County-by-county guide to the 2019 football championship
The 33 teams on the starting line in the race for Sam Maguire
Can anyone stop Stephen Cluxton and Dublin and the drive for five? All photographs: Inpho
Manager: Kevin Walsh (5th year)
Odds: All-Ireland 11/1; Connacht 4/5
Next up: v London, Ruislip, 5th May, 3.30
Galway’s league prospered for a while with new players and again beating Mayo. Another Croke Park put-down and a meek failure to reach the final on the last day were the downside. More positively, big players to come back in Damien Comer, Cillian McDaid (above), Paul Conroy and the Corofin detachment, all of whom hope to be back for any Connacht final.
Manager: Terry Hyland (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 5000/1; Connacht 150/1
Next up: v Roscommon, Dr Hyde Park, 12th May, 3.30
A great year so far with promotion secured for the first time in nearly 30 years and a feisty display in Croke Park, which showcased the attacking talent, Ryan O’Rourke etc, that has emerged to complement veteran Emlyn Mulligan. Problems include hasty shot selection and a defence that can be vulnerable to direct running but Terry Hyland has galvanised them.
Manager: Ciarán Deely (4th year)
Odds: All-Ireland 5000/1; Connacht 150/1
Next up: v Galway, Ruislip, 5th May, 3.30
Disappointing league season, falling to bottom of the heap from last year’s mid-table but London remained competitive against the best teams in the division and continue to develop home talent; manager Ciarán Deely hasn’t been afraid to use it and the team is roughly a 50-50 split now – centre forward Liam Gavaghan (above) and corner back Philip Butler the most prominent locals.
Manager: James Horan (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 8/1; Connacht 5/4
Next: v New York, Gaelic Park, 5th May, 2.15
Phoenix from the ashes feels slightly restrained an image for what James Horan’s first year back has so far achieved. Some promising call-ups, especially Matt Ruane (above) at centrefield, and at long last, a national title. Issues remain for the summer though – the attack didn’t always convince in the league although Cillian O’Connor was out – which will fully test the newcomers.
Manager: Justin O’Halloran (4th year)
Odds: All-Ireland 5000/1; Connacht 150/1
Next up: v Mayo, Gaelic Park, 5th May, 2.15
Justin O’Halloran’s problems remain the lack of adequate preparation matches and the conveyor-belt turnover of players. Eighty per cent of the team that took Leitrim to extra-time has moved on, including Jamie Clarke, now back in Armagh. There is some transatlantic movement in the other direction: Roscommon Connacht medallist Cathal Compton (above) , but also seven native New Yorkers on the panel.
Manager: Anthony Cunningham (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 200/1; Connacht 9/1
Next up: v Leitrim, Dr Hyde Park, 12th May, 3.30
Roscommon’s yo-yo existence continued, despite some encouraging results, with relegation from the top flight a fifth league transition in six seasons. Conor Cox (above) is a lively addition and Diarmuid Murtagh has returned after a serious eye injury with others expected back. Rejuvenated Mayo, who haven’t lost to Roscommon in 10 championships over 18 years, on same side of the draw.
Manager: Paul Taylor (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 2000/1; Connacht 40/1
Next up: v London/Galway, Markievicz Park, 19th May, 3.30
Not a great season so far for Paul Taylor. First relegation in eight years with the worst record in the country and Galway, who blitzed them by 21 points last year, are in the road ahead. Morale in the county predictably low even if a number of the stalwarts, like Niall Murphy and Darragh Cummins are still there.
Manager: Turlough O’Brien (4th year)
Odds: All-Ireland 2000/1; Leinster 150/1
Next up: v Meath/Offaly, Tullamore/Portlaoise, 25th May, 5.0/7.0
A league that started brightly ended in calamity with an unlucky, last-day relegation and flurry of heavy suspensions for the indiscipline at the end of the narrow defeat by Down, meaning Brendan Murphy (above) will be missing again this summer and management subject to whatever restrictions are enforced these days. After last year’s heroics this is already a difficult second album.
