Dublin, Derry, Donegal and Armagh were all in action yesterday in Croke Park INPHO

How will each county reflect on their 2024 GAA football league campaign?

The spring action concluded with the weekend final action in Croke Park.

Compiled by Declan Bogue, Stephen Barry and Sinead Farrell.


Division 1

1. Derry

Mickey Harte will be highly satisfied by his work, Derry crowned champions after a game of extraordinary drama yesterday in Croke Park. They won six of their regulation games with the seventh against Dublin a day when Harte reneged his trump cards.

A tight panel but have embedded rising stars in Diarmuid Baker, Donnacha Gilmore, Cormac Murphy, and Lachlan Murray, while upping their green-flag count, with 13 goals in the regular league series, and another three yesterday, Eoin McEvoy starring in that regard.

2. Dublin

Since losing their opening game, the Dubs took their game to another level this spring as they returned to the final. Buried Tyrone for 5-18 and put 3-18 past Kerry in their last two Croke Park run-outs. The top scorers across all four divisions, they averaged 2-16 per match.

Re-established a more direct threat through the irrepressible Con O’Callaghan, while displaying serious depth too with 33 players used and 24 different scorers. Yesterday a disappointing outcome, although their resilience to force extra-time and later penalties, was striking.

3. Kerry

Kerry can be relatively pleased with the league. Their head-to-head loss to Dublin is all that denied them a place in the final, although that feeble display against Dessie Farrell’s side is a black mark on their copybook. They also lost at home to Derry in the opening round, but were far more competitive in that fixture. The biggest setback is the loss of All-Star full-back Jason Foley to ankle ligament damage, which could sideline him for most of the championship.

4. Mayo

Ticking along nicely at stages and made the most of having Dublin early on in the league, whereas previously they have made a habit of slow starts.

However they look increasingly reliant on Ryan O’Donoghue, the Belmullet man is one of the few in attack who can force a bit of chaos.

5. Tyrone

Like many others, Tyrone’s league campaign was blighted by injury. The absence of Conor Meyler throughout, along with Conn Kilpatrick, Michael McKernan and Frank Burns left a serious leadership deficit.

They have brought through seriously talented youngsters however and the 21-point defeat to Dublin was an aberration. Darragh Canavan was in sensational form at different stages.

darragh-canavan-and-darren-hughes Darragh Canavan in action for Tyrone against Monaghan. Andrew Paton / INPHO Andrew Paton / INPHO / INPHO

6. Galway

A damaging campaign in terms of injuries for Pádraic Joyce, who reckons it could be May or June before he sees a full squad assemble. Shane Walsh, Damien Comer, Matthew Tierney, and Cillian McDaid are major absentees, although Seán Kelly is nearing a return and Liam Silke made a welcome first appearance since the 2022 All-Ireland final. In the circumstances, staying in Division 1 was a positive outcome.

7. Roscommon

Relegated from Division 1, Roscommon have few encouraging moments to look back on from the league. A draw against neighbours Galway and victory over fellow relegation victims Monaghan were the highpoints of their series. But they were utterly outmatched by Dublin, Tyrone, Mayo, Kerry and Derry, as they exit the top flight with a scoring difference of -23.

8. Monaghan

The Farney county couldn’t dodge the bullet anymore as their 10-year stay in Division 1 ended. The highlight was the opening-day victory over Dublin at Croker but injuries and defensive concerns have grown as they lost the next six on the spin. They concluded with the worst total score against across all four divisions, including 15 goals conceded. The return of star goalkeeper Rory Beggan from America looks increasingly unlikely.


Division 2

1. Donegal

A fine start to the second coming of Jim McGuinness. Unbeaten in Division 2 with six wins and a draw against Armagh, before they took the silverware with a narrow success yesterday over the Orchard county.

Overwhelmed Cork and Fermanagh in the early rounds with their high pressing and just kept things ticking over from there, perhaps with an eye on championship. Injuries to captain and top-scorer Patrick McBrearty, and Ryan McHugh are concerning.

2. Armagh

Refreshed and unbeaten with five wins and two draws to advance to a Division 2 final. Came with a second-half charge yesterday in Croke Park but fell short. Kieran McGeeney’s ultra-organised defence didn’t concede a single goal in their first six games as they put double-digit beatings on Meath, Kildare, and Cavan. Have added to their array of attacking threats through Oisín Conaty and goal-scoring corner-back Peter McGrane. Rían O’Neill’s recent return is a further boost.

