GAA Football

GAA: State of The Nation 2017

Sligo are ranked 20th while Antrim, the team they knocked out of the All-Ireland series in 2017, are ranked 25th
Andy Watters

17 Clare

LOST their last three games, but a bright start meant that Division Two survival was achieved. In the Championship, the Bannermen survived a late scare the better of Limerick to reach a Munster semi-final against Kerry.

Losing by six points wasn’t a disgrace by any means and Clare went on to beat Laois before bowing out against Mayo in the Qualifiers. Clare led 0-8 to 0-6 when the half-time whistle blew at Cusack Park, but second half goals from the O’Connor brothers, Diarmuid and Cillian, killed them off.

Manager Colm Collins has confirmed he will remain with the team in 2018, his fifth season at the Clare helm.

NFL Division Two: Derry 0-11 1-8 Clare, Clare 2-11 0-11 Down, Galway 3-13 1-11 Clare, Clare 2-11 0-09 Cork, Fermanagh 0-18 1-10 Clare, Kildare 0-18 1-14 Clare, Clare 1-13 3-19 Meath

Munster SFC: Clare 1-13 Limerick 1-12, Clare 1-12 Kerry 1-18; Qualifiers: Laois 0-14 2-18 Clare, Clare 0-13 2-14 Mayo

18 Carlow

ONE of the success stories of the season. Turlough O’Brien’s Carlow hadn’t won a Championship match for six years until Paul Broderick and Ciaran Murphy fired them past Wexford and into a glamour tie against Dublin.

The Barrowsiders were a refreshing throwback to a bygone age and full of craic and characters. It emerged that midfielder Sean Murphy hiked over the fields for county training and had helped his father shear 50 sheep before boarding the team bus for the Leinster Championship match against Dublin.

Murphy scored a point in that game and, though the Dubs proved too strong, Carlow emerged with their pride intact and went on beat London and Leitrim before giving Monaghan an almighty scare in round three. Manager O’Brien was ably assisted by Down native Stevie Poacher throughout an engrossing campaign.

NFL Division Four: Westmeath 2-10 2-10 Carlow, Carlow 0-16 2-15 London, Carlow 1-10 0-10 Limerick, Leitrim 2-14 2-12 Carlow, Carlow 2-10 0-07 Waterford, Wicklow 0-11 1-18 Carlow, Carlow 2-14 1-7 Wexford

Leinster SFC: Carlow 2-17 2-13 Wexford, Dublin 0-19 0-7 Carlow; Qualifiers: London 0-12 0-13 Carlow, Carlow 2-14 0-13 Leitrim, Carlow 1-7 1-12 Monaghan

19 Westmeath

THE highlight of the season was promotion to Division Three and in John Heslin they had won of the best forwards in the lower leagues. Heslin’s total of 3-60 made him the top scorer in the NFL and in the Championship the Mullingar native fired the midlanders past Offaly in a one-sided Leinster quarter-final replay.

Westmeath couldn’t put a dent in the eventual All-Ireland champions Dublin in the semi-final though and were stuffed by 31 points. They recovered to test Armagh and could have won the game before a late Ethan Rafferty goal saw the Orchardmen over the line.

NFL Division Four: Westmeath 2-10 2-10 Carlow, Limerick 0-12 1-18 Westmeath, Westmeath 2-18 1-09 Leitrim, Waterford 2-11 3-13 Westmeath, Westmeath 0-19 0-14 Wicklow, Wexford 0-9 3-24 Westmeath, Westmeath 3-26 1-9 London

Leinster SFC: Offaly 0-10 0-10 Westmeath, replay: Offaly 0-15 3-17 Westmeath, Dublin 4-29 0-10 Westmeath; Qualifiers: Westmeath 1-7 1-12 Armagh

20 Sligo

ON the lookout for a new manager after Niall Carew announced that he was stepping down as boss.

In Carew’s final season in charge, the Yeatsmen were never in the hunt for promotion in Division Three and were alsorans in the Championship.

Recorded an eight-point win in New York in the Championship opener but then lost to Mayo in Connacht. Came from behind to beat Antrim in the Qualifiers and were ahead after 67 minutes against Meath until a late Mickey Newman salvo got the Royals out of jail.

NFL Division Three: Sligo 1-14 2-11 Armagh, Tipperary 1-16 2-14 Sligo, Antrim 0-11 1-07 Sligo, Sligo 0-18 2-10 Laois, Antrim 1-10 0-11 Laois, Armagh 1-12 0-13 Antrim, Antrim 1-13 0-16 Longford

Connacht SFC: New York 1-13 Sligo 1-21, Mayo 2-14 Sligo 0-11; Qualifiers: Sligo 0-22 3-7 Antrim, Meath 0-14 1-9 Sligo

21 Louth

AN impressive start to Division Three meant Louth could afford a late wobble in form and still force promotion to the second tier. Beat Wicklow in the Leinster Championship to raise hopes still further in the ‘Wee County’ but fell foul of Meath at the quarter-final stage and then Longford in the Qualifiers. That was that for Colin Kelly who has left the county in a better state than he found it and Pete McGrath will hope to continue his good work after being handed the reins.

NFL Division Three: Laois 0-10 2-16 Louth, Louth 0-11 0-10 Longford, Offaly 0-14 2-13 Louth, Louth 2-10 1-11 Antrim, Louth 0-10 3-15 Armagh, Tipperary 0-12 0-16 Louth, Louth 1-11 0-17 Sligo, final: Tipperary 3-19 0-19 Louth

Leinster SFC: Louth 1-19 1-14 Wicklow, Meath 0-27 3-9 Louth; Qualifiers: Louth 1-10 2-15 Longford

22 Fermanagh

PETE McGrath described 2017 as ‘annus horribilis’ and it was hard to argue with his assessment of a disappointing season in Fermanagh.