Manager: Jim Gavin (7th year)
Odds: All-Ireland 8/11; Leinster 1/20
Next up: v Louth/Wexford, Portlaoise/Wexford, 25th May, 7.0
Has Jim Gavin decided to do things differently this year or has there has been slippage? Top scorers in Division One but the defence creaked and the irresistible end games weren’t as apparent. Amidst Rory O’Carroll’s and Paul Flynn’s comings and goings, everything is so trained on this championship’s shot at five-in-a-row history that it feels paradoxically like a once-off.
Manager: Cian O’Neill (4th year)
Odds: All-Ireland 100/1; Leinster 16/1
Next up: v Wicklow, Carlow, 11th May, 7.0
The expected or hoped-for kick-on from last year’s promising participation in the quarter-finals hasn’t materialised with important players, principally All Star nominee Daniel Flynn (above), not involved and an underwhelming league, marked by some slack displays and indiscipline. There’s better in them but, with Dublin in a potential semi-final, they’ll need to lose the sense of stasis that has settled.
Manager: John Sugrue (2nd year)
Odds: All-Ireland 1000/1; Leinster 66/1
Next up: v Westmeath, Tullamore, 26th May, 2.0/3.0
A second successive promotion has Laois in good shape with manager John Sugrue saying that he believes it’s the strongest panel he’s had to date after a league in which plenty of players got a chance. Problem is that they lost twice to championship opponents Westmeath (above), largely on the back of loose forward play and poor use of possession.
Manager: Pádraic Davis (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 1000/1; Leinster 300/1
Next up: v Kildare/Wicklow, Tullamore/Longford, 26th May, 4.0/3.0
After what was a decent league considering the absence of so many players, not least from club-tied Mullinalaghta, culminated in comfortably preserving their Division Three status, Longford lost star performer Darren Gallagher, who as planned, has gone to the US, with talk of others following suit. Will be under pressure to maintain customary high standard of qualifier competitiveness.
Manager: Wayne Kierans (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 2500/1; Leinster 200/1
Next up: v Wexford, Wexford, 12th May, 3.0
After a horror 2018 they were being measured for a shroud before a ball was kicked but soared towards near-promotion, having banged in more goals – 12 – than any other county in the league and that despite being under-strength. Top scorer Sam Mulroy (above) had a fine season and with Ryan Burns also in attack, they’ll be well up for Wexford.
Manager: Andy McEntee (3rd year)
Odds: All-Ireland 100/1; Leinster 10/1
Next up: v Offaly, Navan, 12th May, 3.0
Finally it’s come together for Meath and the return to Division One after 13 years in exile is an important step. More relevantly the county achieved a consistency of performance with a greatly improved defence – Donal Keoghan (above) as the fulcrum – that conceded four points fewer per match in this year’s league. Attack has been more hit-and-miss but improvement is there.
Manager: John Maughan (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 2500/1; Leinster 400/1
Next up: v Meath, Navan, 12th May, 3.0
The last-gasp point in Sligo that just about fended off relegation may have been an endorphin rush but despite difficulties in engaging players and the latest high-profile Nigel Dunne departure, the team was a competitive during the league. Niall McNamee’s (above) return has been a plus but Navan is a hard draw with just one win in Leinster in 12 years.
Manager: Jack Cooney (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 1000/1; Leinster 100/1
Next up: v Laois, Tullamore, 26th May, 2.0/3.0
A great year to date with two pots already on the shelf and promotion secured back to the top half of the league. Kevin Maguire’s return and the form of Boidu Sayeh (above) have galvanised the defence while John Heslin and a prolific Ger Egan are formidable up front. Well organised and with two league wins already over championship opponents Laois.
Manager: Paul McLoughlin (2nd year)
Odds: All-Ireland 2500/1 and Leinster 500/1
Next up: v Louth, Wexford, 12th May, 3.0
Wexford endured another depressing league, getting well beaten by Leitrim and Waterford along the way. For whatever reason, the team has been underperforming given the talent available. Defensively they conceded more league goals, 14, than anyone except Sligo. Former Louth and Westmeath manager Colin Kelly (above) has been added to the back-room team, which may be an advantage in the championship opener.
