Posted by Shane Stapleton

Dublin and Kerry have claimed provincial titles while Mayo and Donegal look set to join them. The early titles may quickly reflect our order of power — which are based on form, expectations and quality.

Pwr week 09aDublin and Kerry have claimed provincial titles while Mayo and Donegal look set to join them. The early titles may quickly reflect our order of power — which are based on form, expectations and quality.

1. Donegal (unchanged from last week)
As Jean Rasczak said in Starship Troopers: “I need a corporal. You're it, until you're dead or I find someone better.” Those putting Dublin at the top of the charts as All-Ireland favourites might be jumping the gun slightly because Donegal are still unbeaten. Yes, they were relegated in the league, haven’t been overly spectacular in their two championship wins, and have to find out if they have the appetite again for the work that took them to the game’s summit last year. But until they are beaten, or until Dublin do something special, they stay top here because we haven't even seen their top gear.

2. Dublin (-)
We’ll address the doubting Thomases in a moment but first let’s look at the good of Dublin. Twice now they’ve absorbed early scores against their Leinster rivals to win well. Kildare went 1-2 to zilch ahead but could add very little after as the Dubs walked it; Meath went 0-2 to zip in front but lost by seven. The difference was that the Royals didn’t collapse after Paul Flynn found the net and, had they taken more of their chances, Mick O’Dowd’s side might have come even closer. Still, Dublin never looked to be in top gear and always seemed capable of pulling away. Their detractors will say their game plan will be exploited by the best sides but Dublin will also play with more intensity on those days. Still number two in our books.

3. Mayo (-)
Mayo may not have been overly impressive in the very early stages of their Connacht semi-final win over Roscommon but they ground down and turned to dust the challenge of the 2010 champs. Twelve different scores, including numbers four through seven, shows how well they combine as a team. Maybe they need to be more direct in attack at times but we really won’t know exactly where they are at until it gets to later in the summer. Should walk the Connacht final against London after the thrashing of Galway and destruction of the Rossies.

4. Kerry (-)
Kerry were sublime and the pace at which they attacked was lovely to watch. They won’t get that time or space against Dublin or Donegal and they don’t have as many pacy threats in the team, so an All-Ireland is still a tall order. What better county to prove us wrong though. Won’t have been happy with a mini-collapse during the second half but they will feel there is more to come. After the early struggles in the league, Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s debut season is bubbling along nicely.

5. Cork (-)
We would sooner judge Cork when Paddy Kelly and Ciaran Sheehan are fit to start, and when Eoin Cadogan is right. All three add a real drive to the team and people spoke of how lateral the Rebels were — well, Kelly and Sheehan would add that directness. You need players running at defences and it was unusual to see another man who does just that, Paul Kerrigan, so peripheral. For Cork to recover and win an All-Ireland, they need to have more than just Aidan Walsh penetrating from deep. They also looked very open in defence and Kerry aren’t the only side who will expose that.

6. Tyrone (-)
Tyrone scored just 0-5 in the first half of their qualifiers against Roscommon — not what you'd expect of Mickey Harte’s men after the destruction of Offaly. Perhaps it was a case of finding it hard to get up for another game they were expected to win with ease. They’ll be alarmed with the Rossies getting so many goal chances though, meaning warning signs are there for Harte’s charges. Won an All-Ireland from Round One of the qualifiers in 2008, lest we forget.

7. Meath (+2)
And so it seems, the bitterest of rivals do indeed bring out your best. Mick O’Dowd has taken a team from a Division 3 preparation to within a few scores of one of the elite teams in the sport. Stephen Bray set the tone early with two points and even after the Dubs hit back, the Royals didn’t fade. Had they shown more accuracy, a shock might have been on. A meeting with Kildare or Tyrone in the qualifiers was a tough break but you’d suspect that they won’t go down easily under O’Dowd.

8. Derry (-1)
Derry lost a classic shootout against Down in Ulster but their season has rebounded nicely, albeit in much more sedate circumstances. We mean this in the sense that, whereas the Mourne County racked up 2-17 against Derry in the opener, the Oak Leafers have conceded a grand total of 1-13 in their two qualifier wins since over Sligo and Down. James McCartan’s men managed just 1-5 of that and didn’t produce a score from play in the second half.

