All-Ireland Senior Football Championship 2020: Our writers’ and pundits’ predictions

Our experts find it hard to look past Dublin and Kerry as winners of unique competition

Dublin’s Paul Mannion celebrates with the Sam Maguire after defeating Kerry in last year’s All-Ireland final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Dublin’s Paul Mannion celebrates with the Sam Maguire after defeating Kerry in last year’s All-Ireland final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Seán Moran

How much will a straight knock-out championship change things? Or should we just be expecting six in a row for Dublin?

No. The new format means counties won’t be going to the same starting line at the quarter-final stage. Dublin are likely to be undercooked after solely a provincial campaign.

Do Mayo have another kick left in them and will the shortened season have suited them?

Hard to see. The shorter season should suit them but they’ve such a poor recent record in Connacht and there’ll be no rehab through the qualifiers.

The best footballer in the land at present is?

Difficult to look beyond David Clifford and James McCarthy.

Name your four provincial winners?

Galway, Dublin, Kerry and Donegal.

What are the positives that can be taken from this year’s football season?

That, regardless of what’s still to come, we had any season at all.

Darragh Ó Sé

How much will a straight knock-out championship change things? Or should we just be expecting six in a row for Dublin?

Not as much as the lack of crowds. A big home crowd in a knockout game could lift underdogs to do things they never thought they could. But in empty grounds, the best teams will be even better. You’d expect Dublin to do it alright.

Do Mayo have another kick left in them and will the shortened season have suited them?

Getting Colm Boyle back is a huge boost to them. They’ll need to be on it from the word go because Galway aren’t messing around. The shortened season suits everybody until they lose.

The best footballer in the land at present is?

Same as last year, same as every year. James McCarthy, rain, hail or shine. I wouldn’t swap him for anyone in any team.

Name your four provincial winners?

Dublin, Kerry, Galway and Donegal.

What are the positives that can be taken from this year’s football season?

That the players put themselves through so much to make sure it happened. It was far from a given that it would take place. Players deserve huge admiration from everyone for that.

Malachy Clerkin

How much will a straight knock-out championship change things? Or should we just be expecting six in a row for Dublin?

It will remind us why we don’t have straight knock-out anymore. That and penalties will be the main takeaways. And yes, expect a six-in-a-row. Dublin only have to win, at most, three games against Division One teams. Last year they had five.

Do Mayo have another kick left in them and will the shortened season have suited them?

They haven’t beaten Galway in Connacht since 2015 – and this looks like the best Galway team they’ve faced since in that time. They’ve been more suited to the grand odyssey than the short, sharp shock. It would be a surprise if that has changed.

The best footballer in the land at present is?

Walking around a hospital ward with a stethoscope hung around his neck and a goofy smile on his face. A championship without Jack McCaffrey is an empirically lessened thing.

Name your four provincial winners?

Dublin, Kerry, Galway, Monaghan.

What are the positives that can be taken from this year’s football season?

The simple fact that it is happening. At so many turns, the easy thing would have been to pull the plug on it. And there’s every chance that will happen yet. But the GAA are moving mountains to do a difficult thing here. Kudos to them for it.

Aidan O’Shea will be hoping to lead another Mayo title tilt. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Aidan O’Shea will be hoping to lead another Mayo title tilt. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Kevin McStay

How much will a straight knock-out championship change things? Or should we just be expecting six in a row for Dublin?

In matters of championship speculation, rule No 1 is to consult the draw. With no qualifier series to provide a safety net we will be saying goodbye to 5 of the following provincial champions/contenders before the end of November: Tyrone/Donegal/Armagh/Mayo/Galway/Roscommon/Cork/Kerry. Dublin have the easiest of spins, so they are nailed down final four. And I believe Kerry are also. So, with the semi-finals draw keeping them apart, there is your final right there. Kerry to win it.

Do Mayo have another kick left in them and will the shortened season have suited them?

Second part of the question first. The “blink and you miss it” nature of the championship should suit Mayo following their recent seasons on the “Magical Mystery Tour” that is the qualifier route. It should especially suit their senior/veteran class which is significant. But have they another kick left in them? Roscommon away will not be simple for Mayo. And the bookies make Galway favourites to win Connacht. But Galway in a final in Pearse Stadium always provides Mayo with the possibility of victory. However, an All-Ireland semi-final win versus an emerging (established?) Kerry team should prove beyond Mayo at this stage.