Manager: John Evans (2nd year)
Odds: All-Ireland 5000/1 and Leinster 500/1
Next up: v Kildare, Carlow, 11th May, 7.0
A better league this year and a largely rejuvenated panel with a number of retirements in the past 12 months. Performances have been reasonably competitive – and Ross O’Brien (above) had a strong campaign at full back – but they finished a long way off promotion. Last year’s championship was highlighted by beating Offaly and playing Dublin but Kildare first up is daunting.
Manager: Colm Collins (6th year)
Odds: All-Ireland 1000/1; Munster 33/1
Next up: v Waterford, Ennis, 11th May, 7.0
The county’s place in Division Two still secure – now, with Kerry, one of only two Munster sides in the top half of the AFL. Showed terrific resolve to snatch decisive result from Tipp. David Tubridy (above) has again been in excellent form and the only cloud is the wretched luck of having Kerry on the same of the draw for a fourth successive year.
Manager: Ronan McCarthy (Above, 2nd year)
Odds: All-Ireland 250/1; Munster 10/1
Next up: v Tipperary/Limerick, Páirc Uí Rinn, 1st June, 7.0
Will relegation to Division Three be Cork’s moment of clarity or just the latest low mark? Fought hard against relegation and in the end slightly unlucky but confidence is rock-bottom, as befits a county with just six wins from 17 in the past two seasons, including two years in Division Two. Now in the conversation for new Tier 2 championship.
Manager: Peter Keane (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 9/2; Munster 1/16
Next up: v Clare/Waterford, Ennis/Dungarvan, 1st June, 7.0
As Peter Keane looks to turn promise into silver, an encouraging league came with a snag list. David Moran (above) needed at centrefield to buttress ball winning capacity and while attack is full of potential, defence lacks a structure for talented players and has lost former All Star Peter Crowley to injury. Will target an All-Ireland semi-final and taking it from there.
Manager: Billy Lee (3rd year)
Odds: All-Ireland 5000/1; Munster 500/1
Next up: v Tipperary, Thurles.11th May, 7.0
No escape from the doldrums so far despite a mild upturn being detected during the spring and with football thoroughly eclipsed by hurling in the county, morale could do with a lift. Cillian Fahy (above) was lively in the league and Brian Fanning is back but ineffective use of possession has been a frustration and prospects for the summer aren’t great.
Manager: Liam Kearns (4th year)
Odds: All-Ireland 500/1; Munster 16/1
Next up: v Limerick, Thurles, 11th May, 7.0
The glass ceiling effect has seen Tipp slip from championship sensations to narrowly missing out of promotion to Division One last year and then this season, a last-minute relegation back to Division Three. Liam Casey (above) and Steven O’Brien make for a decent centrefield and rookie Daire Brennan has started well but they need to take more advantage of Cork’s problems.
Manager: Benjy Whelan (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 2500/1; Munster 500/1
Next up: v Clare, Ennis, 11th May, 7.0
Not a bad league, finishing fourth in Division Four, for Benjy Whelan’s (above) first campaign and with last year’s breakthrough championship win over Wexford, Waterford are a bit more buoyant. They were second-top goal scorers in the league and Fearghal Ó Cuirinn showed well in attack. Goalkeeper Aaron Beresford’s injury has meant an unlikely panel call-up for 46-year old Darren Mulhearne.
Manager: Lenny Harbinson (1st season)
Odds: All-Ireland 2000/1; Ulster 66/1
Next up: v Tyrone/Derry, TBC, 25th May, 6.0
Becalmed in Division Four, Antrim have also suffered a significant turnover of players – Lenny Harbinson is at this stage missing nearly his entire defence –from last year. Throw that in with not having a home stadium and it’s easy to be downbeat. Stalwart corner back Mark Sweeney (above) withdrew recently because of work commitments. And, Tyrone probably on the way.
