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8 winners and 8 losers from the 2017 Allianz Football League

Summer is coming.

THE ROUND ROBIN phase of the Allianz Football League is over. Just eight teams are left standing across the four divisions, while six counties face-up to the reality of relegation today.

The league has grown in importance in recent seasons, and strong spring campaigns are often followed up with decent championship showings. We take a look at eight teams who will be pleased with how 2017 has gone so far, and eight sides who’ll be looking to improve ahead of the summer. 

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Winners

James McCarthy with Jack Mc Carron Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Dublin

Jim Gavin’s men are 70-minutes away from securing another remarkable record. If they defeat Kerry on Sunday,  they’ll become the first county to win five straight league titles since Mayo in 1938.

It’s been another successful spring for the Dubs. They remained unbeaten despite the introduction of inexperienced players like Ciaran Reddin, Shane B Carthy, Niall Scully and Conor McHugh to the team.

Gavin also gave a lengthy break to veterans Cian O’Sullivan, Paul Flynn, Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan, who all look eager to impress following their reintroduction to the side.

Malachy OÕRourke Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Monaghan

Kerry and Donegal deserve kudos for strong finishes in Division 1 despite blooding a number of rookies, but Monaghan have been irresistible this spring.

Jack McCarron’s rise to prominence finally gives the Farney that dual-inside threat they’ve longed for, while it also released Kieran Hughes to join his brother Darren in on of the game’s most formidable midfield parings.

Gavin Doogan has been another excellent find by Malachy O’Rourke.

Shane Walsh and Con Cavanagh Source: Mike Shaughnessy/INPHO

Galway

Galway are back in Division 1 for the first time since 2011, and Kevin Walsh achieved it while significantly strengthening his squad.

It’s their attack that’s really impressed this spring. Shane Walsh looks back to his sparkling best, while Michael Lundy, Ian Burke and Michael Meehan have also rejoined the panel. All-Star nominee Damien Comer will bolster the attack when he returns to fitness.

In defence, a dynamic half-back line of Gary O’Donnell, Michael Farragher and Johnny Heaney gives them a solid platform in the middle. The Connacht champions could light up this championship.

The Kildare team stand for the national anthem Source: Presseye/Philip Magowan/INPHO

Kildare

After a potentially damaging defeat to Dublin’s third string in January, Cian O’Neill showed faith by sticking with the vast majority of that team for the league campaign. His trust was rewarded with a consistency we haven’t witnessed from Kildare since the heady Kieran McGeeney days.

Kevin Feely, Ben McCormack and Chris Healy among the new faces to really impress in a team that appears to be enjoying its football. O’Neill has rolled out an attractive, attacking game plan and the Lilywhites will be a welcome addition to the top flight next year.

All going to plan, a potential Leinster semi-final showdown with Meath awaits. Reaching a provincial final is a must for this vastly improving group of players.

Jim McEneaney scores a goal Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Louth

Colin Kelly’s men have sealed their second straight promotion with a crew of talented young footballers. They’ve got an exciting forward unit features Ryan Burns, Paraic Smith, Jim McEneaney and Eoin O’Connor, but are also solid defensively.

Louth finished with the best defensive record in Division 3 and it bodes well for their upcoming summer campaign.

Liam Keanrs Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Tipperary

They left it late, but Tipperary football took another step forward as Liam Kearns’s troops sealed promotion to the second tier. A Michael Quinlivan hat-trick, which included an injury-time winner, helped them past Armagh in dramatic scenes.

Despite the loss of Peter Acheson to Dubai, Ciaran McDonald’s absence for the entire league and a number of injuries, Tipperary achieved their target at the beginning of 2017.

McDonald will return to training with the squad this week and Kearns will hope to get a few bodies back from injury ahead of the championship.

Seamus McEnaney Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Wexford

Seamus McEnaney’s side completed promotion with two games to spare, before easing off the gas and sharing minutes around the squad ahead of this weekend’s Division 4 final against Westmeath.

John Heslin Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Westmeath

John Heslin has been in sublime form for his county, who need to be competing at a higher level after making the last two Leinster finals. They went through the entire league campaign unbeaten, finishing with a whopping +78 scoring difference.

