Provincial championship preview

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So here we are again. The beginning of the real football and when the summer crowds come forth expecting the League cobwebs to be blown away and the wheat to truly be separated from the chaff. At the end of it all will be another champion county standing alone with everyone else lost in their wake.

But who will prevail? And who are the true contenders versus the real pretenders? An initial delve then into the four provinces is required in an attempt to solve this annual riddle.


First stop fittingly is, Munster, the province of the current champions. Undoubtedly there is a resurge in certain counties in the province most notably Tipperary who prevailed through the Munster U21 road to contest the recent All-Ireland final. However, as most reading this know, U21 is a lot different to Senior level and in that respect even though they may cause a shock through the back door it seems unlikely that they will dislodge the usual fare coming through to contest the final.

Some will argue that the Munster championship is unfair. However, it should be remembered that it was through the Munster Council that the current agreement was put in place, with both Limerick and Waterford approving this set-up. So until a majority decide it is unfair then this agreement will have to stand. Some thought behind the reasoning for the current set-up is that it offers the other four hopefuls at least one game to prepare before meeting either of the top two. But it is still extremely difficult to see past either Cork or Kerry missing out on the final.

However based on current form both appear to be operating at different levels. Cork looked good all throughout the League right up until the final when for some bizarre reason they capitulated spectacularly. Where that leaves them in the overall scheme of things is difficult to know now as surely a trouncing in a League final will hardly bolster confidence levels for this group of players prior to the championship.

Kerry on the other hand took the complete opposite approach in the League and looked decidedly shaky throughout. And this lasted right up until when it counted most when relegation was staring them in the face. Rather fittingly it was away against their old foes Tyrone that they showed their true worth.

With David Moran highly influential at midfield and Colm Cooper back pulling the strings from centre half-forward they really looked like they were beginning to thrive again. With the rest of the big guns still set to arrive (Marc O Sé, Donnachadh Walsh, Aidan O’Mahony, James O’Donoghue and more), this group look decidedly formidable and most certainly will have a say in where the final silverware will land.

Standing against them is the tradition of All-Ireland winners losing the following year and of course several others who will be eager to similarly show they have what it takes.


To that end it is suitable to go straight over to the other hot favourite for overall honours and look at the lie of the land. Well, the sad fact is that Leinster is still a one-horse race and looks likely to stay that way for quite some time. Realistically the only team in anyone’s minds of stopping Dublin in their now traditional march to a Leinster title is Meath.

Meath had a good Division Two League campaign and were perhaps a little unfortunate not to win promotion. However what was far more significant for the province was the lineup at the other end of the table. The other three Leinster teams in Division Two all finished at the bottom of the table with both Kildare and Westmeath being relegated.

Overall the fare on offer in Leinster is decidedly poor. And when you ally that with Dublin’s resources, overall strength and power it’s not a huge prediction to see only one result here. The only real guessing game will be the margins of victory.


Up North things are trickier to figure out. Monaghan look the value bet here simply because of the nature of the draw with Donegal, Tyrone, Derry, Armagh and Down all residing on one side. Their biggest hurdle could be complacency in the run up to the final when coming up against the likes of Cavan, Fermanagh and Antrim.

On the harder side of the draw, Tyrone look a team in transition. The big question now is whether Mickey Harte will continue at the helm or whether the successful duo of Canavan and Dooher are ready to make the move up. Time will tell and although it’s very dangerous to underestimate them it’s difficult to see the current Tyrone team making a big impact this year.

Derry too were very unconvincing and were overwhelmed in Division One in 2015, resulting in relegation prior to the last game. On the up side Armagh won Division Three but whether they have enough to offer yet is uncertain. Down too won promotion but they were easily defeated when losing a man to Roscommon early in the Division Two final.

So on current form Donegal look the likeliest to come through from this pack. They have a very solid defence allied to strong young talent consistently coming through. And in Paddy McBrearty they have in this person’s opinion the best corner forward in the country. They also have the experience at this level and know they can compete with any of the big guns on the national stage.

The big question is sustaining it through the minefield above. Will fatigue catch up with them on the way with one big game after another? That is the difficult question that needs to be evaluated before making the final call. And in making the call the evaluation is that they will have enough to prevail in Ulster this season but fatigue perhaps will come back to bite them later on in the year.