3. Cavan

After eight years of yo-yoing through four promotions and four relegations, Cavan finally settled for a second year in Division 2. It still felt like a rise in the rankings as, led by 1-48 from Paddy Lynch, they were the closest challengers to Donegal and Armagh and secured Sam Maguire football for the first time under the new system. Their momentum significantly stalled at the tail end, though, leaving questions to be answered in championship.

4. Cork

A league of two halves for the Rebels who lost their first three, won their next three, and ended with a creditable draw against Armagh. There was a sigh of relief as they have most likely secured Sam Maguire football, avoiding the limbo of last year. Seán Powter is back to fitness and Conor Corbett increasingly influential, strengthening their attacking spine. Every game, bar Donegal, went down to the wire. The next step is learning to put teams to bed with less fuss.

conor-corbett-and-daniel-flynn-after-the-game Cork's Conor Corbett and Kildare's Daniel Flynn. James Lawlor / INPHO James Lawlor / INPHO / INPHO

5. Meath

It was a mixed league campaign for the Royals. They’ve consolidated their Division 2 status but will be disappointed with their fifth-place finish on the table. They were comfortably beaten by promotion winners Armagh and Donegal, losing out by twelve and eight points respectively. Colm O’Rourke’s side don’t have long to process those shortcomings though, as they must now reset for a Leinster championship clash with Longford on 7 April.

6. Louth

Doubts were cast over whether Louth could survive in Division 2 in the wake of their fallout with Mickey Harte. But under new manager Ger Brennan, they’ve preserved their second tier status by one point following a crucial last round win over Kildare. There was some inconsistency in their form, including consecutive losses to Donegal, Meath and Cavan, but a late rally in the final two rounds against Fermanagh and Kildare saved them from the drop.

7. Fermanagh

Started with a draw against Meath in a game they could have won, beat Kildare, had a disastrous second half against Donegal, completely collapsed against Louth, led until the 72nd minute against Cork, and beat Cavan in the final game.

An eventful campaign for Fermanagh. Five points kept up Meath in Division 2 the year previous and Cork in 2022. Desperately unlucky to be relegated.

8. Kildare

A complete unvarnished disaster of a league campaign. Seven games, seven straight losses and all the while they looked like a side with virtually no attacking or defensive gameplan.

A messy spat with a local correspondent put the tin hat on it for manager Glenn Ryan. What odds to reach a Leinster final now?


Division 3

1. Down

Had the league season they wanted last year, going one better with promotion, but Saturday’s final loss to Westmeath was a setback.

With another year to embed their practice and the opportunity to find out everything about the suitability of certain players to county football, along with the arrival of Ciaran Meenagh, they are a different animal and will target a provincial final.

2. Westmeath

The inconsistency of last year’s league campaign led into a strong Sam Maguire round robin series when they caught Armagh and Tyrone by surprise and gave them a world of trouble.

Building on that was the aim and while Dessie Dolan’s side had a flat finish to the regular league with a draw against Down and a loss in the final game to Sligo, they impressed in Saturday’s final triumph, Jonathan Lynam and Sam McCartan the scoring stars.

the-westmeath-team-celebrates-after-the-game Westmeath players celebrate after their win over Down. Leah Scholes / INPHO Leah Scholes / INPHO / INPHO

3. Clare

Following the end of Colm Collins’ reign, Mark Fitzgerald has done a remarkable job of coping with a dozen defections to contend for Division 3 promotion. But for a controversial square-ball call in defeat to Westmeath, they might well have gone up. Ultimately, finished just short of Down and the Lake county but showed the production line is working well, with Emmett McMahon, Aaron Griffin, and Ciarán Downes all natural scorers.

4. Sligo

Further progress to build on last year’s Division 4 title and Sam Maguire experience. Their only two losses were to Clare (by a point) and Down before finishing in style by taking the scalp of Westmeath. Tony McEntee has blooded a number of their back-to-back U20 Connacht champions, while Alan McLoughlin has returned to add to their scoring nous alongside Niall Murphy and Seán Carrabine.

5. Antrim

Antrim’s fate in Division 3 went down to the final day as they played Wicklow knowing that at least a draw would be enough to survive. A Ruairi McCann goal was the decisive score in the end as Andy McEntee’s side condemned Wicklow to Division 4 for 2025. It was a considerable response after four losses on the bounce including a nine-point defeat at home to Down, who they will be seeing again in the Ulster championship on 13 April.