9. Kildare (-1)
We get it, Kieran McGeeney has a great record in the qualifiers but so often the teams in the back door are ones not always good enough for the front. This time they meet Tyrone, who in any other province might well be, so we should soon see the true colour of Kildare’s money then. Louth troubled the Lilies for much of the game but eventually the home side at Newbridge showed their extra gas, holding the Wee County scoreless for the final 18 minutes. Still, Geezer will know that his side gives up possession too easily and, as against Dublin, that is what could cost them again.

10. Laois (-)
2012 began with a shocking loss to Longford and again a championship season began in inauspicious circumstances for Justin McNulty’s side after a 10-point home loss to Louth. Just like last year though, Laois may be about to gather some moment. They beat a poor Carlow side on the first Friday night championship clash and hammered Clare in Ennis this time. It’s the luck of the draw as to how far they go  good, but well short of the very best.

11. Down (-)
The opening-day win over Derry was exceptional and they gave Donegal a good game after that but their season is over. Derry avenged that Ulster loss and did so with progressive ease as the clock wore down. The Mourne Men were stung by the loss of Benny Coulter but to score just 1-5 was poor, and two late red cards exhibited their frustration at managing just a single placed-ball score in the second half.

12. Monaghan (-)
Deserved their win over Cavan but are lucky to have avoided a replay after goalkeeper Rory Beggan clearly overcarried the ball near his own goal late on. The Farney County have beaten Antrim and the Breffni County now and, in that time, we have seen nothing to suggest that they can put it up to Donegal — who would soundly beat either.

13. Cavan (-)
A third championship win in 12 months over Fermanagh might not necessarily prove that this Cavan team is on a huge upward curve but it shows consistency. The Erne County are no bad side, after all. Referee Michael Duffy brandished three red cards and 12 years in a sour qualifier clash, and one as lacking in entertainment as when the sides met in Ulster. Terry Hyland will be pleased to see eight different starters scoring from play. Full steam ahead for Derry — a tougher test.

14. Armagh (-)
Paul Grimley came in for huge criticism from Joe Brolly as his side allowed Cavan exploit their man-to-man tactics. It was always going to be an uphill battle to save their season but an absolute destruction of Wicklow gave them a chance to feel as if that's possible. To smash eight goals past Leitrim should imbue them with further belief but let’s be realistic: the Garden County were relegated from Division 3, and Leitrim are in the bottom tier. Still, Grimley will fancy a crack at a flagging Galway side.

15. Wexford (+1)
Aidan O’Brien said that he was embarrassed with his side’s performance by midway through the first half. A couple of goals in the second half brought the Model County right back into it and their strong finish to the game and extra time bodes well for the future. Will fancy their chances at home to Laois.

16. Louth (-1)
It was been an up and down season for Louth. It started with an impressive 10-point win in Laois but when Drogheda hosted its first home championship game since 1998, the heaving local crowd were unable to halt the Wexford charge in Leinster. They were clearly the better side against Antrim for long spells but made hard work of it in the end, despite winning by six. Didn’t quite have the legs for Kildare in Newbridge. Seem to be on an upward curve.

17. Longford (-)
There is so little to separate Longford from Wexford and perhaps referee Padraig O’Sullivan’s decision to not award a free to Paul Barden, favouring an advantage, has on its own cost Glenn Ryan’s side their season. There was a regrettable melee at the end of normal time and that mars both side’s championship but these two teams — who have played so often in recent times — always provide entertainment. Punished for leaking goals.

18. Roscommon (-)
Started well against Mayo in the Connacht final but were beaten with more ease than expected. Donie Shine is one of the best forwards around and the fact that he couldn’t start this game was a massive blow, with the game was over by the time he was introduced. Will rue not taking some of the goalscoring chances against Tyrone as a shock win was on.

19. Galway (-)
Highly unimpressive from Galway to beat a Waterford team that was destroyed by Kerry by just a point. When the final whistle went, the Tribe players were trudging off as if beaten, showing that they realised how poor they had been. And the fact that this was at home too would worry their fans… well, the few that showed up. Hardly set the world alight against Tipp before that either.

