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Dublin: 7°C Thursday 22 October 2020

How the 8 counties eliminated from the All-Ireland SFC will remember 2018

The summer was over as quickly as it started for this lot.

Andy McEntee vents his frustration at the officials at the full time whistle Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

1. Meath

THE ONE COUNTY that can feel genuinely aggrieved their season is over so early. Meath gave 2017 All-Ireland semi-finalists Tyrone a real scare in Sunday’s Round 1 qualifier, losing out by a point after extra-time.

Royals boss Andy McEntee was irate after the final whistle with referee Paddy Neilan, who failed to award a penalty for a foul on Cillian O’Sullivan in normal time and then let play run on when James McEntee looked to be fouled at the end of extra-time.

“I’ve just seen it on the cameras, there was a blatant penalty,” a frustrated McEntee said after the game.

In a relatively poor season where Meath finished in fifth place in Division 2 and were dumped out of Leinster by Longford, a win over Tyrone would have kick-started their campaign. Now, McEntee’s charges must wait seven months before their next game.

Lenny Harbinson Source: Jonathan Porter/INPHO

2. Antrim

They lost just once during the league to finish one spot outside the promotion places in Division 4, but Antrim were defeated in both their championship outing.

The Saffrons were slated by some pundits for playing overly negative football in the wake of their 1-18 to 0-14 Ulster quarter-final defeat to Down.

Lenny Harbinson hit out at their critics after the game: “What do they want us do to? We have to keep it tight. Do they want us to play like Clare (against Kerry) and get hammered by 20-odd points trying to play this lovely, wonderful open football?

“I think there is a lot of lazy analysis going on by both the written media and the guys on television.”

Despite playing with an extra-man for almost 30 minutes against a rejuvenated Offaly on Saturday evening, Antrim fell to an eight-point loss.

Aidan O’Shea shakes hands with Darragh Treacy after the game Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

3. Limerick

Limerick finished the league in 31st place out of 32 counties and things didn’t get much better in the championship.

Defeats to Clare and Mayo means the Shannonsiders are still without a championship victory since 2016, while they haven’t won a Munster game since 2012.

Limerick boss Billy Lee revealed last month he came close to quitting after an administrative error meant Jim Liston wasn’t included on the list of substitutes for the Clare game.

“I threatened before we left Newcastle that if (Liston) wouldn’t be on the bench then I wouldn’t be in Limerick,” he told The Sunday Game. He also said 53 players declined an invite to join the panel this season, but expects to be back at the helm in 2019.

4. Wicklow

After failing to win a single game in the spring and finishing bottom of the entire league, Wicklow’s summer began in electric fashion when they picked up a first Leinster victory in five years against Offaly in Portlaoise.

Darren Hayden and Jamie Snell dejected at the end of the game Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Goalkeeper Mark Jackson memorably scored seven pointed frees which is believed to be the highest tally ever posted by a goalkeeper in a single All-Ireland SFC game.

Wicklow’s 10,000 capacity ground Joule Park was deemed too small for the travelling Dublin season ticket holders, so their Leinster quarter-final was switched to O’Moore Park where just 11,786 showed up.

“If Dublin want to beat us by 10, 20, 30 or 40 points they can do that, but we’ll play our football,” Evans said in the build-up to the game. Dublin beat them by 23 points.

Wicklow were dumped out of the qualifiers by Cavan at the weekend on a scoreline of 2-16 to 1-5.

Ger Egan dejected Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

5. Westmeath

Less than an hour after the full-time whistle confirmed Westmeath’s exit from the qualifiers to Armagh, Colin Kelly had announced his resignation due to the commitment involved.

“I’ve a young family getting to the age now – I’ve a young girl and boy playing soccer and Gaelic in Dublin,” he said. “Today I was at soccer in Wicklow and I came straight to here. That’s not an excuse. I’ve enjoyed my time here.”

The Lake County finished fourth in Division 3 but their championship preparations were rocked by vice-captain James Dolan’s decision to quit the panel days out from their opener against Laois.

Killian Daly also left in May due to work commitments, while injury hit John Heslin, Darragh Daly, John Egan, Frank Boyle and Mark McCallon at various stages.

Following their Leinster exit to Laois last month, Kelly expressed his regret at observing the ‘April is for clubs’ mantra. “I seem to be one of the few managers who gave lads back to their clubs,” he said. “I deem myself responsible for that. I’m not blaming anybody else.”

Mark Lynch is sent off Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

6. Derry

Without their Slaughtneil contingent for the entire league, Derry dropped to Division 4 just four years after they contested the Division 1 final.

“Selling Celtic Park for social housing will be the only humane thing to do,” ex-county star Joe Brolly stated in his Sunday Independent column after their relegation to the basement tier.

Donegal had six points to spare over the Oakleafers in the Ulster quarter-final, before an eight-point loss at home to Kildare (who hadn’t won a game in almost a year) brought a terminal conclusion to an annus horribilis.

Derry boss Damian McErlain remained in an upbeat mood after the Lilywhites loss: “We are looking forward to kicking on because the county is in good shape all over the place so we have to regroup now and get ready to try and get ourselves out of Division 4.”

Paul McLoughlin Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

7. Wexford

Wexford were on the wrong side of the story of Round 1 of the qualifiers when they were stunned at home to Waterford on a scoreline of 3-14 to 1-18.

It was only the Deise’s second ever win in the backdoor competition and the final whistle prompted joyous scenes by the away side.

A disastrous summer for Wexford began when they let a 10-point half-time lead slip to Laois in the Leinster SFC preliminary round. With their lead eroded heading into stoppage-time, Wexford were handed a lifeline when Brian Malone won a penalty. Donie Shanley decided to clip it over the bar to leave them one in front with seconds left on the clock.

There was just enough time for Laois to force an equaliser from the last attack, which they did, to send the game to extra-time. Buoyed by their fightback, John Sugrue’s side eased to a six-point win from there.

The O’Moore County are now preparing for a Leinster final, while Wexford’s year is over.

Mark Gottsche gets black carded Source: Gerry McManus/INPHO

8. London

The Exiles finished a credible fifth in the Division 4 league table and gave Sligo a decent challenge in the Connacht quarter-final before falling to a 10-point defeat.

They would have fancied their chances of taking down Louth in the qualifiers, but Pete McGrath’s side also came away from McGovern Park with 10 points to spare.

Afterwards, London manager Ciaran Deely lamented a lack of games that stunted his team’s development.

“We’ve had two championship games and six league games. For us to develop we need lots and lots of high-quality games which we are just not getting,” he said.

“I’ve been involved with the team now for four seasons, three as manager. Unfortunately, we haven’t got a championship win. As manager I carry that on my back but it’s very difficult for us to compete and to get better when we don’t have enough matches.”


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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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