Posted by Ewan MacKenna

2012 Kildare Cavan 520x280

1. Cork (- from last week’s rankings)

Their greatest cause for concern is now the wait because by the time they line out for an All Ireland quarter-final it’ll be eight weeks since they played a competitive game of football. We include Clare in that because complaining about the square-ball goal is a bit like Dublin complaining about Mikey Sheehy’s controversial effort in 1978 when Kerry won by 17 points anyway. It was that comfortable in the Munster final, we learned nothing, Cork merely got a light run-out and with some very decent teams now set to come through the qualifiers and into the last eight, they need to be wary. A versus B games are all well and good, but remember all the talk of Kilkenny’s second string being the second best team in hurling and all of Dublin’s chatter about in-house games before the Wexford match this summer. Also, don’t forget Kerry-Down in 2010.

At least they are finding different ways to win clutch games. They won the league playing ugly, they won against Kerry by steering clear of that for the most part as they footballed their way out of a corner in the second half, and against Clare they killed off passion with goals. But during the coming weeks they need to retain the confidence of 2010, the hurt of 2011 and the most complete line-up in Gaelic football, even if they are very much a side of two parts. They comprise firstly, and most importantly given their gameplan, of the meanest defence in the top three divisions this league and it’s little wonder. Starting with Pearse O’Neill and Alan O’Connor in the middle followed by the likes of Noel O’Leary and Eoin Cadogan, they are an immovable object. The opposition simply cannot afford to run at them or they’ll lose the ball and energy. With Graham Canty and Michael Shields, the alternative of the high ball in isn’t an attractive proposition either while Paudie Kissane doesn’t get the credit he deserves as an attacking force.

Then there’s the other half, an attack that has quantity and quality. What cost them most of all last summer were injuries to forwards but right now they have eight top-class players to fit into six attacking positions with Aidan Walsh, Donnacha O’Connor, Daniel Goulding, Colm O’Neill, Ciarán Sheehan, Paddy Kelly, Paul Kerrigan and Fintan Goold all looking for a role. There’s some serious scoring in that group and so many ways to get scores, be it O’Connor’s frees, O’Neill’s accurate shooting from distance, Kerrigan’s pace, Walsh’s aerial prowess or Kelly’s and Goold’s play-making. We were proven right in thinking they’d be too strong for Kerry. We also think they’ll be too strong for everyone else this summer if they find away over a system’s failure in terms of fixtures.

 

2. Dublin (-)

That’s the kick up the backside they needed and they got it without losing. The Leinster semi-final was the perfect day for Dublin as they even learned it’s time to ditch Diarmuid Connolly because even his talent is not worth the risk. Say what you will about Wexford not suiting them but the All-Ireland champions should be and are better than that and it was a performance that suggested there’s been an arrogance there so far this year and they were coasting. Mickey Harte said earlier in the year it’s so hard to go back-to-back because players forget how hard it was to win the first All-Ireland amidst all the hype and celebration. But Dublin will now remember what it took and have time to knuckle down.

We wonder how they’d fare against a team with the intensity of Donegal though because their defence and midfield is more open and less imposing than it was a year ago and it’s an area they really need to work on. But they do have what is bordering on being the best attack in the country. In all the talk of Bernard Brogan’s obvious scoring feats, the importance of his brother has been lost. But Alan Brogan is the real key here, the best link man in football now and Kevin McManamon has gone from super substitute to super starter. There’s serious scoring potential there, especially with their fast-break style. They just need to tighten up now to be a more complete team. What’s crucial is they’ll have realised that and they’ll win Leinster by playing more complete and better football.

 

3. Donegal (-)

The cynicism doesn’t help their reputation but if you take away the fouling out the field and the stall tactics, there is so much to admire about their revolution in 2011 followed by their evolution in 2012. In two years under Jimmy McGuinness they have the endurance that some top track athletes don’t have after a lifetime of training to be the best. Take a guy like Frank McGlynn who defends harder than most, covers more ground than most and has such a skill set he can do the job of several men. It’s remarkable and he’s one of the most underrated players in the country on a team that is also underrated.