The best footballer in the land at present is?

Going on club form (and that is all we must go on at present) take your pick from David Clifford, Aidan O’Shea, or James McCarthy. I would pick O’Shea. In great shape, looks very energised for the campaign ahead and is coming off excellent performances in Mayo club championship.

Name your four provincial winners?

Donegal (but if there is a surprise, it will be the emergence of Armagh), Dublin, Mayo and Kerry.

What are the positives that can be taken from this year’s football season?

That we had some semblance of a season at all! It’s the blinding obvious of course, but the emergence of what will be a road-tested split season for club and intercounty season has provided real potential and this opportunity, though it has many creases yet to be ironed out, must be exploited. Another major positive is the GAA’s first tentative steps towards “central funding” of the intercounty championships. GAA officials in Croke Park will have noted their ability to restrict spending (using easy to understand and apply regulations) and take back control of various expenditures. Again, it is a complex model to develop to the satisfaction of all (what about sponsorships in each county? And how that might continue to skew each income curve) but it must be the way forward.

Joanne Cantwell

How much will a straight knock-out championship change things? Or should we just be expecting six in a row for Dublin?

When 2019 ended, the high of, and subsequent comedown from, creating history had to have an effect on Dublin’s motivation. Now for the first time they’re being doubted, questioned about how they’ll cope with a new manager, retirements, winter football, being caught on an off-day . . . lack of motivation no longer a problem. Teams are getting closer, knock-out or otherwise, but not sure they’re quite there yet. Also, depth of squad will be key.

Do Mayo have another kick left in them and will the shortened season have suited them?

I’ve given up making predictions about Mayo! In theory, a shortened season will suit them more but let’s not forget that their second game is against the defending Connacht champions and, if they get through that, their third is probably against a Galway team that could have their main men back. Could be a very short season but then again, it’s Mayo (look at the Galway game in Tuam). Who knows?

The best footballer in the land at present is?

A very difficult question . . . we’re blessed at the moment. The form-man pre-lockdown was Shane Walsh, Michael Murphy is still probably the best all-rounder and exceptionally influential, David Clifford is, well, David Clifford. Does Brian Fenton’s consistent deliveries of A+ performances still edge him ahead? Maybe.

Name your four provincial winners?

There were some signs during the league that Monaghan may have something up their sleeves but I’m, marginally, going for the winner of Donegal and Tyrone . . . If they’re not decimated, Donegal. Kerry, Galway and Dublin for the others.

What are the positives that can be taken from this year’s football season?

Hopefully, we’ll see the continued evolution of this new, modern, attacking game (Galway in the springtime suggests we will), but I fear increased practice of the advanced mark in training (which came in too late before the league began earlier this year to really be used to its full extent then) might have a huge influence on how the game is played, and not necessarily a good one.

Keith Duggan

How much will a straight knock-out championship change things? Or should we just be expecting six in a row for Dublin?

It will clearly demonstrate the appeal of a compressed championship with quality games coming thick and fast. But the circumstances are so unique and strange that it won’t change anything.

Do Mayo have another kick left in them and will the shortened season have suited them?

Their day out against Galway would suggest so. And yes, a short championship through which they can build momentum is tailor made for them.

The best footballer in the land at present is?

Michael Murphy.

Name your four provincial winners?

Dublin. Kerry. Mayo. Donegal.

What are the positives that can be taken from this year’s football season?

That the game continues to get better as a sport.

Donegal’s Michael Murphy remains one of the best in the country. Photograph: Tom O’Hanlon/Inpho
Donegal’s Michael Murphy remains one of the best in the country. Photograph: Tom O’Hanlon/Inpho

Ian O’Riordan

How much will a straight knock-out championship change things? Or should we just be expecting six in a row for Dublin?

It changes everything and nothing: nothing in the sense that Dublin are still the team to beat, and everything about the straight knock-out makes them that bit more beatable. The strength of their opposition holds sway, six in a row still my expectation.