Closer to home the ground water looks decidedly muddy when trying to predict the eventual winner. The nature of the draw, as WJ has alluded to, is completely daft with one team probably playing twice before meeting someone who hasn’t played at all. Galway will try to use this advantage as much as possible and although Leitrim will possibly test them it is more than likely only a building block to the crunch game on the 14th June.

The winners will most likely face a test against the very strong up and coming Roscommon. London and Sligo will certainly put it up to the Rossies but the fact that they are on a high roll now will surely take them past these examinations.

In fairness to the Rossies it already has been a great season with winning the Division Two title. Ally that with another U21 Connacht championship and the future looks bright for that yellow bus to be utilised a lot more as the championship year progresses. Whether this will culminate in a 2015 Nestor Cup remains to be seen as a lot will depend on who comes through from Salthill.

If it is Galway then the final will probably be in Castlebar but if it is Mayo who prevail in Salthill, then it is a different call to be made. Basically the Galway v Mayo game is crucial to the whole outcome in Connacht and to our own whole season. To that end a separate analysis is required as there is simply too much to discuss than what can be fitted into general observations.

Overall though the scene though is set yet again for hopefully another thriller season. And although some will argue that the real football won’t begin until the Bank Holiday weekend in August, the build up will still be entertaining as the ups and downs of the various footballing realms are laid bare. To that end all GAA fans can look forward to what will hopefully be a cracking three months before the final curtain will come down once more and the provincial results for 2015 are decided.

55 thoughts on “Provincial championship preview

  1. Great piece.. Agree with you on all four provinces. If Mayo win in Salthill and face Roscommon then I believe the game will be in Castlebar because last year we went to Hyde Park and there is a home/away agreement.

    I am open to correction on that one but I am almost sure its the case

  2. Got a bit trigger happy with the buttons there.

    I meant to finish by saying if it is the case and Mayo would have home advantage against Roscommon then I would back Mayo to win Connaught again

  3. Dublin will stroll Leinster. Donegal for ulster, even though Monaghan are a nice team. Kerry will walk Munster though I agree with the post about Tipp coming good again. They could upset either Kerry or cork because they have a few top class forwards, it could happen only if Kerry are complacent on the day.
    If coc is ok I cannot see either Galway or Roscommon beating Mayo. There’s just too much power, speed and experience in Mayo when it comes to the crunch.
    Allireland winner will be one of the usual contenders. Dublin, Kerry , donegal, cork and Mayo if they stay injury free. Dublin are my pick, by head not heart of course. They just have do many players to choose from and are so well organised that they could win 3 of the next 5. Mayo are my second favorites by head, and overall favorites by heart. Kerry will probably suffer the usual champions fate somewhere, hopefully, I’ll be tuned in to see donaghys face when he realises he ll be going back to work.

  4. I cannot see why the venue for a Mayo v Rosc Connacht final should be in doubt. Ok, Hyde Park is ruled out for a final but that cannot be an issue until next year at the earliest.
    I accept that a cute hoor type argument could be made but it would take a lot of very stupid hoors to agree with it. Still, I supppose with Connacht Council, you never know.

  5. If Mayo beat Galway our County Board need to grow a pair of balls and dig in on the home/away arrangement. Not our issue that the Hyde is a dump.

  6. Just an observation, but if we were to lose against Galway, 3 teams out of Down, Derry, Armagh, Tyrone and Donegal would be in our qualifier draw. An away draw in any of those would be decidedly tricky – we cannot countenance losing Connacht.

  7. I agree Ger Bohan – as must as we argue about Limerick last year, it had some impact in the overall performance, however small that may be. We lost that battle in the board room and subsequent battle on the pitch. This year, the team and county board need to lay down some markers. This will the first of many in a year when we all hope will end in landing big lugs.

  8. Only focus for us has to be on Salthill. If we can get through that game with a decent performance and no new injuries it will set us up nicely for the final, no matter who we meet there. Not much seeping out of the camp at the moment in terms of form etc and I reckon that’s a good thing.

  9. I really don’t get how so many are discounting both Galway, and to a lesser extent, Roscommon. We beat Roscommon by “1 point” last year and they have improved.. Everyone forgets or ignores the time we played Leitrim, a very average team, in the Connacht final and they beat us. We were by far the “superior” team. Will we ever learn????