Honourable mentions: Donegal, Kerry, Meath, Down, Sligo, Carlow

Losers

Tadhg Morley and Peter Harte Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Tyrone

Ever since they went down to Donegal by 0-12 to 0-6 two weeks ago, Tyrone’s form has nosedived. Despite operating with an extremely defensive system, they shipped 1-21 to Kerry yesterday.

Cavan were the only team in the top flight to score less than Tyrone, whose experiment of Mattie Donnelly and Sean Cavanagh in the full-forward line isn’t working.

Connor McAliskey’s cruciate injury was a hammer-blow to Mickey Harte’s side, while Darren McCurry, Mark Bradley and Ronan O’Neill have featured all too infrequently so far this spring.

David Byrne with Enda Smith Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Roscommon

Roscommon’s final day win over Cavan will provide them with a welcome shot in the arm heading into the championship.

The Rossies have the worst defensive record in the country, conceding 7-128 on their way to finishing bottom of Division 1.

Established players like Cathal Cregg, Neil Collins, Cathal Shine, Donie Shine, Ian and Senan Kilbride are no longer part of the panel, as a young core attempts to quickly adjust to this level.

Peter Kelleher with Brendan McArdle and Kevin McKernan Source: Conor Wyse/INPHO

Cork

The latest sign of Cork’s demise was their failure to remain in contention for promotion heading into the final couple of league games.

Peadar Healy’s team bottomed out with a shock defeat to Clare, and they won just one of their final four games. All is not well in the Rebel county, and a season-ending injury to Brian Hurley was another significant blow.

Confidence appears to be a major issue in the camp and the glory days of 2010 couldn’t seem further away.

Mickey Jones with Danny Heaven Source: Presseye/INPHO

Derry

Derry grabbed a win against Fermanagh on the final day but still suffered relegation from the second tier.

Defensive deficiencies have dogged the Oak Leafers in 2017, as only Roscommon, Offaly and London conceded more during the league.

The big scores Damian Barton’s side shipped to Meath, Cork and Galway ultimately cost them as they went down on scoring difference.

Fermanagh players leave the field Source: Presseye/INPHO

Fermanagh

The Ernemen let a three-point lead slip in the final five minutes to consign them to relegation to Division 3. Poor form in front of goal proved to be Fermanagh’s undoing.

Only Cavan (4-72) scored less across all four divisions than Fermanagh’s 1-86. Pete McGrath’s team scored 1-16 on an opening day win over Down but since then have failed to hit the back of the net.

Star forward Tomas Corrigan has missed significant game time recently due to a pulled calf muscle and Paul McCusker was the only forward to score from play against Derry. That’s an area they’ll be looking to improve on before the Ulster championship rolls around.

Kieren McGeeney Source: Presseye/Philip Magowan/INPHO

Armagh

Kieran McGeeney’s men are a little bit unlucky to find themselves in this category, but their inability to protect a lead means they’ll be operating in Division 3 again in 2018.

They only managed a draw against Sligo despite leading by six midway through the second-half, while they were five points to the good against Laois with  13 minutes left before managing to lose that game.

Armagh reeled off four wins on the spin but that old weakness came back to haunt them yesterday. They led Tipperary by 0-15 to 2-5 after 65 minutes, but were outscored by 1-3 to 0-1 on the home straight.

Eoin Lowry is shown a red card by referee Eamon O'Grady Source: Presseye/John McIlwaine/INPHO

Laois

Laois’s dip over the past couple of years has been alarming. They’ve be plying their trade in Division 4 next year for the first time in 50 years.

A lack of discipline has been one of their biggest issues this season – they’ve finished just two of their seven league games with a full compliment of players.

Kevin Meaney Colm Begley, Kevin Meaney, Damien O’Connor and Evan O’Carroll have all picked up reds so far, and conceding 3-15 to Offaly in their final fixture confirmed their relegation.

Donie Kingston scored 3-4 against the Faithful and his performances have been a rare highlight of Laois’s season.

Paddy McBride in action against David Conway Source: Presseye/John McIlwaine/INPHO

Antrim

A young Antrim side suffered a gut-wrenching relegation after Longford’s stoppage-time equaliser saved their skins at the death.

The Saffrons went down on scoring difference and a tally of 4-78 after seven games meant they were always going to struggle to survive. They finished as the joint-third lowest scorers in the country. That doesn’t bode well heading into the Ulster campaign.

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Kevin O'Brien

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