They are far less ponderous and far more direct than last season too and that has allowed Colm McFadden to up his game. Yes, he’s one-footed but against Tyrone we saw him stand up and take the game when it was there for the taking in the second half. He made it his. They are also very close to being number two on this list, will win Ulster and suddenly we can talk about them being capable of winning it all. But for that to happen, Ryan Bradley needs to show every day like he did in the Ulster semi-final, Patrick McBrearty and Mark McHugh need to continue their progress, taking pressure off Michael Murphy and McFadden inside by kicking five points between them, and Neil Gallagher needs to dominate the middle third from kickouts. That’s all possible though.

 

4. Mayo (+1)

At this time of year, winning is what matters most. But Mayo’s own performances this league and last quarter-final mean they now need to be judged by the standards of the best and if they are to be taken seriously as All-Ireland contenders, the Connacht final wasn’t good enough for so many reasons. What they got away with out west will be used to punish them when they face better teams and there was a lot they got away with. Andy Moran was on a huge amount of ball, but his hands were poor. Alan Dillon received plenty of possession too but his kick-passing was wayward. Cillian O’Connor’s free-taking technique looked oddly off. Enda Varley needed lucky frees to make an impact. Kevin McLoughlin was lukewarm after being scorching against Leitrim. And with all that, there is some serious doubt surrounding their attacking ability.

There are positives though. They haven’t yet lost, now have time to work on those forward flaws (for the record we don’t think Conor Mortimer would make any real difference given the work-heavy, defend-first style of football) and James Horan is a coach as much as a manager and will have spotted those problems. If he can get the above right, they are a force to be reckoned with because Aidan O’Shea and Barry Moran will soon form one of the more formidable midfields about while in the backs we already knew about Donal Vaughan, Keith Higgins and Ger Cafferkey but on top of those Kevin Keane, Lee Keegan and Colm Boyle are developing. But while they can keep teams from scoring, we aren’t convinced they get can enough themselves as there’s huge reliance on Andy Moran who cannot always produce, particularly with the attention he draws.

 

5. Kildare (+1)

Here we go again. The big qualifier win after the big letdown, the relatively easy draw and suddenly, if they can keep their eyes on the road ahead, they’ll be back in the last eight with the same question marks surrounding them as previous seasons. People ridicule them for never beating a serious team come championship but to their credit, they’ve become old hands and swatting away lesser teams, they have been competitive in running Dublin to a goal and a point in the last two meetings, they took Donegal to extra-time, reached a semi-final and won Division Two this year with a big finish against a quality side. It’s enough to have them in the top five even if we are still left waiting for that statement win and that performance joined by a result against the very best.

If it is to happen, then a lot needs to happen within their set-up. The ball into Tomás O’Connor needs to be better and less frequent while he needs the right runners coming at him. Alan Smith needs to continue his return to form, James Kavanagh and Eoghan O’Flaherty need far more consistency, Seánie Johnston needs to settle quick and the full-back line need to stay put if their markers start switching and moving out the field. Also, Emmet Bolton has to be allowed play on the front foot, Mikey Conway has to kick clutch frees in big games and Kieran McGeeney needs to trust his players more and improve his own in-game management. After that, there’s a problem in midfield and at centre half-back and it’s that which may end up costing them as there is no obvious solution to either, particularly who helps Daryl Flynn out under high ball and with breaking ball. They are only cruiserweights in our eyes and it’s up to them to reach the last four and prove us wrong.