  10. Joe

    Galway blew a few big leads in division 2 this past league, not a good sign if we are to take the league as a barometer. Roscommon have improved, I agree, but until they get a couple of years division 1 league football it’s hard to see them beating any big team on a championship day. They nearly had us last year but the difference between the panels became apparent when Mayo needed it to happen.

  11. The one point victory thing over Ros last year is misleading. Mayo were well below par in first half, Ros played the blanket but our lads took some poor shooting options, more our being below par than them being great at the blanketand weather was crap which we didn’t factor in 1st half approach. We should have been 6 or 7 points up by half time. Ros got a goal at a good time and their confidence grew. Plus JH took a rare risk with 2 rookies in HF line and yes Andy did dig us out, we were nearly gonner but that can happen if an underdog gets their tails up. Difference this year is we can expect a monumental effort from the off from our opponents who can now see real opportunity.
    I’d say Ros are maybe 5 points better a team this year but if new found confidence means they don’t play the blanket probably still a few points off Mayo’s toughness and experience so we should win. Galway are more unknown, their forwards have improved with Comer playing well and Lundy will be a bundle of energy in however many games they play this year and if Walsh improves they’re serious up front. The unknown is have their backs improved? No doubt they’ll have learned from last year’s exit to Kerry but have they found the right personnel? Looks like Cork maybe haven’t found a few more top backs, maybe Galway have the same problem. Time will tell. Be more worried about Galway than Ros being first game but we may know bit more about them after their 2nd game. If we beat Galway I think we’ll beat Ros but not without digging deep.

  12. So… Connaught – Mayo
    Leinster – Dublin
    Munster Tipp to have a go, but Kerry and Cork might come with a game plan and catch them out.
    Ulster is 3 horse race (include Monaghan) but would pick the winner of Donegal Tyrone. 1-15 I think Donegal and with McBrearty now physically built up and McNailis looking good they look serious contenders for Sam on the other side of draw if they navigate Ulster. But that first game could be the tightest Championship blanket we’ll see yet.

  13. If I recall right Mayo starting six forwards in the Hyde last June only scored 0-3 between and it was frees from Mcloughlin,O Connor that got Mayo to fall over the line. If a similar performance is produced in Salthill it could be curtains.

    Connacht Mayo
    Leinster Dublin
    Munster Kerry
    Ulster Monaghan

    Is how I see it going this summer. Ulster the hardest to pick as anyone of Armagh Tyrone Donegal and even improving Cavan could win but I’ll go with Monaghan.

  14. I know its probably against the norm but common sense should prevail for once and a Mayo v Rosscommon final can only take place in Castlebar.

  15. It’s hard to know Joe where it would take place if it were to pan out Mayo v Ross . The ballyhainis buck will do all he can to get it to castlebar but I still suspect the decision will be Roscommons .

  16. Sean, the suits in Croke Park call the shots with our beloved County Board and with a potential of close to 40,000 sell out they will have it in Castlebar.
    More income for them to help reduce the debt.

  17. Dave. One of the points I would make is that statistics and logic can go out the window on the day. There are far too many variables that can change the outcome. I prefer to focus on the next match only and plan to win it at all costs.

  18. Sean Burke,

    Can you please explain your logic in thinking that a Mayo Rosc CF might not be in Castlebar. As I said before the issue of Hyde Park not being able host a CF can only come into play next year at the earliest, bar a draw this year. Even at that I cannot see why Salthill, with all its access problems would be considered for a Mayo v Rosc Connacht Final. 80% of the attendance would be travelling through Claregalway. Ulster Finals have been played in Croke Park, why not a Connacht Final.

  19. Should be in Castlebar me thinks. Last time we played Roscommon was in the Hyde, so it’d be our turn next. Even if there was a different home/away arrangement for finals, the last time we played the Rossies in a final was also in the Hyde.

    Maybe there’s some confusion as if it’s Sligo/Leitrim/London in a final, they get to pick the venue and can’t pick Hyde Park anymore, so they would presumably pick Salthill (except for London of course!).

  20. If the home and away agreement with Roscommon has been withdrawn cine the Hyde has been downgraded then that agreement will only come into place when a Roscommon v Mayo fixture happens where Ros are the home team. That won’t happen this year IF we meet.

