 14 on our list, it’s just a shame that they are set to meet Kerry in the Munster semi-final yet again as this team deserves to make a provincial final appearance.
Their campaign kicks off against Waterford on May, 11th.
Despite relegation, Tipperary remain inside our top-15 heading into the 2019 championship season.
The Premier County were riddled with injuries in 2019 which no doubt hampered their chances in the Allianz Football League.
Expect a big bounce back from the Tipperary men who face Limerick on May, 11th. There could well be a Munster final in store for them.
What a start for Jack Cooney as Westmeath coach. A Division 3 title to add to the O’Byrne Cup they won back in January.
They are 16th on our list and begin their Leinster Championship campaign at home to Laois on May, 26th.
Very little to choose between John Sugrue’s side and the team above them on our list.
Laois met Westmeath in Saturday’s Division 3 Final and had it not been for some poor shooting by their inside men they could well have been walking away with back-to-back league titles.
They open their campaign against Westmeath on May, 26th.
Such a huge fall from grace for one of the GAA’s powerhouses.
Cork’s were relegated to Division 3 this year with barely a whimper and it’s difficult to know where they go from here.
They face the winners of Tipperary & Limerick in the Munster semi-final on June, 1st.
Given the squad they have and the calibre of their manager, Down really should have been promoted out of Division 3 this season.
However, a final day slip-up against Westmeath means they’ll be in the third-tier for 2020.
They will look to pick things up when they take on rivals, Armagh at home on May, 19th.
Started the league campaign like a house on fire, scoring goals for fun.
Louth could very easily have been promoted to Division 2 and there isn’t much to choose between them at 20 and the five or six sides above them.
Their campaign gets underway with a trip to Wexford on May, 12th.
A solid Division 3 campaign for Longford who stood an outside chance of promotion on the final day of the league.
They face the winners of Wicklow and Kildare on May, 26th.
In truth, Derry should never have been in Division 4 this season but they were and they did what they had to do by winning the league.
Now they are back in Division 3 and can build towards the future.
However, they face a tough championship opener against rivals, Tyrone on May, 12th.
The story of 2019 so far.
Leitrim gained promotion to Division 3 with six out of seven wins in the league. They lost twice to Derry but will have been buoyed by their run to the league final.
Connacht will be tough for Leitrim given that Mayo, Galway and Roscommon are all operating on a higher level, but they could give the qualifiers a good go this year.
Leitrim visit Roscommon on May, 12th in the Connacht Championship opener.
John Maughan’s side survived in Division 3 but just barely and one suspects next year might be the year that they go down to the basement division.
Offaly face a tough test in the form of high-flying Meath on May, 12th.
The Carlow hype-train came off the rails with a few games to go in Division 3 and they now find themselves back in the league’s bottom division ahead of the 2020 season.
Carlow face the winner of Meath and Offaly on May, 25th in the Leinster Championship quarter-final.
A poor league campaign for the Antrim men who would have fancied their chances of getting out of Division 4 but it wasn’t meant to be as a few early losses hampered their promotion hopes.
Antrim will have to re-group now as they prepare to take on either Tyrone or Derry on May, 25th.
A run of seven straight defeats means Sligo face life in Division 4 next season and it is difficult to see how Paul Taylor’s side can make a dent in this year’s championship campaign.
They get underway with a home game against either London or Galway in the Connacht semi-final on May, 19th.
Disappointing league campaign for Wicklow, another side who would have felt that promotion out of Division 4 was well within their reach.
Always tough to beat in Aughrim, with the right draw who knows what they will do in the championship.
They welcome Kildare to Aughrim on May, 11th.
The men from the sunny-south-east really have fallen on hard times when it comes to the ‘big ball’. Wexford struggled in Division 4 this season but we still think that if they can get their best XV on the field then they out-rank the remaining basement division sides.
They start their championship campaign at home to Louth on May, 12th.
Picked up some good wins in the league this year, eventually finishing fourth in Division 4, however, will take a miracle to see them make waves come championship time.
Clare await them in the Munster quarter-final on May, 11th.
The hurlers may be riding high, but the footballers prop up the foot of our rankings list following a league campaign that saw them finish second from bottom.
Limerick get their campaign underway with a trip to Tipperary on May, 11th.
The Exiles finished bottom of Division 4 having only won one game in seven.
With Galway visiting the English capital on May, 5th it’s difficult to see them getting anything out of the game.
33) New York
Always the unknown quantity, New York came narrowly close to defeating Leitrim in last year’s championship. However, that team had one of the country’s finest talents in Jamie Clarke playing that day.
Difficult to see how they can get one over on Mayo when the league champions travel stateside on May, 5th.