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Galway brilliance, new Dublin era, Meath misery - Division 1 mid-term report

We examine the fortunes of the eight top flight sides after the opening four games of the league campaign.

pjimage (1) Shane Walsh, Brian Howard and Bryan Menton in action. Source: Inpho

WE’RE AT THE half-way stage of the Allianz Football League and the Division 1 table is starting to take shape.

High-flying Galway and unbeaten Dublin sit in the two league final positions, while Mayo and Meath currently occupy the relegation places. 

There’s a long way to go yet before the league concludes, but the opening four rounds give a good indication of where each team stands. 

Here’s a look at the good, the bad, trends to watch and questions that need to be answered.  


padraic-joyce Galway manager Padraic Joyce. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

The good news story of the league so far. Padraic Joyce has enjoyed a near flawless start to his senior inter-county management career. A one-point loss to Kerry in Tralee is the only blot on his copybook as Galway head up the table after narrow wins over Monaghan and Donegal, plus a hammering of Tyrone. 

In Shane Walsh, Galway possess the country’s in-form forward, while Damien Comer has returned to full fitness after a disastrous 2019. A return to their attacking principles has proved popular with the Tribe support. A home tie against Dublin on 22 March will be a good test of their All-Ireland credentials.


ciaran-kilkenny Dublin's Ciarán Kilkenny. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Dublin have yet to lose a league game under new boss Farrell and he’ll have to be pleased with the character they showed in draws with Kerry and Monaghan, plus their late win over Donegal.

At best, Dublin have only played well in fits and starts. They were very good against Kerry, desperately poor in the first-half against Monaghan and didn’t get going against Donegal or Mayo until the second period.

Farrell has been keen to look to the future by blooding Liam Flatman, Dan O’Brien and Dara Mullin, while seasoned campaigners like Stephen Cluxton, Con O’Callaghan, Diarmuid Connolly, Cian O’Sullivan and Jack McCaffrey are yet to appear. 

Dublin remain on course to reach the league final, though they face tricky away assignments against Tyrone and Galway in the coming weeks. 


conor-mcmanus-celebrates-after-the-game-2322020 Monaghan’s Conor McManus celebrates after the win over Mayo. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Another county that have enjoyed a rise in fortunes under new management. Monaghan have been highly impressive on Seamus ‘Banty’ McEneaney’s return to the hot-seat.

They’ll still be kicking themselves about their failure to close out the game against Dublin, but the manner of that performance will stand to them.


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The Farney have seen Conor McCarthy showing flashes of his attacking prowess in recent weeks, while Conor Boyle looks like the answer at full-back and Niall Kearns has returned to form at midfield.

Yesterday’s nine-point win over Mayo has left them in third place and just one point off the top of the table. Monaghan are looking up, rather than down with four games to play.


david-clifford David Clifford takes a shot against Meath. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

David Clifford has shaken off any concerns over his ability to handle the captaincy, scoring 2-18 in his opening four games as skipper. Kerry remain vulnerable at the back though and have the worst defensive record of any team in Division 1.

They’ve still got the likes of Peter Crowley and David Moran to come back from injury.

Peter Keane’s side have been solid so far, suffering their only defeat in poor conditions against Tyrone in Edendork. A league final place is well within their grasp, with games against Mayo (away), Monaghan (away) and Donegal (home) remaining. 


cathal-mcshane-receives-treatment Tyrone's Cathal McShane receives treatment after suffering an ankle injury. Source: Evan Logan/INPHO

It’s been an extremely eventful spring for Mickey Harte so far. After the uncertainty over Cathal McShane’s future, he turned down a move to the AFL only to suffer a bad ankle injury against Galway on Sunday. 

The Red Hand are already looking light up front due to Mattie Donnelly’s long-term hamstring injury and Connor McAliskey departing the squad.

Sunday’s 19-point hammering against Galway was a serious blow to confidence levels and the Dubs will arrive in town next weekend keen to add to their misery. With two wins and two defeats from four, Tyrone could yet be drawn into a relegation battle.


ryan-mchugh-reacts Donegal's Ryan McHugh during the narrow defeat to Dublin. Source: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

A mixed bag for Donegal so far. Declan Bonner’s men blew a late lead against Mayo and suffered one-point losses to Galway and Dublin, highlighting their struggles to close out games. 

Back-to-back defeats and a difficult run-in mean Donegal’s priority will be retaining their Division 1 status. They’ve got home ties against Monaghan and Tyrone to come before a trip to Kerry on the final day.

On a bright note, Michael Murphy is enjoying some of his best form for the county and Paddy McBrearty made his seasonal debut at the weekend in Croke Park. 


james-horan-2322020 James Horan reacts after the final whistle against Monaghan. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

James Horan admitted after Sunday’s loss to Monaghan that Mayo have been operating well below their best in the spring.

Rookies Oisin Mullin and Padraig O’Hora have played well in defence and Jordan Flynn looks like a decent option at midfield, but the dogs on the street know that it’s forwards that Horan needs to unearth.

Newcomers Ryan O’Donoghue and Tommy Conroy have shown promise in attack, yet both are young and need time to get used to this level. Mayo’s 22-year unbroken stint in the top flight is under threat and they’ll need to drastically improve with games against Kerry, Galway and Tyrone looming.


kieran-mcgeary-and-meaths-james-mcentee Meath's James McEntee runs at Tyrone. Source: Evan Logan/INPHO

It’s been a tough learning curve for Meath. They’ve improved after a slow start to the campaign. Andy McEntee’s side ran Kerry close last weekend and were unlucky to lose against Mayo in the previous round, creating a host of goal-scoring chances with their hard-running game from deep.

Hip surgery has ruled Mickey Newman out for several months, robbing the Royals of his primary free-taker and scoring option, while Ben Brennan is also sidelined after sustaining a heavy collision in training earlier this month.

McEntee has been frustrated by several officiating decisions in recent weeks as Meath sit pointless after four games. They’re staring down the barrel of relegation and with visits to Dublin and Monaghan on the horizon, they require a win at home against Galway next week to give themselves a decent chance of avoiding the drop.

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Kevin O'Brien

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