Posted by Shane Stapleton

As the season livens up, we take a look at the order of power in the Football Championship right now — based on form, expectations and quality

2013 Armagh CavanAs the season livens up, we take a look at the order of power in the Football Championship right now — based on form, expectations and quality.


1. Donegal
Yes, they've been relegated. No, they haven't gotten weaker. The big issue for any team that has made it to the top of the hill is whether they can stay up there in the rarified air. The doubts about them dealing with success to push on again stand to reason but they have quality from back to front, and Michael Murphy is as good a footballer as there is.

2. Dublin
The Dubs coasted through the league and looked highly impressive in winning it. They have the bookies' favourite for Footballer of the Year in Bernard Brogan and an army of sharpshooters to stand beside him, but can they rely on them all when it counts if the likes of Alan Brogan is struck down again? Interestingly, the three favourites for Young FOTY all come from Dublin: Ciaran Kilkenny, Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion.

3. Mayo
Didn't quite have enough for Dublin in the league semi-final but Alan Dillon and Andy Moran are building fitness, while the Connacht thrashing of Galway showed that they have too much for anyone in their province. We can't see them being touched in Connacht and their massive workrate and class up front gives them a chance at winning more.

4. Cork
Finished last year against Donegal with an extra attacker but started this year with a sweeper so manager Conor Counihan is trying to shuffle. In terms of personnel, Cork now have now got 2012 Cork hurler Damien Cahalane on board along with ex-Antrim star James Loughrey. The loss to a third cruciate knee injury of Colm O'Neill is as yet incalculable but we expect the Rebels to push the very best, if not push them over. Still, they have the talent to rid themselves of the tag of underachievers.

5. Kerry
Class is permanent and the Kingdom showed that to retain their Division One status once the bigger names of the panel returned to action during the campaign. It remains to be seen how Eamonn Fitzmaurice deals with the white-hot arena of championship action but his county still has some of the best players in the game, from Colm 'Gooch' Cooper to Kieran Donaghy via Darran O'Sullivan and back to Marc Ó Sé.

6. Tyrone
The Red Hands have a manager in Mickey Harte who has seen it all and done more. Sean Cavanagh is back this year and that would make a massive difference to any team, though it's hard to see them toppling the very best later in the year. Could shock Donegal in Ballybofey.

7. Kildare
Finished third in Division One of the league but perhaps that 13-point loss to Dublin at Croke Park — allied to their heavy loss to Cork as they exited last year's championship — is a closer reflection of reality. A good team with some great young talent in the likes of Niall Kelly, but still look a pretender.

8. Down
Finished bottom of NFL1 and though they won two games, the latter of those was on the final day against a Kildare side already into the semi-finals. Injuries are not helping the 2010 All-Ireland finalists, nor did landing on the rotten side of the Ulster draw.

9. Derry
Another side that has underperformed in recent seasons but Brian McIver has already secured promotion to the top flight for 2014 so they look set for a better championship than last year.

10. Laois
They will have to do it the hard way but a Leinster final is possible even if it will take three wins to get there — not to mention a crack at a team they almost shocked last year, Dublin. Will hope to avoid an early setback against Louth, as happened with Longford in 2012.

11. Monaghan
Malachy O’Rourke helped the side to the best defensive record in the top three divisions and that’s some achievement for a team that had been relegated in successive seasons before winning Division 3. Have underperformed in recent seasons but they are on the favourable side of the Ulster draw.

12. Westmeath
It's been a year of huge improvement for the Lake County as they earned an unexpected promotion to Division One and followed it up with a convincing Leinster SFC win over Carlow. Have been given great motivation by Paralympian Mark Rohan, a former underage player for Westmeath.

13. Meath
Gained promotion from Division 3 but fell away against Monaghan in the final. Rebuilding under Mick O’Dowd. Often seen as a championship side but it would be a surprise to see too much from the Royals in 2013.

14. Sligo
Very poor league campaign for a Yeats County side that has failed to produce a 70-minute performance this year. Should make a Connacht final, going on pedigree, but it’s hard to see them beating Mayo so they may need a good run in the qualifiers thereafter.

15. Wexford
Relegated from Division 2 and that’s not ideal preparation for a Leinster championship clash with Louth or Laois.