Manager: Kieran McGeeney (5th season)
Odds: All-Ireland 200/1; Ulster 14/1
Next up: v Down, Newry, 19th May, 4.0
Held their own in Division Two but in four years in charge, Kieran McGeeney’s team’s exploits have been limited to some good qualifier displays with no wins in Ulster. The return of Stefan Campbell (above) and Jamie Clarke this season and Rian O’Neill’s arrival gives the attack far more edge and a long overdue championship win could be on the cards.
Manager: Mickey Graham (1st season)
Odds: All-Ireland 300/1; Ulster 14/1
Next up: v Monaghan, Cavan, 18th May, 6.0
Throughout the league Cavan were competitive – average defeat just over a score – but Mickey Graham’s focus was always on the championship meeting with neighbours Monaghan, who they’ve nearly clipped a couple of times in recent championships. There’s attacking craft with Cian Mackey, Dara McVeety (above) and Gearóid McKiernan but the defence can be got at and concedes too many frees.
Manager: Damian McErlain (2nd season)
Odds: All-Ireland 300/1; Ulster 66/1
Next up: v Tyrone, Omagh, 12th May, 4.0
Without scorching the earth, Derry did the needful in getting out of Division Four without delay, as the only 100 per cent team in the league. Recent improvements at under-age level haven’t yet impacted on the seniors but Damian McErlain (above) has a reasonable blend of youth and experience. Against Tyrone, however, they have one win in eight going back 17 years.
Manager: Declan Bonner (2nd season)
Odds: All-Ireland 22/1; Ulster 3/1
Next up: v Fermanagh, Enniskillen, 26th May, 2.0
Promotion and Division Two title represented a solid follow-up to the 2018 Ulster title. Declan Bonner has been introducing young talent to complement the standard bearers from the McGuinness era. Michael Murphy looked restored in Croke Park and Paddy McBrearty is coming back after injury. A shoulder injury sustained by talented, teenage forward Oisín Gallen is an unfortunate setback.
Manager: Paddy Tally (1st season)
Odds: All-Ireland 500/1; Ulster 20/1
Next up: v Armagh, Newry, 19th May, 4.0
Another disappointing start to a year for the county with fractional failure to secure promotion leaving them stranded in Division Three. As expected under Paddy Tally, the defence has tightened up and there are some troupers still involved, including Kevin McKernan, the accurate Donal O’Hare and former AFL recruit Caolan Mooney (above). Home advantage gives hope against Armagh.
Manager: Rory Gallagher (1st season)
Odds: All-Ireland 500/1; Ulster 33/1
Next up: v Donegal, Enniskillen, 26th May, 2.0
Rory Gallagher’s controversial ultra-defence proved the tightest in the entire league albeit not enough to secure promotion from Division Two. The continuing issue is the toll it takes on the attack – no-one scored less in the four divisions – already weakened by the unavailability of Séamus Quigley and Tomás Corrigan (above). Last year’s Ulster final tormentors Donegal are a tough draw.
Manager: Malachy O’Rourke (7th season)
Odds: All-Ireland 25/1; Ulster 5/2
Next up: v Cavan, Cavan, 18th May, 6.0
Monaghan did well to survive in Division One after a humdrum campaign. Malachy O’Rourke’s perennial challenges were further complicated by Darren Hughes’s broken ankle, which together with All Star nominee Niall Kearns’s recent surgery, removes the first-choice centrefield. Usual need for greater support for Conor McManus no closer to being met. After last year’s excellent run, this could be a struggle.
Manager: Mickey Harte (17th season)
Odds: All-Ireland 12/1; Ulster 13/8
Next up: v Derry, Omagh, 12th May, 4.0
In many ways the story of the league. Mickey Harte’s more ambitious game plan, pushing Mattie Donnelly and Cathal McShane (above) into a more orthodox full-forward placing, very nearly got them to the league final after a bad start. Troubled Dublin more than anyone and look to have built on the experience of the past two years. Definite contenders.