 

6. Tyrone (+1)

If they can find a qualifier groove then they’ll be possibly more dangerous than any side bar the top three come the business end of the championship. There was such intensity against Armagh, the Donegal game was heartening because in a period of transition they still very nearly got the better of a genuine All Ireland contender and the Roscommon game showed everyone they weren’t just gunning for Ulster and believe they can go a long way. Now for the big one and if they can beat Kerry in Killarney, then who knows what they’ll do for their next trick. And they do have the potential to beat Kerry, so long as they find a more central role for Peter Harte, leave Joe McMahon at centrefield where the amount of ball he gets on will be maximised, continue to allow Martin Penrose to come deep and push for more consistency from Mark Donnelly and Colm Cavanagh.

Also, they need to continue to give youth its chance, even if Mickey Harte’s loyalty to some of the older guard is admirable. Scoring will be less of a problem than it was in their Ulster defeat as well as Owen Mulligan will have more time, Stevie O’Neill will have more room and the opposition defence will not be anywhere near as tight or as heavy. Granted it’s too much to expect Darren McCurry to turn into the next Colm Cooper overnight. They are already very close to being the best team in Ulster and they may only be a season or two away from returning to their long-held position of being a genuine All Ireland contender. If they beat Kerry, they’ll think otherwise though.

 

7. Kerry (-3)

Say what you like about 2009 and their resurrection through the qualifiers that ultimately led to an All Ireland, but back then they had the presence of Darragh Ó Sé, Tommy Walsh, Tadhg Kennelly, Mike McCarthy and Tom O’Sullivan as well as the form of Paul Galvin, Declan O’Sullivan and Kieran Donaghy to carry them to glory. Right now they’ve none of that and while comparisons may be drawn with their stuttering start to the qualifiers three years ago and while they may well beat Tyrone (even if we’d be tipping the other way) even the win Jack O’Connor has longed for won’t be flame to a row of gun power this time. They could be in an All Ireland quarter-final, there’s a slight chance they’ll be in a semi-final but that’s it.

It’s not a stick to beat them with as even they need time for transition and it’s only when you look at it in a relative manner that it is a decline. But their backs are struggling badly right now and we think they know their own limitations too as O’Connor’s tactics are robbing Darran to pay Aidan. Because of an ageing spine in defence from Eoin Brosnan to O’Mahony, the manager is forced to drop his half-back line deep and Donaghy spends as much time on the back foot in midfield as he does on the front at full-forward against the best out there. They are fighting against the dying of the light. Soon, it will go dark.

 

8. Down (-)

In terms of both shape and style they simply aren’t suited to Cork so to judge them on their exit from this year’s league and last year’s championship is unfair. Indeed it was that exact style which Monaghan tried to implement and which took them apart for 35 minutes. In short, they simply cannot compete with controlled aggression, huge intensity, and a team breaking in numbers. For those reasons Donegal will beat them but at least they are in that final, and that took some real guts and serious self-belief.

But to prove that 2011 was the exception and 2010 was the rule, they do need to find more consistency. Word has it Dan Gordon is close to a return and they need him because Brendan McArdle looks so much better in the corner. Meanwhile Kalum King can’t afford to go missing against better teams, leaving Ambrose Rogers to carry so much weight, and the half-forward line need to drop deeper and work harder. If all that happens, it makes them a capable side, particularly with Kevin McKernan showing well and the return of Benny Coulter to play alongside Conor Laverty, who is surely an All Star nomination. However they do need a system to counteract what they are about to face.

 

9. Meath (-)

Where did that come out of? That’s what Banty has to work out because he needs to know just how Donal Keoghan, Donnacha Tobin, Conor Gillespie and Damien Carroll looked like some of the best players in the country if they are to repeat it. And that’s the next trick because for a county like Meath, one swallow will never make a summer. It’s time now though for all in the place to row in behind the manager and a young team that showed no fear in going toe-to-toe with one of the better sides out there. They played an under-21 full-back line, played six under-23s and still came out the other side. We know Graeme Reilly is having a great season but so too is Brian Farrell and Joe Sheridan is getting back to his best. But remember these same players were relegated and could only draw with Carlow, so we need a lot more proof before we believe they are genuine.