16. Cavan
Many may feel that Cavan's gameplan is rudimentary but it worked against Armagh and they should have won by more than four points. Have an outside shot of making an Ulster final because they are on the more favourable side of the draw but a good run in the qualifiers would be a good year. The loss of Gearoid McKiernan was huge but the emergence of Martin Dunne as a real scoring threat gives a boost further up the field.

17. Roscommon
Huge task to overcome Mayo in a provincial semi-final but All-Ireland club champions St Brigids proved the quality is there. Donie Shine is one of the best forwards around and the Brigids contingent can help them recover from a difficult league campaign. Galway fans won't be happy to be behind the Rossies after hammering them last year but the Tribe's result against Mayo forced our hand.

18. Armagh
Paul Grimley came in for huge criticism from Joe Brolly as his side allowed Cavan exploit their man-to-man tactics. Uphill battle to save their season, but Laois proved last year that it can be done.

19. Galway
Not big enough, not strong enough, not quick enough, not smart enough. Mayo utterly dismantled this young Galway side and it's no wonder that former greats such as Sean O Domhnaill are calling for huge change in how the county looks at football.

20. Longford
Often a very exciting team to watch but it remains to be seen how much substance they have this year because they did lose all of their NFL2 games, though only the Derry and Louth games were by any sizeable margin.

21. Fermanagh
Looked in decent shape for a second consecutive promotion until Meath got in the way. But Peter Canavan has his side in good shape heading into an Ulster clash with Cavan — a fixture which they will fancy.

22. Limerick
Have been very competitive with Munster’s big two in the majority of their clashes in recent seasons but will want to have their best XV out to make a good push. Need John Galvin and Ian Ryan fully fit after picking up injuries in the league final against Offaly.

23. Louth
Aidan O’Rourke’s side finished fourth in Division 2 but will fancy their chances against Laois, whom they feel they should have beaten during the league in Portlaoise. 

24. Tipperary
Unlucky that they have again been drawn against Kerry in the Munster championship but the duopoly that is also comprised of Cork will always make it a tall order for the Premier County. Have Barry Grogan back after the star forward spent last summer in the US while John Coughlan has defected from the hurlers. Will do well to emulate last year's qualifier run.

25. Antrim
Picked up just one win in Division 3 this year so and that was all the way back on February 3 against Cavan. Confidence could be iffy against Monaghan.

26. Offaly
Had recent experience of playing in Croke Park when Limerick beat them in the Division 4 league final but, before that, just four of the squad had played at GAA HQ. One of those, Niall McNamee, will lead the side out there against Kildare in their Leinster opener but it's hard to imagine the Rhode man scoring enough to keep their provincial hopes alive.

27. Wicklow
Harry Murphy led his side to a promotion from Division 4 last season that never seemed all that important to previous boss Mick O’Dwyer. Life in Division 3 for 2013 returned no wins and just two draws as they were relegated at the first attempt. Can give Longford a good rattle in Aughrim, with Tipp recruit Brian Coen a boost, but the loss of Leighton Glynn is a huge blow.

28. Clare
Will be looking for Mick O’Dwyer to produce some of the old magic that saw Wicklow record championship wins over Kildare and Down, plus draw with Armagh, but the Munster pool has two colossal sharks in it. A tall order.

29. Leitrim
Emlyn Mulligan scored 3-7 in the confidence-boosting win in New York but a seven-week wait until their clash with Sligo or London may take the wind out of their sails somewhat. Joint managers Barney Breen and George Dugdale are getting a good squad together but it would be a huge ask to win silverware from a Division 4 base.

30. Waterford
Niall Carew’s men picked up three wins from their seven Division 4 games and, while two of those came against local rivals Tipperary and Clare, they will more than likely be suffering at the hands of Kerry in a Munster semi-final. After that, the qualifiers must be kind to them.

31. Carlow
Second worst team in the entire four Divisions of the league and were beaten soundly by Westmeath in their Leinster opener. Besides Brendan Murphy, they are lacking quality. 1000/1 outsiders with good reason.

32. London
The worst team in the entire league and an outside shot against Sligo in the Connacht championship.

33. New York
Hammered out of their own gates at Gaelic Park by Leitrim so their season is already over. 

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