  21. Rightyo , that actually makes sense . My thinking was the agreement became null and void when Hyde was deemed unfit to hold final , therefore neutral venue becomes the immediate venue for finals involving Roscommon.

  22. The usual cocky stuff from the Rossie’s in the paper today, with Senan Kilbride on about being ready to challenge Mayo. He would want to concentrate on London, and then on Sligo before thinking any further. Sligo at home against the Rossie’s will be no cake walk for the primrose and blue.

  23. I Think all Connaght finals should be in McHale park as thje facilities are excellent,i brought my 2 young girls to the Mayo v Donegal league game & it was like going to the cinema everyone had their own seat the toilets for the ladies & kids were spotless the
    view was fantastic.I know I wont be able to bring the girls to Salthill as its standing 3 sides of the ground with only 1 stand & they wouldn’t be able to see a thing.

    Hyde Park is a dump

  24. Im not sure what article you read YoungFella but the one I saw from Kilbride in the Indo stated that Mayo were still kingpins in Connacht and the rest of the teams need to up their game to beat them. It also said the Rossies wud only worry about a Connacht final if they got there. We seem to be more concerned about other teams than Mayo itself. Maybe its years of not winning an All-Ireland but we seem to fear when a team might be able to challenge us. I have said it before on here. I think we could take a leaf out of the Rossies book and be more confident in our own ability. If Mayo dont win Connacht this year then it would be a failure for us and if Galway or Roscommon won then it wud be a major success for them. We are the ones with years of Division 1 football behind us so why are we concerned about others. Other supporters of course love their county and will big them up just like we do ourselves. More positive thinking is what we need and we should be able to win a Connacht final in any ground let it be Castlebar, Salthill or Croke Park. If we are turned over in Connacht then we can start to worry as it could be the end of this squad as we know it but until that happens then lets hope. God know we need it

  25. Agree with Mayo Madness, people seem to be shitting themselves at the thoughts of meeting Galway and Roscommon, who have’nt beaten a Genuine Div 1 team in God knows how long. I just cant wait until july 19th and all this “rossies are coming ” (hearing this for years now) and “galway the sleeping giants” bullshit is put to bed for another year at least. Its interesting to note that we have drifted inwards on betfair again for the 5 in a row, only a couple of weeks ago we were over even money, now a €2.00 bet will only return €1.56 so maybe the bookies are even starting to see through all this unsubstaniated horse shite! Hon Mayo ta fuck!!!!

  26. I think people are just a bit nervous. We are four 4 years at the top and no All Ireland. I don’t however agree that IF we are knocked out of Connacht its game over….the back door should be embraced if that is the route we have to take. For now though I will agree that we are Top dogs here until we are proven otherwise by our neighbours.

  27. Agree with you Steve. If we dont win Connacht then we have the back door. Someone here made a point about Galway as “sleeping giants” and sort of dismissed it. The last time they woke they won 2 All Irelands so lets hope they sleep a bit longer lol

  28. Any news on cillian hopefully will be back for galway game wonder who win Sunday tyrone or Donegal.

  29. Moyles on second captains and Devenney on off the ball MUST have the same “source” in Mayo regarding the supposed vibe from the camp. FFSake.

  30. Does anyone have any concrete proof on the vibe. If that was the case then its not good but it might just be a bit of kite flying also.

  31. There is a void at the moment created by lack of championship football. Sports hacks and pundits are under pressure to come up with something to talk about and since there is no actual football they come up with some other shite. All it takes is one lad to say “trouble in the Mayo camp” and it quickly spreads and becomes gospel. Does anyone really think that someone within the camp would confide in Anthony Moyles?
    I for one saw enough towards the end of the league to leave me looking forward to June 14th.

  32. The bad vibe stuff was first started by Sean Rice on the Mayonews podcast at the end of April he talked about some unrest but he also said that was the way it has always been with Mayo camps down the years but for some strange reason social media has made a mountain out of a molehill.