 

10. Sligo (+1)

They were out of their depth but still they swam to the very end in the Connacht final. Midfield was a big problem but the two defensive lines - and particularly Ross Donovan - were heroic and the pressure they put on was nearing a Donegal level. Also, their forwards didn’t see much ball but were largely economical and in a game they lost by just two points Adrian Marren kicked a bundle of wides while David Kelly never fully got into the game. But they’ve been in this place in 2010 and we all know the 24 months that followed their Connacht final loss to Roscommon. That cannot happen again and if they can bring the same intensity to a qualifier most likely against Kildare, break even against a far inferior midfield that day and get enough ball to Marren, Kelly and Mark Breheny, they should come out of this season with respect and positivity, if not a last eight place.

 

11. Armagh (+3)

A complete enigma, to a large extent because of the bizarre managerial decision-making of Paddy O’Rourke. The county can be thankful he’s gone but they need to make sure that Kieran McGeeney or Tony McEntee is the next man in and with either of those at the helm they will be a decent team once more. They certainly have talent as Finian Moriarty, Aidan Forker and Kevin Dyas are good and getting better while Jamie Clarke, if he works on his shot selection, could become the best corner-forward in Ulster in the very near future. On top of that they’ve a natural on-field leader in Ciáran McKeever. All those names just go to show how pathetic being dumped out of the championship without a win is. Going forward they need to adopt the Crossmaglen style, work ethic and actually play a few more players from the best club in the land.

 

12. Laois (+5)

We’ve been seriously critical of their mental make-up and will to win in the past, so credit where it was due. They could easily have trundled away from summer in the qualifiers and no one would have been any the wiser. Instead, for the first time in an age, they manned up, bought into Justin McNulty’s defensive system - even Ross Munnelly was happy to be the first line of defence - and played clever football with Brendan Quigley using his size to win ball and speed to break from deep and tear the opposition defence out of shape. We can’t get too carried away as five times this league they failed to raise more than 10 white flags in a game, against Carlow 1-10 was measly and there’s a pattern here as last championship between games against Longford, Dublin and Kildare, they hit a combined 0-31. But Leitrim is winnable if they want it. Then Meath and who knows at that point, but much more of the same gutsy substance is needed.

 

13. Wexford (-)

Once, and you can feel sorry for them. Twice, and you can take pity on them. But three times blowing up with Dublin there for the taking is inexcusable and their mindset really needs to be questioned. The same goes for the qualifiers because last year we had sized them up for an All Ireland quarter-final against Kerry and they failed against Limerick. We were beginning to fancy them for a tilt at a top team outside of Dublin this year too and they failed against Tipperary having come back from way down and having had all the momentum entering the last quarter. Graeme Molloy - on form - is one of the best defenders about, Adrian Flynn is a fine wing-back, Ben Brosnan, Red Barry and Ciáran Lyng would worry any defence while Jason Ryan is one of the more competent, thoughtful managers about. Considering all that, they aren’t adding up to the sum of their parts and the reason is mental, not physical.

 

14. Galway (-4)

Remember all that hype a couple of months ago when they announced their arrival in the first game of the championship. That’s long forgotten but if talk of this being a serious team after the dismantling of Roscommon was knee-jerk, then so to is talk of where Alan Mulholland now stands. This is year one, he needs at least two more and then we can talk about his performance. In fact he needs as long as possible because part of the reason Galway are in this mess is their overreaction to the performance of senior managers when beneath them there are serious underage flaws. What Mulholland does have at his disposal is one of the great under-21 teams from 2011. Mark Hehir has already stepped up but we’d bring in the youth of Thomas Flynn and Fionntán Ó Curraoin to centrefield, taking pressure of Joe Bergin who isn’t an alpha midfielder. Then we’d start dotting their under-21 teammates from a year ago around the senior side, amongst the likes of Michael Meehan, Paul Conroy, Gareth Bradshaw and Finian Hanley. They might as well learn the ropes now, when little else is stirring.

