Cham­pi­onship 2018 Power rank­ings

How will your county fare this sum­mer? League and cham­pi­onship per­for­mances over the last three years might shed some light on their prospects

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Gaelic Games - Ea­mon Donoghue

This year’s All-Ire­land foot­ball cham­pi­onship will mark the be­gin­ning of the Su­per 8s. The All-Ire­land quar­ter-fi­nals will be re­placed by a round robin for­mat, with the top two teams to emerge from two groups of four mak­ing up the semi-fi­nals. It’s go­ing to be great for those who make it. For those who don’t, the gap be­tween the haves and have nots will con­tinue to grow. To fig­ure out who are best placed to make the cut, we’ve worked out the cur­rent foot­ball power rank­ings . . .

1 Dublin

No sur­prises here. Dublin have won two of the last three league ti­tles los­ing last year’s fi­nal to Kerry - to go along with three suc­ces­sive All-Ire­land and Le­in­ster cham­pi­onships. They are with­out doubt the best team in the coun­try and will cer­tainly be one of the last eight teams. They aim to the be the first team since Kerry in 1981 to win four in a row and only the fourth team to ever do so.

2 Kerry

This was al­ways go­ing to come down to Kerry and Mayo. The King­dom are the third ranked team in the land on cham­pi­onship form, but they are the sec­ond best in the league - helped largely by their win over Dublin last year. With a sprin­kling of tal­ented young­sters adding to their mix this year, they will be qui­etly con­fi­dent of match­ing Dublin.

3 Mayo

Mayo have lost the last two All-Ire­land fi­nals mak­ing them the coun­try’s sec­ond best cham­pi­onship team. What drags them down in peck­ing is their league form. They are only the fifth best league team, fin­ish­ing sixth, and fifth on two oc­ca­sions. Their aim in re­cent years, how­ever, has been to sur­vive in Di­vi­sion One be­fore peak­ing fur­ther down the line.

4 Ty­rone

Another who have their cham­pi­onship form largely to thank for this rank­ing with two Ul­ster ti­tles and two All-Ire­land semi-fi­nal ap­pear­ances in the last three years while they are the sixth best league team. They flat­tered to de­ceive last sum­mer and it’s hard to see where any ma­jor im­prove­ment will come from this sum­mer.

5 Done­gal

Done­gal make it into fifth place largely be­cause of their con­sis­tency they are the fourth best in the league and the rank sixth in the cham­pi­onship. The post-Jim McGuin­ness era hasn’t been overly ex­cit­ing but they’ve had third and fourth place league fin­ishes and made two cham­pi­onship quar­ter-fi­nals.

6 Mon­aghan

Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, Mon­aghan are the third best league team. They’ve failed to de­liver on early prom­ise year-on-year in the cham­pi­onship but nev­er­the­less have ap­peared in two quar­ter-fi­nals and se­cured an Ul­ster ti­tle in 2015. They’ll ex­pect to make the Su­per 8s and the new for­mat could bring them more joy than the pre­vi­ous sys­tem.

7 Gal­way

The Tribes­men reached the league fi­nal this year but were in Di­vi­sion Two the pre­vi­ous two re­sult­ing in an eighth placed rank­ing. Their Cham­pi­onship form - a Con­nacht ti­tle and two quar­ter-fi­nal ap­pear­ances - help lift them up the stand­ings. Ex­pec­ta­tion is build­ing out west, but a first semi-fi­nal ap­pear­ance since 2001 would be a re­al­is­tic tar­get.

8 Roscom­mon

The third Con­nacht team in the top eight, Roscom­mon have a Di­vi­sion Two league ti­tle and a third placed fin­ish in the top flight to thank for mak­ing them the sev­enth best league team. One quar­ter-fi­nal ap­pear­ance and a Con­nacht ti­tle make them the eighth best cham­pi­onship county. Af­ter another kind draw their tar­get will be to re­tain their Con­nacht ti­tle, and make the Su­per 8s.

9 Cork

This may come as a bit of a sur­prise but Cork are likely to be knock­ing on the Su­per 8 door, although maybe not quite get­ting in. The Rebels have reached round four of the qual­i­fiers for three years run­ning and are the 10th best league and ninth best cham­pi­onship team. But they’ll do well this year to stop Tipp and Clare from clos­ing in on them.

