Ranked: Kerry and the chasing pack

With the Sam Maguire and Tailteann Cup headed to Kerry and Westmeath for the winter, Niall Gartland ranks the counties from top to bottom.

1 Kerry

To the victors the spoils. Kerry have been burned by some chastening experiences in recent years, but a new management team spearheaded by Jack O’Connor led the Kingdom back to the promised land for the first time since 2014. David Clifford gets most of the plaudits, but the sterling work by coach Paddy Tally played a major part from a defensive point of view. Sam will reside in the Kingdom this winter and deservedly so as they only conceded a single goal in the championship and showed mettle on the home straight on the big days at Croke Park.

League: Division One champions

Championship: All-Ireland champions

2 Galway

Few would have predicted a resurgent Galway at the start of the season, and a slip up in the Division Two final against Roscommon didn’t bode well for the championship. However, under the tutelege of county legend Pádraic Joyce, they embarked on a memorable run to the All-Ireland final. Their quarter-final win over Armagh was outstanding entertainment, and they conducted themselves well in the final against Kerry with Shane Walsh producing an all-time great display. Defeat will stick in the craw but if they add depth to their panel, they’ll be in with a shout next year.

League: Beaten Division Two finalists

Championship: Beaten All-Ireland finalists

3 Dublin

Arguably should be in second position as they gave Kerry their sternest test in the championship. Dublin endured a torrid time for long patches of the league and suffered relegation to Division Two, but they got their act together in the championship and won yet another Leinster title. Con O’Callaghan’s injury-enforced absence from the All-Ireland series was unfortunate, but they put Kerry to the pin of their collars in the semi-final and were undone by a spectacular free by Seanie O’Shea with the last kick of the game. Speculation abounds about Dessie Farrell’s future but they aren’t too far away.

League: Eighth in Division One (relegated)

Championship: Beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists

4 Derry

It was a whirlwind year for Rory Gallagher’s Derry. Missing out on Division Two promotion was disappointing, but they threw all their energies into their Ulster Championship campaign. Claimed a statement victory over Tyrone in the first-round, swatted aside Monaghan and then edged a marathon battle against Donegal in the Ulster final. Showed a different side when they blasted five goals against Clare in the last eight, but had a day to forget in the All-Ireland semi-final. It was still a brilliant year and they should pick up an All-Star or two.

League: Third in Division Two

Championship: Ulster Champions and beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists

CELEBRATION TIME…The Derry players celebrate in the dressing rooms after Sunday’s win over Donegal

5 Armagh

Kieran McGeeney’s side played some swashbuckling football on their way to finishing third in Division One, and overcame the setback of a heavy defeat at Ballybofey to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals. Rian O’Neill’s monster kick set up extra-time against Galway and while a penalty shoot-out proved the difference between the two teams, Armagh fans will be hopeful of another productive season next year, albeit they need to improve on their discipline.

League: Third in Division One

Championship: Beaten All-Ireland quarter-finalists

6 Tyrone

It’s fair to say their defence of their All-Ireland title definitely didn’t go according to plan. Tyrone never really made a shape of things this year, suffering bruising championship defeats to Derry and Armagh. Time will tell whether it was just an All-Ireland ‘hangover’ season, but if they get their act together in 2023, they’ll be a tough nut to crack, and they have some tremendous young players coming through the ranks as well.

League: Fifth in Division One

Championship: Round one qualifier defeat

7 Mayo

A strange season for Mayo. Injuries to Ryan O’Donoghue and Tommy Conroy (their two most dangerous forwards) was always going to take a toll and they only mustered 13 points in a forgettable All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Kerry. They were also thumped by the Kingdom in a Division One final, but they still have some really good footballers and a change in management mightn’t do any harm.

League: Beaten Division One finalists

Championship: All-Ireland quarter-final defeat

8 Donegal

Donegal stands at a crossroads following last week’s news that Declan Bonner has stepped down after six years in charge. They have plenty of talented players (albeit Michael Murphy is inching closer to retirement) but they’d become too predictable and struggled to break through a formidable Derry defence in the Ulster final before losing to Armagh. It’ll be fascinating to see where they go next.

League: Fourth in Division One

Championship: Beaten Ulster finalists and round two qualifier defeat

9 Monaghan

It wasn’t a vintage season for Monaghan but they never looked out of their depth either. Maintained their proud record in Division One – just about – with a sensational victory over Dublin on the last day of the league. Knocked out of the Ulster Championship by a rampant Derry and narrowly fell short against Mayo in the qualifiers. Yes, some of their top players are in the twilight of their careers but they’re still a solid side

League: Sixth in Division One

Championship: Round One qualifier defeat.