 

15. Longford (-3)

Did they take their eye of the ball? Or did they run out of steam? We think the latter because this is a side that has played with huge intensity since the latter stages of the league in April and across the championship they haven’t been able to maintain their high-pressure defensive game for more than 50 minutes in any of their outings. It caught up with them against Limerick as their midfield - their obvious weakness in terms of personnel - struggled, Michael Quinn was overrun and Brian Kavanagh couldn’t buy a yard. But if it’s a disappointing end, then it’s because it finishes a great season and if they can stay in Division Two in 2013 and Seán McCormack can stay at the high level he is reached, then they are going places. On a side note they do need to hold onto Glenn Ryan if his home county come calling because he’s as vital as any player.

 

16. Westmeath (+2)

That put the heartbreak of their Leinster exit to Louth into perspective but they should also be proud of how they handled Kerry and took the game to them for much of the qualifier. Paul Sharry was excellent at wing-back and John Heslin is developing into a superstar and a team needs to be build around his ball-winning and fast breaks from centrefield. He is that good. Michael Ennis is good too and if the forward line is lacking quality it certainly makes up for it with quantity. They had eight scorers as they exited the championship, while during the league they’ve been averaging seven scorers a game with Kieran Martin, Dennis Glennon, David Glennon and Ger Egan all having their moments. They could do with a marquee forward but at least they’ve Division Two to look forward to and while the end to this season will hurt, it should also provide hope.

 

17. Monaghan (-2)

Yet again they give it a go in Ulster and collapse in the qualifiers. And if this year’s exit isn’t as embarrassing as their loss to Offaly in 2011, it should hurt just as much because for 35 minutes against Down they reminded us of the intensity they can play with and the passion they can bring. But then there was the loss to Laois having led 0-5 to 0-2 and having controlled the opening stages. Little wonder Eamon McEneaney could take no more of the wild inconsistency from players who promise much and then lie. That opening half up north where the defence was a throwback to the 2007 level, where Dick Clerkin and Eoin Lennon looked more than solid, where Tommy Freeman returned and where Conor McManus looked like he and Paul Finlay could be a force to be reckoned with is now long forgotten. They leave the championship looking for a manager to take them into Division Three on the back of one championship win in two years.

 

18. Roscommon (-2)

What a bizarre season where we are left none the wiser as to whether the players are buying into the Des Newton era as much as they bought into the Fergal O’Donnell era. The bad of Galway, the good of Armagh, the predictable against Tyrone. On paper, they’ve a spine to match anyone in Connacht from Niall Carty and Peter Domican through to Michael Finneran and Karol Mannion and on to Cathal Cregg, Donie Shine and Senan Kilbride. But they need more than one performance a year for those players to become more than overrated names as only Cregg has shown any real consistency this term while Shine in particular has struggled to repeat his heroics of previous years. If they could get it right, they’ve the makings of a serious team in the medium term having won two of the last three Connacht under-21 titles and having just gone back-to-back at minor. That’s a big if though and they should be looking to get out of Division Three as starters.

 

19. Antrim (+2)

Everyone else seemed to be surprised at their efforts against Galway but we weren’t. In fact in the build up we talked about how they were made in the perfect mould to topple the Connacht side in Casement. But it cannot end at that as another win and a game most likely against Down in the last-12 could reenergise a side that has so many of the leftovers from their tilt at Ulster in 2009. James Loughrey is still the exciting and speedy player coming up from the back, Michael McCann is one of the better midfielders in all of Ulster as not only can he dominate possession but he can score as shown when he kicked more from play than anyone else on the field last day out. Indeed, if Michael McGill can match his talent with application then they’ve a full-forward who has good hands, a good positional sense, good awareness and good finishing. It mightn’t mean a lot to most but Saturday could make or break their season and the Baker Bradley years.