10 Kil­dare

One quar­ter-fi­nal and one round four qual­i­fier ap­pear­ance make them the coun­try’s 10th ranked cham­pi­onship team. Rel­e­gated from Di­vi­sion One this year, they are the 11th best league team. They are one of only two Le­in­ster teams in the top 15 - which says it all about the strength, or lack thereof, in the prov­ince.

11 Tip­per­ary

Tip­per­ary are the 11th best cham­pi­onship team, driven largely by their semi-fi­nal ap­pear­ance in 2016, but are only 16th in the league rank­ings. They will have the likes of Steven O’Brien back in­volved this year and were un­for­tu­nate not to be pro­moted from Di­vi­sion Two, but they’ll need to be more clin­i­cal if they want a place in the last eight.

12 Clare

Another who largely have their 2016 cham­pi­onship run to thank for their over­all po­si­tion in th­ese rank­ing. Clare reached the quar­ter-fi­nals that year and are the 12th best in the land over the past three sea­sons. They’ve shown this year they are well able to mix it in Di­vi­sion Two, and Clare are ranked 14th on league form. The Su­per 8s will be a stretch but a tar­get nonethe­less.

13 Derry

Ahead of some of their fel­low Ul­ster coun­ties - who might har­bour re­al­is­tic am­bi­tions of beat­ing them this sum­mer - Derry are the 14th ranked cham­pi­onship team, while they stand 18th ranked league team. Slaugh­t­neil’s suc­cess shows the tal­ent is still there, but Derry’s re­cent demise is re­flected in that they will op­er­ate in Di­vi­sion Four in 2019.

14 Ar­magh

Ar­magh gained pro­mo­tion into Di­vi­sion Two this year, and they are the 17th ranked league side. They are the 16th ranked cham­pi­onship team with one quar­ter-fi­nal off­set by two early ex­its. They will be com­pet­ing with the likes of Tip­per­ary and Kil­dare for a place in the Su­per 8s and beat both of them last sum­mer.

15 Ca­van

Ca­van’s Su­per 8 as­pi­ra­tions will re­quire a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in their cham­pi­onship form. They are the 20th ranked cham­pi­onship county although a st­ing in the top flight cou­pled with pro­mo­tion from Di­vi­sion Two this year el­e­vates them to ninth in the league stand­ings. Early cham­pi­onship ex­its means they are the only team with Di­vi­sion One sta­tus for next sea­son not in the top eight in th­ese rank­ings.

16West­meath

Slightly edg­ing their near neigh­bours, West­meath are only the 24th ranked league county. Yet they are the 13th ranked cham­pi­onship county af­ter reach­ing round four of the qual­i­fiers twice. They avoid the Dubs un­til a po­ten­tial meet­ing in the Le­in­ster fi­nal, and will be hop­ing to make it to the provin­cial de­cider for the third year in four.

17 Meath

They’ve not gone fur­ther than round three of the qual­i­fiers and are the 19th ranked cham­pi­onship team while they are the 12th best league team and are a con­sol­i­dated Di­vi­sion Two out­fit. But for such a proud foot­ball county, Meath are fall­ing well short of ex­pec­ta­tions. A num­ber of play­ers opt­ing out re­flects a lack of be­lief in mount­ing a se­ri­ous chal­lenge to Dublin in Le­in­ster.

18 Sligo

Their league form kills them in this list - they are 21st based on the last three cam­paigns - while they’re the 15th in the cham­pi­onship and al­ways game for an up­set, whether it be in Con­nacht or the qual­i­fiers. Gal­way or Mayo can­not af­ford to take them for granted in a Con­nacht semi-fi­nal, but with a tight panel they need ev­ery­one at full fit­ness.

19 Fer­managh

An im­proved league cam­paign leaves them 15th in th­ese rank­ings. They’ll be in Di­vi­sion Two next year and they ap­pear re­freshed un­der Rory Gal­lagher. They are the 18th best team on cham­pi­onship form, but with a good run of things in the qual­i­fiers they could re­peat their 2015 feat and sneak into the last eight.

20Long­ford

In­con­sis­tency means they are the 17th ranked cham­pi­onship county and the 20th league team, although they are a young team and cer­tainly on the up. No dis­grace in ex­it­ing the cham­pi­onship to Done­gal, Cork and Kil­dare in the last three years, and they’ve beaten Down, Mon­aghan and Clare along the way.