20. Fermanagh (-)
A bitterly disappointing end to the season and the pained look on the face of Peter Canavan after a second championship loss to Cavan in 2013 told the story. The game ended with three reds and 12 yellows, and the Tyrone legend refused to comment on the officials for fear of getting into trouble. The qualifier clash with the Breffni men seemed to become a game of score-settling after so many recent clashes — and it eventually ruined what was already a drab enough affair. So a poor end to the season but they did beat Westmeath on their journey, who will be a Division 1 team next year.

21. Sligo (-)
Eamonn O’Hara gave both barrels to manager Kevin Walsh on the Sunday Game after the loss in London and, grinding axes or not, it put the boss in the spotlight. It’s hard to say if Walsh would have stayed on had that furore not happened but he has decided five years is enough after the tame defeat to Derry — in the same year when they barely preserved their Division 3 status.

22. London (-)
The worst team in the entire league but, after a win over Sligo and a replay win in Leitrim at the Connacht semi-final stage, the Exiles are in a provincial final for the first time. There has been a steady and incremental improvement under Paul Coggins in recent seasons, but it’s hard to imagine anything but a comfortable win for Mayo in the final. Held on against Leitrim in epic fashion. Yes Sligo are just ahead of them because, were they to meet again on Irish soil, we’d back the Yeats County.

23. Limerick (-)
Have been very competitive with Munster’s big two in the majority of their clashes in recent seasons but were destroyed by Cork this time. Two late cards against Longford in an 11-point defeat highlight what a shocking day at the office they had in the qualifiers. A poor championship.

24. Westmeath (-)
It had 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. Few people expected them to beat Dublin at Croke Park and the scale of their defeat probably put to bed any questions of the Lake County beating Jim Gavin's side if they had them down in Cusack Park. Have slid down this table sharply, and you might argue they are better than some of those ahead in the packing order, but their results have been disastrous. Hammered by Dublin and beaten by a Division 3 team. Will climb the rankings quickly next year, we feel.

25. Tipperary (-)
Quite a come-down from last year’s fine qualifier run as Galway proved the better side in Round One. Taken apart by a Kerry side that was still in league mode during the Munster championship.

26. Antrim (-)
For a county with a bigger pick of players than any other of the Ulster counties, Antrim really do underperform. They were incredibly poor against Monaghan and to score 0-6 over 70 minutes was pathetic, particularly with the Farney County down a man for much of the second half. Tried to hang on against Louth but never looked a likely winner.

27. Offaly (-)
You have to feel for Offaly. Manager Emmet McDonnell seems to be doing a good job but, as a Division 4 side, they were hugely unfortunate to be twice drawn with top-tier opposition. Kildare struggled to shake off the Faithful County but the biggest shark in the Round One qualifiers water, Tyrone, simply dismantled them on their own patch.

28. Leitrim (-)
Armagh’s eight-goal destruction of Leitrim tells you all you need to know about how well prepared London are for a Connacht final with Mayo. Leitrim were annihilated at home by the Orange County and, after promising so much, it’s turned out to be a terrible season. The breach of discipline by four key players certainly didn’t help the cause.

29. Wicklow (-)
Harry Murphy’s side didn’t win a single game in Division 3 of the league this year so to beat Longford 1-15 to 0-16 in the Leinster SFC was quite a feat — it being their first championship win since 2010. Didn’t have the staying power against Meath and were put to the sword by Armagh.

30. Clare (-)
Clare were beaten well by Cork but showed a little fight that day. It did the footballers of the Banner County no favours that a good portion of the crowd filed out after the home side won the hurling half of this double header against Laois in Ennis. The O’Moore County won the football with the same ease as Clare’s hurlers won the small ball. It was an unfitting send-off for Mick O’Dwyer, who of course may yet wash up some place else.

31. Waterford (-)
Niall Carew's men suffered a horrendous beating by Kerry last weekend and it's a failing of the championship structure that such weak teams continue to be loaded into the abbatoir. Ran Galway closer than expected.

32. Carlow (-)
Second worst team in the entire four Divisions of the league and were beaten soundly by Westmeath in their Leinster opener. Had a great start against Laois but we soundly beaten in the end.

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

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