 

20. Tipperary (+2)

That they got a mention in mention in Paul Curran’s hurling acceptance speech says so much about just what they are doing. That the minor footballers who again won Munster got a mention in the same speech says so much about what they might do. There is no more unusual and exciting project in football right now as if things continue on, in a few years they could win a Munster senior title. We never thought we’d write that sentence. But back to the present and they have now reached a level where they can’t be spending their time high-fiving one another over a lucky win against Wexford. They need to try and take the next step, especially with Ciarán McDonald on such form at corner-back, Michael Quinlivan offering a forward threat and Peter Acheson doing so much work as a quality ball-carrier as he relieves a whole lot of pressure. They’ll be underdogs this weekend against Antrim but that’s never bothered them before.

 

21. Derry (-2)

John Brennan was right in everything that he said during a rant post-Donegal. He can’t scream in players ears during a game and tell them to do the basics and he can’t have his players kicking the ball straight to the opposition repeatedly. But Brennan was wrong in everything he did during a tirade post-Longford. We don’t know why he’d want to hang around any longer with a team that are going nowhere, especially after turning on Paddy Bradley for his critical comments regarding funding by the county board. On the field, what we’ve seen repeatedly is Bradley having to drop deep to get possession but he’s too far out then and while Mark Friel is an okay defensive midfielder, they’ve no one to drive forward with ball in hand. They’ve no playmaker either, no pace and no prospects. Darks days are here and they’ll do well to maintain Division Two status.

 

22. Louth (-2)

After beating Meath, a result that meant staying in Division Two and so much more, an emotional Peter Fitzpatrick said 2010 was now behind them and they could move on. After getting so lucky against Westmeath, the manager brought up that game once more. It’s symbolic because while he didn’t know where he stood, neither did his team and that Dublin game was an embarrassment. They did show some battling qualities despite their treatment by the referee in their qualifier exit but they still lost and they’ll most likely lose Fitzpatrick now as well. The next man in needs to do whatever it takes to keep the best players in the county because they don’t have the depth to compete with so many second-class citizens in between class operators like Paddy Keenan and Darren Clarke.

 

23. Clare (+2)

Well that was a day out and nothing more. But anyone who thought the Munster final would be anything else was deluded and just being in that showpiece game was a serious accomplishment as all things are relative. Now they are in the last-12 - granted the draw was horrid - and giving that a real lash would make it a fine season, even if they’ll be back to Division Four at that point after missing out on promotion on the last day. They are still over reliant on David Tubridy as he kicked 44 per cent of their points this league, excluding the farce against Kilkenny, and while it shows his talent, it also shows a predictable attack too because even for a free-taker that number is way too high.

 

24. Limerick (+2)

That qualifier win was mighty after so many of the old guard returned and we’ve a feeling a lot of them were operating on muscle memory. Johnny McCarthy put in one of the full-back performances of the season when holding Brian Kavanagh scoreless while popping up for a point himself, the midfield did well, the forwards were good and the bench pitched in with a total of 1-6 with Derry O’Connor inspired. In context it came after a wretched year for Maurice Horan where he didn’t have John Galvin, couldn’t get out of the basement in the league and couldn’t reach a Munster final when only Clare stood in his way. Kildare isn’t the draw they’d have wanted but as for the bigger picture, youngsters like Seamus O’Carroll, Eoghan O’Connor and John Riordan need to push on.

 

25. Cavan (-2)

They impressed us by going to toe-to-toe with Donegal for a little while but if that was a moral victory, it was important they got an actual victory as well to show a young team that it’s all worth it. They should take that Fermanagh result with them from this season rather than the annihilation against a rampant and angry Kildare. Gearóid McKiernan is a good midfielder in the making and he was the one who took their opening qualifier by the scruff of the neck. David Givney beside him has a decent future too and Eugene Keating showed he has accuracy in the Ulster Championship defeat when taking an All Star full-back for five points and was popping up for good scores in their exit too. Anthony Forde in the backroom team is a key appointment and they are improving, although they’ve just been shown how far it is they have to go.

