The cream rises to the top as Division One teams stay ahead

Donegal benefit from late equaliser, while Galway look to improve performance level

Football has followed the pattern of hurling in this year’s championship by underlining the accuracy of league rankings. It was noticeable in this year’s All-Ireland hurling championship that the last six counties surviving were those who would constitute Division One A of the 2016 AHL.

At the weekend in Croke Park there were four All-Ireland football matches – two final-round qualifiers and two quarter-finals – between counties from Division One and lower-ranked opposition.

The former won all four and by an average of 13 points. This means that the final six in football are all counties who played in Division One this year, with only Tyrone suffering relegation.

Derry and Cork are the two exceptions from the top flight to have been eliminated, both as it happens by teams who played in Division Two, and in the latter case a Kildare side which was relegated to Division Three.


It gives this championship the strongest top-level representation of all but one year – 2012, when seven of the eight quarter-finalists had played in Division One – of the eight since the strictly hierarchical league structure was introduced.


This year’s top division was half composed of Ulster teams and was ultra-competitive, with final placings going all the way to the closing seconds of the season.

Coincidentally, one of the beneficiaries were Donegal, whose late equaliser against Saturday's All-Ireland quarter-final opponents Mayo edged them into the league semi-finals ahead of the Connacht champions.

Under new Donegal manager Rory Gallagher, a number of new players were blooded, and, speaking after last weekend's qualifier victory over Galway, forward Colm McFadden said that this can give his side an advantage in the quarter-final.

“The boys have been pushing hard all year and they’ve been going well and deserved their opportunity. We’ve good boys to come off the bench. You probably saw last year going into the final that the bench was the most important part of our team. It’s something we hope we can utilise against Mayo.”

Galway have been a Division Two team for the past four seasons, a fact that is widely considered to have held them back. Manager Kevin Walsh, however, emphasised that the problem for his team was more one of trying to establish a guaranteed level of performance.

“They have to be consistent. I’m listening to that in Galway for the last year or two. There is no point in going up to Division One and coming back down. I think it’s more important that we become more consistent as a team and play together and if that’s in Division Two, it’s in Division Two. You have Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh coming up. Meath are still there, Fermanagh.

“I take the point. If you are out every day learning lessons like that but you have to be ready for those lessons and hopefully this will bring us a long way towards that.”

Stepping down

Kevin Ryan

has confirmed that he will not be managing the Antrim senior hurlers in 2016, despite having one season left to run on his current agreement. The former Waterford hurler and selector issued a statement last night in which he expressed his intention to step down as Antrim senior and U21 team manager at the conclusion of the 2015 campaign.

Antrim’s interest in the Liam MacCarthy cup competition ended in the round-robin stage of the Leinster championship and the Saffrons will compete in the Christy Ring cup next year after dropping down a grade.

Antrim do have a Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 semi-final against Wexford on August 22nd, but that could be former Carlow boss Ryan’s last game in charge of an Antrim team.

He stated: “When our interest in the U-21 All-Ireland series is over, I will be resigning as Antrim senior and U21 hurling manager.

“Apart from early league form and a fantastic display in championship against Laois, it has been a very poor year for Antrim senior hurling. I believe there is a vast amount of change needed to revitalise and improve Antrim hurling and it needs a clear pathway for the next three years or more.

“Starting that process in my last year may not suit my successor.”