Do Mayo have another kick left in them and will the shortened season have suited them?

Another kick, yes and they are likely now to kick Galway out. Who knows how far they can go after that?

The best footballer in the land at present is?

Still hard to look anywhere near or far beyond David Clifford, his form in the county title win with East Kerry testament to that, the addition of his brother Paudie likely to add some further incentive to shine.

Name your four provincial winners?

Dublin still have it handy in Leinster, Kerry have the run of Munster, Galway may now lose Connacht to Mayo, and Donegal are hungry for Ulster.

What are the positives that can be taken from this year’s football season?

The positive for now is that it’s still on course to start, keeping some hope and interest alive, even if an actual finish still seems some way off . . .

Joanne O’Riordan

How much will a straight knock-out championship change things? Or should we just be expecting six in a row for Dublin?

I think there’ll be more pressure on teams to show up. I remember some Cork football teams didn’t care too much about losing Munster as they had the safety net to fall back on. That being said, I can’t see past the current Division 1 top tier teams. As for Dublin, no Diarmuid Connolly drama, no Jim Gavin to wrap them up in, I still think they have a better squad overall. It’s still a 70+ minute game!

Do Mayo have another kick left in them and will the shortened season have suited them?

It would be peak 2020 if Mayo were to wrestle Sam McCarthy through the Garda-checkpointed spots back to Mayo. Honestly, anything could happen, but I can’t see it.

The best footballer in the land at present is?

Michael Murphy. He’s the LeBron James of GAA.

Name your four provincial winners?

Unfortunately, the Cork boys will be waiting in the high grass for another year, so, Kerry, Donegal, Galway, Dublin.

What are the positives that can be taken from this year’s football season?

The big positive will be can we get through an actual championship, but, in all seriousness, maybe because it’s a no holds barred winner takes all competition, other teams might come out and give it a go.

Gavin Cummiskey

How much will a straight knock-out championship change things? Or should we just be expecting six in a row for Dublin?

One and done instantly provides more drama and a chance of an upset. Still, Dublin all the way.

Do Mayo have another kick left in them and will the shortened season have suited them?

No, this Mayo team’s All-Ireland can only be found in a parallel universe.

The best footballer in the land at present is?

Brian Fenton but David Clifford should become the most spectacular if/when he transfers his spectacular club form to the intercounty stage.

Name your four provincial winners?

Galway, Kerry, Tyrone, Dublin.

What are the positives that can be taken from this year’s football season?

That it happens at all.

Kerry’s David Clifford. If he can translate his spectacular club form to intercounty level the Kingdom will be hard to stop. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Kerry’s David Clifford. If he can translate his spectacular club form to intercounty level the Kingdom will be hard to stop. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Eamon Donoghue

How much will a straight knock-out championship change things? Or should we just be expecting six in a row for Dublin?

A straight knockout format will change very little for a Dublin team who play in the least competitive provincial championship. Therefore, much like last year, there’s two chances of them being beaten and it meaning the end of their summer – an All-Ireland semi-final or final. They remain firm favourites, rightly so, and will again have the advantage of a Leinster championship to find their groove in. I think it’s Kerry’s turn though after going so close in 2019.

Do Mayo have another kick left in them and will the shortened season have suited them?

They’ll play at most five games to win an All-Ireland so that’s definitely a positive for a team who have so much mileage in their legs. James Horan, as he has in the past, has added in some fresh faces and if they can come through a tough Connacht championship Mayo will be right in the mix.

The best footballer in the land at present is?

Michael Murphy is the best all-round player in the country. Brian Fenton is the ultimate midfielder and David Clifford is becoming the unstoppable attacking force as he was at underage level for the Kingdom, but Murphy can dominate anywhere in attack or midfield as well as relishing the dirty work and being Donegal’s inspirational leader.

Name your four provincial winners?

Kerry, Dublin, Mayo, Donegal

What are the positives that can be taken from this year’s football season?

The argument for a split season has been proven with players enjoying a shorter start-finish campaign with more time spent playing and preparing for matches rather than training. As for the football itself, referees appear to have really grasped the advantage rule during this year’s league campaign and it’s doing what it’s supposed to – give the attackers an advantage.

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