 

26. Wicklow (-2)

Not impressive against Waterford and couldn’t kick muck off a boat rope by the banks of the Shannon. We said in the Micko era that real improvement would come about via league promotion and not by big days in the championship so we cannot come down too hard on Harry Murphy. Besides, he was missing Ciarán Hyland and Leighton Glynn, James Stafford’s performances haven’t been up to his early-season standards and they are one-dimensional with obvious long-balls into Seánie Furlong the cornerstone of their game. But their last two games have shown them how much work needs to be done if they are to be competitive at a higher league level come the new season.

 

27. Carlow (-)

Brendan Murphy tweeted after their exit that depression was setting in. It shows what football means to him and as long as he’s desperate for Carlow to do well, then they’ll keep improving because he’s one of the best footballers in the nation. Darragh Foley beside him in midfield is improving too and that’s the foundations laid for a competitive team. But if they are to be a victorious team they need to create a conveyor belt of talent to improve both backs and forwards. Drawing with Meath and taking Laois to the wire represents some of the best results they’ve had in generations but what would be even better is a promotion push. Then they could really start to build on those aforementioned foundations. With all that in mind, the selection of a manager with a vision and a serious work ethic is key now that Luke Dempsey has had enough.

 

28. Offaly (-)

So Tom Coffey wants three years to revive the county’s fortunes. That’s dedication because not many would want to spend three minutes with this side. Five times this league they failed to raise nine white flags in a game, not once in all seven games did they reach the teens in terms of points and by the time they were relegated they averaged less than a goal and just eight points per game. Little wonder that they were held to six points by Kildare and 10 by Tipperary. But forget those defeats, they are only a symptoms of the disease. This is a county that hasn’t won a  Leinster minor title since 1989, a Leinster under-21 title since 1995 and a Leinster Championship game since 2007. With all that in mind, Coffey needs to look at building bigger, better and more confident footballers in a structure that won’t change every time the wind changes.

 

29. Leitrim (+2)

There’s not an icy heart that won’t have been melted by that win over Wicklow. We saw Barney Breen after the Mayo defeat and he was hurting for players that never stood a chance despite all the dedication and commitment. Yet despite that, despite the lack of finance, despite the lack playing numbers, despite the fact they can’t keep their own few footballers in the county, they came out and won their first ever qualifier. It passed so many by at the weekend with everything else that was going on, but in its own way it’s one of the stories of the season. Now they’ve Laois and they are back in Carrick. It’s unlikely but it might as well be their All Ireland final.

 

30. Fermanagh (-1)

So Peter Canavan will be in charge for the 2013 campaign but he will need to take a Kieran McGeeney-style approach and try and revamp football at all levels. There are some great names still on the panel but they are great because of the past and not the present and turning to the likes of Marty McGrath just won’t cut it any longer. Cavan won the qualifier because of youth, Fermanagh lost it because of a lack of youth. Canavan also needs to clear out the deadwood from a camp that’s been the most troublesome about. Many wouldn’t play for John O’Neill but even when a more professional set-up was created, many still couldn’t sit still and do their jobs.

 

31. Waterford (-1)

That loss in Aughrim will hurt and Gary Hurney will have to look at himself while John Owens will have to look at what might have been and the help his team are getting from within the county. Remember, there was club championship just six days before their Munster opener against Limerick in a season they could have reached a provincial final for the first time since 1960. They’ve now won just seven of 24 games since their historic promotion from Division Four. It’s still a long way from the bad old days but if they are ever to truly move forward, recent times rather than bygone days need to be the yardstick and they need to get their own administrators somehow on side.

 

32. London (-)

So they didn’t win against Antrim but there’s very definite improvements here and it’s only going to get better if they can keep their heads down. Across their last five championship games - which involved a draw and a win as well as three losses - they’ve been outscored by only four points on aggregate. When have they ever been that competitive? Captain Seán McVeigh very nearly dragged them across the line in this year’s qualifiers, and he’ll be a huge loss as he heads home but others need to stand up and drag them across the off season and remind them they are close to something special.