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How do the champions and beaten finalists shape up after the 2019 provincial action?

The Munster, Ulster and Leinster titles were handed out over the weekend.

AND THEN THERE were 16.

The All-Ireland senior football championship race was cut down at the weekend with eight teams heading for the exit door.

Three pieces of championship silverware were handed out as well with Dublin, Donegal and Kerry joining Roscommon as the teams who have booked berths in the Super 8s. 

pjimage (1) Roscommon, Dublin, Donegal and Kerry have all been crowned provincial football champions. Source: INPHO

For Galway, Cork, Cavan and Meath it is the backdoor route they must journey on with a tie on the weekend of 6-7 July to decide if they can advance to the last eight stage.

But with the provincial action having drawn to a close, how are those who won the trophies and those who lost the finals starting to shape up?

The Champions

Roscommon (Connacht)

Their summer couldn’t have unfolded in a better fashion to date. Roscommon claimed a Connacht title that was certainly hard-earned, taking care of a Leitrim side coming off the back of league promotion before toppling the traditional Big Two out west, in both cases away from home with stirring second-half displays. Conor Cox has added a classy scoring touch, the Daly brothers make that defence more resolute and Anthony Cunningham is presiding over a team in good shape.

Conor Cox celebrates Conor Cox celebrates Roscommon's victory over Mayo. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Kerry (Munster)

Provincial silverware has been tucked away in the Kingdom for the seventh successive year. The 2019 success may not have been achieved in as dazzling fashion as 2018 but could defeating Clare and Cork by an aggregate winning margin of nine points, as opposed to 39 last summer, aid their team more in the long term? Those tests signalled their attack continues to click yet those gaps in defence need to be plugged for the serious stuff.

Donegal (Ulster)

A fifth Ulster title yesterday capped what has been a prosperous decade in the province for Donegal. They coped with Fermanagh’s rearguard alignment, knocked down Tyrone and hit full speed from the off against Cavan. Michael Murphy’s superb leadership continues, the return of Patrick McBrearty is a huge boost while the form of Jamie Brennan, Shaun Patton and Hugh McFadden is really strong. Their form graph is rising and after last year, an All-Ireland semi-final spot must be the target now. 

Dublin (Leinster)

A trio of league losses seems of little relevance now to the 2019 condition of the champions. Dublin may have looked patchy at times yesterday and only had 0-5 on the board at the break but they still cantered once more to Leinster glory. Victories by 26, 15 and 16 points confirmed their local superiority and again cast doubts over the viability of the Leinster championship. James McCarthy’s injury may be a concern but Dublin’s array of options places them comfortably clear of the chasing pack right now as they chase five-in-a-row.

James McCarthy James McCarthy is forced off injured as Dublin lost out to Meath. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

The Beaten Finalists

Galway (Connacht)

The only county not to retain their provincial crown in 2019 and probably the most dejected outfit after their final loss. That stemmed from how Galway had ownership of the game at half-time in Pearse Stadium last week yet that five-point advantage morphed into a four-point defeat by the final whistle. Only posting 0-2 in that latter period against Roscommon is a genuine concern given the attacking talent at Galway’s disposal. There’s a serious challenge ahead now to plot a route back to the last four stage they graced last year.

Cork (Munster)

After being beaten down by 2018 summer hammerings and 2019 spring relegation, Saturday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh was an occasion to lift Cork’s football spirits. They gave Kerry a gut check – something that had eluded them since 2015  – played with greater aggression and saw a clutch of players offer promising showings. The flipside is they came up short against an elite side when they had sufficient chances to win. It’s been a familiar scenario in recent times and the encouragement needs to be converted into a qualifier win that vaults them into the Super 8s.

Cork dejected after the game Cork players after Saturday's loss to Kerry. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Cavan (Ulster)

A captivating Ulster championship did not culminate with a major breakthrough yesterday. Cavan discovered Donegal were operating on a plateau that they couldn’t reach, Declan Bonner’s side accelerating clear by the break. A five-point defeat in the end was a reward for Cavan’s persistence as they hit a late spree of scores but Donegal had eased off and offered a reminder of the levels about Mickey Graham’s side. Still it’s been a hugely progressive summer and much like Cork, dusting themselves down to have a proper tilt at reaching the Super 8s should be achievable.  

Raymond Galligan and Padraig Faulkner dejected as Patrick McBrearty, Jamie Brennan and Ryan McHugh celebrate Dejected Cavan players after Donegal hit the net. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Meath (Leinster)

Of the quartet that suffered final defeats, Meath’s task to revive themselves looks the most daunting. A loss to Dublin had been well-flagged yet the manner of it was chastening due to the paltry scoring total they recorded. Meath were crippled by their marksmanship in the front of goal. They have a fortnight to try to unscramble their minds. League promotion and Leinster final qualification were the strides made by a developing side, to leave the campaign now slip away would be a downbeat note to finish on. 

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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