10 Kildare

Kildare suffered bruising defeats to Dublin (Leinster final) and Mayo (in the qualifiers). Also suffered relegation from Division One but they actually acquitted themselves well in most of their matches and have excellent players like Davin Flynn and Jimmy Hyland. Still looking for that breakthrough victory over Dublin in Leinster and conceding five goals in the provincial decider certainly wasn’t in the script.

League: Seventh in Division One (relegated)

Championship: Beaten Leinster finalists

11 Roscommon

The Rossies had a good season, even if they failed to make the All-Ireland quarters. Knocked Galway for six in a dramatic Division Two final and were pipped by Galway in the Connacht semi-final which was no great shame. Qualifier defeat to Clare was a disappointment but they have a Division One campaign to look forward to.

League: Division Two champions

Championship: Beaten Connacht finalists and round two qualifier defeat

12 Clare

The Banner County exceeded expectations by reaching the All-Ireland quarter-finals and for that you have to give them their due. Have a very committed and respected manager (Colm Collins) but a lot of their progress this year was overshadowed by a heavy defeat to Derry in the quarters, a day where they never really turned up.

League: Fifth in Division Two

Championship: All-Ireland quarter-final defeat

13 Westmeath

The ‘bottom’ 16 teams participated in this year’s inaugural Tailteann Cup competition, but we have to tip our hats to Westmeath, who not only won the competition but played some outstanding football in doing so. Have some very solid players and really should be pushing for promotion from Division Three next year.

League: Third in Division Three

Championship: Tailteann Cup champions

14 Cavan

There’s no shortage of talent in Cavan and they pulled themselves up from the bootstraps after a disappointing 2021. Won the Division Four title and produced some very strong performances in the championship, narrowly losing to Donegal in Ulster and surging to the Tailteann Cup final, where they lost to Westmeath. It’ll be interesting to see whether Mickey Graham stays on.

League: Division Four champions

Championship: Beaten Tailteann Cup finalists

NEARLY…Cavan pushed Donegal to the final quarter in Ulster

15 Cork

Cork footballers haven’t made much of a mark since the Graham Cantys of this world called it a day, and they were lucky enough to avoid relegation from Division Two back in the spring. Suffered what seems like an annual defeat to Kerry in Munster and didn’t fare well against Dublin in the last eight of the All-Ireland.

League: Sixth in Division Two

Championship: All-Ireland quarter-final defeat

16 Meath

The Colm O’Rourke news came as a bit of a shock this week, but the 65-year-old wouldn’t have taken the job if he didn’t believe he could achieve some degree of success with the county. They had an alright sort of season, claiming some decent league victories (defeating Cork by eight points) and eventually bowing out with a disappointing defeat in the backdoor to Clare.

League: Fourth in Division Two

Championship: Round One qualifier defeat

17 Louth

Louth have taken significant strides under a certain Mickey Harte, who will be back at the helm for a third season next year. They won the Division Three title, with Sam Mulroy producing some sensational attacking displays, and aside from a heavy defeat to Kildare, acquitted themselves well in the championship, bowing out with a 2-12 to 2-8 loss to Cork.

League: Division Three champions

Championship: Round one qualifier defeat

18 Limerick

THE Limerick footballers earned promotion to Division Two for the first time in 15 years. It was their second promotion in three years so they’re making impressive strides and carried their form into the championship. Lost to Kerry in the Munster final and Cork in the qualifiers.

League: Second in Division Three

Championship: Round Two qualifier defeat

19 Sligo

Tony McEntee’s side showed what they were capable of in an exciting Tailteann Cup run which ended in a narrow defeat to Cavan in the semi-finals. Finished third in Division Four but played some excellent football in the new ‘B’ competition and have some very good footballers in their ranks.

League: Third in Division Three

Championship: Tailteann Cup semi-finalists

20 Down

Not a year to remember. They failed to win a single game across league and championship and it was no major surprise when James McCartan made the decision this week that he’d had enough. Time will tell whether a new man in charge will engineer an up-turn in fortunes. We’re giving them the benefit of the doubt here as some lower-ranked teams did better results-wise.