  33. People are getting very complacent about Galway. Think we need to soncentrate on them before we start thinking about the Rossies. As far as I have heard we will be lucky to have Cillian back fully fit. He’s only played 2 or 3 full games all year and we’re expecting him to dive right into the deep end against Galway for a big performance. Hopefully he’ll put up a big performance but its a lot to ask. Think we need other players to step up scoring wise

  34. I was at most of the league games home and away, and I was happy in general with our approach. I believe we got the best management team available at the time. The lads need time to settle in to the new setup. This will come in time if we are patient. I know Galway and Roscommon are improving all the time. How much have they improved in 12 months that is the question. Ros caught us on the hop last year, but they could not take us, I believe there is a backlash waiting for them in Castlebar if we make it that far. We beat Galway in second gear last year. Their progress will have to be huge in that period. They are putting a lot of faith on a young lad who likes to throw his weight around, but can he take it back?

  35. Roscommon lost by 4 points at home to Galway in the league so it just shows that Galway will be very dangerous. I just listened to both podcasts featuring Moyles and Devenney. There was nothing in them really to be honest or are there any trees around McHale Park that Donegal have someone up spying on Mayo training! Keith Higgins was interviewed on Seo Sport on TG4 tonight and sounds like he is up for the challenge ahead of leading Mayo into battle. Thats where all of us supporters should be too, following Keith and the team into battle on the 14th of June. Thats where we are at and we need to have all guns blazing on and off the field for that next few months ahead.

  36. Sure who knows in this crazy world of GAA we live in today, it could be all a ploy to make people think there’s trouble in the camp , Kerry used to do it one time . It’s a bit mad all the cloak and dagger stuff , sure that challenge against Clare maybe wasn’t a draw at all , we probably won by 22 points .

  37. Nobody has walked away from the panel and of any county that players could have given up in the last no. of years after all of the heartache, it would be Mayo players. So we shouldn’t give up on them either. A no. of counties have had players leave their panels in the last few years, Donegal, Tyrone, Down, Laois, Antrim, Galway but not us. Our players really are a credit to their families, clubs and county. We should all be 100% behind them. Roll on June 14th!

  38. I have to laugh, there’s a lovely dash of irony in people saying we shouldn’t look beyond GALWAY- who play Leitrim tomorrow themselves 😀 😀 😀

  39. Any one hear we played Cavan in a challenge yesterday evening in McHale Park behind closed doors?

  40. Are you sure ger , i heard Mayo lost by 18 points.

    Either way it’s not lookin good is it, I think we need a miracle at this stage for 2015.

  41. I am fairly certain Mayo didn’t play any challenge game on Friday night.

    Sorry to dampen down the rumours

  42. You’re an awful spoil sport Maori , couldn’t we just continue with the trend of complete pessimism.

  43. Haha sorry Sean. An 18 point loss to Cavan seems a little too pessimistic though

  44. Mcelhinney 1-2 from midfield for donegal yet martin carney reckoned he wasn’t doing enough around the middle

  45. Well done to the Mayo juniors on their five victory today. Hopefully the first of many Connacht Final victories this summer!

  46. Is that Adam Gallagher the U21 senior starter last a sub for Mayo juniors today? Dropping that far down the pecking won’t be good for his confidence if that’s him?

    Galway seniors didn’t pull up any trees against Leitrim and they are still poor in defence leitrim created numerous goal changes but none taken.

  47. Just back from Carrick. Well done to the Mayo team and management. Really enjoyed that game. Some great performances on show also. Galway were good also and could have won this match easily. They insisted in shooting for goals when a point could have got them over the line. I could only watch the senior game until half time. It was poor stuff. Galway showing little interest in the tie while securing the win, while Leitrim were lacking in enough quality players. They don’t have enough skilful players but they have huge heart and pride.

  48. Donegal impressed me today.The amount of running they done in first half especially some fitness .I don’t think we should underestimate Galway.There have 2 games under their belt and they will up their game us.Anyone know if Mayo has had any challenge games recently?

  49. Who going to win on June 14 th with cillian out am not to sure about màyo wining the comer lad is really good as well galway have home advantage I think mayo have it all to do.

  50. Very negative Cait. Sport (and especially team sports) can be very simple at times. The team with the better players wins the majority of times. How many Galway players would make the Mayo team? 4 or 5 at best? The odds for the 14th will be interesting?

  51. Hope màyo win really do but with out cillian am not convinced I hope I don’t sound to negative

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