21 Down

A spell in Di­vi­sion One of the league in 2016 leaves Down as the 13th ranked league team. Last year’s beaten Ul­ster fi­nal­ists are, how­ever, the 21st ranked cham­pi­onship team. There was prom­ise in last year’s run, play­ing beau­ti­ful foot­ball in the process. In the two pre­vi­ous years they ex­ited in the first round of the qual­i­fiers to Wex­ford and Long­ford.

22 Laois

Some ex­pec­ta­tion is build­ing again in the county af­ter a suc­cess­ful league show­ing, al­beit in Di­vi­sion Four. They are ranked 23rd in the foot­ball and 23rd in the cham­pi­onship. With the likes of Colm Be­g­ley, John O’Lough­lin they have qual­ity play­ers but have in­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively been way off the pace in re­cent years.

23 Car­low

The 22nd best team in the cham­pi­onship af­ter last year’s qual­i­fier run while they are down in 27th in the league rank­ings. Bren­dan Mur­phy’s de­par­ture sug­gests they see im­prov­ing in the league - fi­nally get­ting out of Di­vi­sion Four was a real boost to the county - as more ben­e­fi­cial than another run in the qual­i­fiers.

24Of­faly

Of­faly lan­guish in

22nd ranked in the league and the 26th ranked cham­pi­onship county af­ter some bar­ren years. They no longer have Niall McNamee to get them out of tight spots but have shown in the last two years with some last-ditch rel­e­ga­tion res­cue mis­sions that a spark is still there.

25 Wex­ford

Ranked 26th ranked in the league, their cham­pi­onship form has been just as dis­ap­point­ing and they stand 25th in that re­gard. They’ve beaten Lim­er­ick and Down and brought Kil­dare to within a point, but that’s as good as it’s got th­ese past few sum­mers. Di­vi­sion Four in the league next year as well.

26 Leitrim

Another un­der­whelm­ing Di­vi­sion Four cam­paign in which they lost their open­ing three games, gave Lon­don a walkover and saw their game against Water­ford can­celled al­to­gether. They haven’t fared much bet­ter in the cham­pi­onship over the past three years, with wins over Lon­don and Water­ford noth­ing to shout about.

27 Louth

They may be 19th in the league rank­ings but their cham­pi­onship form has been dis­mal where they are right down in 29th. Their only cham­pi­onship win in the past three years was ac­tu­ally against Leitrim, and Pete McGrath’s first league cam­paign has hardly in­creased op­ti­mism.

28 Antrim

A win over Laois in 2015 keeps them marginally above the bot­tom three. Antrim are the 25th side on league form and the 28th on cham­pi­onship. While they are on the eas­ier side of the Ul­ster draw this year, Down will be rub­bing their hands ahead of the quar­ter-fi­nal clash.

29 Lim­er­ick

Another with just the one cham­pi­onship win to their name over three sum­mers and only once did they taste suc­cess in Di­vi­sion Four this year. The 28th league side in the coun­try, in cham­pi­onship terms they are 27th. Lim­er­ick foot­ball is not in a good place.

30Wick­low

In all there are eight Le­in­ster coun­ties in the bot­tom half of this list, which is in­dica­tive of the prob­lems in the prov­ince. Wick­low are third from bot­tom of the over­all rank­ings, just ahead of Lon­don but their last cham­pi­onship win came in 2014, beat­ing Of­faly be­fore ex­it­ing in round two of the qual­i­fiers.

31 Lon­don

Lon­don have failed to build on their 2013 Con­nacht fi­nal ap­pear­ance and only tech­ni­cal­i­ties sep­a­rate the bot­tom few teams here. Lon­don ex­ited in round four of the qual­i­fiers in 2013, whereas Water­ford have not won a sin­gle game since 2011.

32 Water­ford

Rock bot­tom. Three round one qual­i­fier ex­its in a row and rooted in Di­vi­sion Four. They ac­tu­ally have a slightly bet­ter league rank­ing then Lon­don and Wick­low, how­ever if there was a Di­vi­sion Five they’d have been head­ing for it af­ter just one win and one draw so far this year. They’ve not beaten Tip­per­ary in the cham­pi­onship since 1988.

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