League: Eighth in Division Two (relegated)

Championship: Tailteann Cup first-round defeat

THE SEARCH BEGINS…Down begin the process to replace James McCartan as manager

21 Fermanagh

Fermanagh took a while to get going under their new manager Kieran Donnelly, but when key men returned from injury, claimed some good results in Division Three. Played some of their best football in quite some time in the first-half against Tyrone in the Ulster Championship.

League: Fifth in Division Three

Championship: Tailteann Cup first round defeat

22 Longford

Longford stayed up in Division Three by the skin of their teeth with a victory over disappointing Laois on a dramatic last day of fixtures. Needless to say they had a short championship campaign but they do have some good young players coming through the ranks.

League: Sixth in Division Three

Championship: Tailteann Cup first-round defeat

23 Offaly

Offaly’s stint in Division Two proved to be a short one as they were relegated at the first time of asking. However, they’re making waves at underage level and some of the players from their recent All-Ireland U-20 win are already making an impact. They reached the semi-finals of the Tailteann Cup and it’ll be interesting to see if Tomás Ó Sé stays involved after manager John Maughan made the recent decision to step down.

League: Seventh in Division Three

Championship: Tailteann Cup semi-finalists

24 Wicklow

The Garden County were relegated out of Division Three, but they didn’t seem to let it demoralise them and they carved out a surprise victory against a struggling Laois side in the Leinster championship. Got the better of Waterford in the Tailteann Cup before losing to Offaly in the first round proper.

League: Eighth in Division Three

Championship: Tailteann Cup first-round defeat

25 Antrim

It’s hard to make a case for Antrim as they had a really torrid time of it in the championship. Held their own in their first season back in Division Three but the championship was a bit of a nightmare, shipping a heavy defeat to Cavan in Ulster before losing to Leitrim in the Tailteann Cup. Andy McEntee has come on board as manager and he has plenty of work to do.

League: Fourth in Division Three

Championship: Tailteann Cup first-round defeat

26 Laois

A really disappointing year from Laois. They will play Division Four football in 2023 after suffering relegation in Division Three, and lost to Wicklow in the Leinster Championship. Westmeath put them out of their misery in the Tailteann Cup.

League: Seventh in Division Three (relegated)

Championship: Tailteann Cup first-round defeat

27 Tipperary

Yes, Tipperary finished second in Division Four, achieving promotion, but they’ll be disappointed that they didn’t fare better in the championship. They won the Munster title only two years ago, but Tipp have lost quite a number of players in the meantime. Lost by six points to Limerick in Munster and defeat to Carlow in the Tailteann Cup was desperately disappointing.

League: Beaten Division Four finalists

Championship: Tailteann Cup first-round defeat

28 Leitrim

Connacht minnows Leitrim made a reasonable enough shape of things this year, with the exception of a one-sided thumping to Galway. Won two games in the Tailteann Cup before losing on penalties to Sligo. Plenty to build on for next year under their famous manager Andy Moran.

League: Fourth In Division Four

Championship: Tailteann Cup quarter-finalists

29 London

London gained plaudits for their rip-roaring start to Division Four, winning three games on the trot under Michael Maher. They hadn’t even fielded in the league in two years due to the pandemic so it was a fine achievement. Did well against Sligo in the Tailteann Cup.

League: Fifth in Division Four

Championship: Tailteann Cup quarter-finalists

30 Wexford

A forgettable season from the Yellow Bellies. Finished in the bottom half of the bottom league but got the better of Offaly in the Leinster Championship. However, Offaly subsequently avenged that victory with a one-point victory in the Tailteann Cup. At least they improved as the season wore on.

League: Sixth in Division Four

Championship: Tailteann Cup preliminary round defeat

31 Carlow

Carlow were going well for a few years, but their form has taken a nosedive and they only mustered a single victory in Division Four. Did a bit better in the Tailteann Cup, defeating Tipperary and coming surprisingly close to snatching an upset against eventual winners Westmeath.

League: Seventh in Division Four

Championship: Tailteann Cup quarter-final defeat

32 Waterford

Didn’t win a game all season, unfortunately. Their best result was a draw in their opening Division Four match against Tipperary but in fairness they lost a couple of league matches by a point. Lost heavily to Wicklow in the Tailteann Cup

League: Eighth in Division Four

Championship: Tailteann Cup preliminary round defeat

33 New York

There was a bit of controversy that New York, who didn’t field in the league for obvious reasons, were allowed to rock up in the last eight of the Tailteann Cup. They did okay but were a distinct second best against Offaly. Lost to Sligo in Connacht.

Championship: Tailteann Cup quarter-finalists

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