6. Offaly

Offaly also weren’t certain of their Division 3 future until the last day. A goal from Cathal Flynn proved vital as they earned a one-point win over Limerick to stay put in the third tier. Limerick made the Faithful sweat for the win though as Nigel Dunne and Dylan Hyland were both dismissed late on in the game. Their 5-15 to 0-10 victory over Wicklow was their best result of the league, with All-Ireland-winning U20 star Cormac Egan among the goalscorers.

7. Wicklow

Left it all too late to avoid relegation back to Division 4. Looked well and truly on the ropes after back-to-back hammerings away to Clare and Offaly but managed to stay alive for the final day by earning their only win against Limerick. Another victory would’ve meant safety but fell a goal short of Antrim. Have only one green flag to their name all league while leaking 11 at the other end.

8. Limerick

Alongside Kildare, the only county to lose all seven league games in 2024 as they dropped back to the basement tier. They have now gone 15 league games without a win (1 draw, 14 losses) since securing promotion to Division 2 in 2022. Have gone through three managers since Billy Lee’s tenure ended that year, in Ray Dempsey, Mark Fitzgerald, and now Billy’s brother Jimmy. Grew more competitive as the spring progressed.


Division 4

1. Laois

One of a band of counties that seem to yo-yo up and down the league chart, Laois attracted a great deal of curiosity this season because of the re-appointment of former manager Justin McNulty who became an MLA with the restoration of Stormont.

His commitments did not stop him from putting together a strong promotion campaign, and they rounded things off with Saturday’s impressive final success against Leitrim.

evan-ocarroll-lifts-the-division-4-league-cup Laois captain Evan O'Carroll lifts the Division 4 league trophy. Leah Scholes / INPHO Leah Scholes / INPHO / INPHO

2. Leitrim

In his third year at the helm, Andy Moran led Leitrim out of Division 4 and they had to recover from a round five loss to Longford by beating Laois and Tipperary in the final games to secure it.

Aimed to spring an upset in Saturday’s league final against Laois but suffered a 14-point loss. No time to dwell on that as they meet Sligo next Sunday in the Connacht championship.

3. Wexford

Wexford were also chasing down a promotion spot in that Longford fixture, and they did their part with a nine-point win. But their head-to-head with Leitrim favoured Andy Moran’s side and a major discussion point arising from that meeting was a controversial penalty late in the game which Leitrim converted to snatch the win. A positive from their league was veteran star Ben Brosnan making his 175th appearance to break Wexford’s all-time record.

4. Longford

Paddy Christie’s side were considered favourites for promotion in Division 4, but defeats in the first two rounds set the foundation for a disappointing league. Four wins in-a-row against Waterford, London, Leitrim and Carlow fired them back into contention before the final round but they were defeat by Wexford to round off their league on a bleak note.

5. Carlow

Four wins and three draws but faded away when promotion came into view, finishing fifth. Manager Niall Carew rued the overly cautious style they played in losing to Longford as they failed to break 0-8 in consecutive games in rounds 5 and 6. Mikey Bambrick, Darragh Foley, and Colm Hulton have been eye-catching performers but their attack has fired hot and cold, hitting 20 points one day and failing to break 10 the next.

6. Tipperary

Another disappointing League campaign for Tipperary who collected one win over Longford and two draws against London and Waterford on their return to Division 4. New manager Paul Kelly has endured plenty of player turnover, fielding clutches of debutants throughout the League. Evan Comerford is back in goal and they will hope to see Conor Sweeney soon after 14 months out. He could make an exciting partnership with Seán O’Connor.

7. London

Better at their Ruislip home than on the road. The Exiles returned one win, one draw, and one loss in West London but had nothing to show from their trips across the Irish Sea. Former Laois dual star Cahir Healy earned a draw against Tipperary before their late 1-3 blast downed Waterford, with the clinching goal from Oran Kerr. Their games have often been low-scoring grinds and they will hope against hope to inflict the same on Galway.

8. Waterford

For the second time in three years, Waterford finished winless and bottom of Division 4. Their only point, as in 2022, was a draw against Tipperary which at least gives grounds for optimism as they face their neighbours in the Munster championship on Sunday week. Otherwise, things look bleak for Déise football. They were the lowest scoring of all 32 counties and took double-digit whippings from Leitrim, Carlow, Wexford, and Laois.

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