The Ernemen were devastated by injuries and the unavailability of key personnel including midfielder Richard O’Callaghan. Won their League opener against Down in Newry, but form deserted McGrath’s side after that and they won just one more game as relegation to Division Three was followed by back-to-back Championship defeats – first against Monaghan, then against Armagh in the Qualifiers.

McGrath resigned after the Erne county players declined to back him for a fifth year in charge. Former player Rory Gallagher was snapped up to replace McGrath following his resignation as Donegal manager and the Belleek native will need full commitment if he is to turn the county around.

NFL Division Two: Down 0-10 1-16 Fermanagh, Fermanagh 0-10 1-13 Galway, Cork 1-14 0-09 Fermanagh, Kildare 4-14 0-14 Fermanagh, Fermanagh 0-18 1-10 Clare, Meath 3-15 0-6 Fermanagh, Fermanagh 0-13 2-8 Derry

Ulster SFC: Monaghan 1-20 Fermanagh 1-11, Qualifiers: Armagh 0-20 0-11 Fermanagh

23 Laois

STUNNED Armagh at the Athletic Grounds to grab a surprise win, but couldn’t recapture that form and finished bottom of Division Three.

In the Championship, Laois hammered Longford but capitulated against Kildare, then beat Wicklow before bowing out when they hosted Clare.

Manager Peter Creedon stepped down in the wake of that defeat and has now been replaced by Kerry native John Sugrue.

NFL Division Three: Laois 0-10 2-16 Louth, Armagh 0-16 2-11 Laois, Laois 1-10 1-16 Tipperary, Sligo 0-18 2-10 Laois, Antrim 1-10 0-11 Laois, Laois 1-13 0-13 Longford, Offaly 3-15 4-11 Laois

Leinster SFC: Laois 4-15 0-16 Longford, Kildare 1-21 1-7 Laois; Qualifiers: Wicklow 3-10 2-16 Laois, Laois 0-14 2-18 Clare

24 Longford

A POINT against Antrim at Corrigan Park, Belfast was enough to keep Longford in Division Three for another season, but their trademark Championship run didn’t materialise this year.

Hammered by Laois in Leinster, Longford headed for the familiar surroundings of the Qualifiers and Robbie Smith’s seven points helped them to see off Louth. But they were well beaten by Donegal in round two when they were only able to register seven points in total. Dennis Connerton will continue as manager for next season.

NFL Division Three: Longford 1-12 0-10 Offaly, Louth 0-11 0-10 Longford, Longford 3-9 3-11 Armagh, Tipperary 3-17 0-18 Longford, Longford 0-16 2-07 Sligo, Laois 1-13 0-13 Longford, Antrim 1-13 0-16 Longford

Leinster SFC: Laois 4-15 0-16 Longford; Qualifiers: Louth 1-10 2-15 Longford, Donegal 0-12 Longford 0-7

25 Antrim

RELEGATION followed by two Championship losses is a familiar story for Antrim and, although there were occasional good moments in the League, the Saffrons couldn’t gather enough points to stave off a return to Division Four.

The county was rocked by the 48-week ban handed out to star forward Matthew Fitzpatrick for an alleged offence in the League game against Armagh. The ban was eventually overturned but an injury to the St John’s clubman scuppered Antrim’s slim hopes in their Ulster quarter-final against Donegal.

The Tir Chonaill men pulled away to win that game convincingly and Antrim’s summer came to an end when the side ran out of steam in Sligo despite scoring three goals and briefly looking in with a chance of winning the game.

Management duo Frank Fitzsimons and Gearoid Adams have been replaced by Lenny Harbinson for next season. Harbinson won an All-Ireland club title with St Gall’s and will need to get the best players out on the pitch consistently to have a chance of success with his native county.

NFL Division Three: Tipperary 2-12 0-13 Antrim, Offaly 0-23 1-07 Antrim, Antrim 0-11 1-07 Sligo, Louth 2-10 1-11 Antrim, Antrim 1-10 0-11 Laois, Armagh 1-12 0-13 Antrim, Antrim 1-13 0-16 Longford

Ulster SFC: Donegal 3-19 Antrim 1-9; Qualifiers: Sligo 0-22 3-7 Antrim

26 Offaly

SHIPPED the second-biggest loss of the season when Armagh racked up 6-22 to 0-10 in a Division Three fixture. The Faithful county did well to recover from that defeat, fight off the threat of relegation and hold Westmeath to a draw in Leinster before losing the replay.

Stephen Wallace’s side held Westmeath to a draw in their Leinster SFC opener but were well beaten in the replay and Cavan ended their season in round one of the Qualifiers.

NFL Division Three: Longford 1-12 0-10 Offaly, Offaly 0-23 1-07 Antrim, Antrim 0-11 1-07 Sligo, Louth 2-10 1-11 Antrim, Antrim 1-10 0-11 Laois, Laois 1-13 0-13 Longford, Offaly 3-15 4-11 Laois

Leinster SFC: Westmeath 0-10 Offaly 0-10, replay: Westmeath 3-17 Offaly 0-15; Qualifiers: Offaly 0-16 0-17 Cavan

27 Wexford

The Model county was promoted to Division Three with two games to spare under the management of Seamus McEneaney.

They seemed to take their foot off the gas with promotion in the bag and never really recovered. Lost their final two League games and then exited the Leinster Championship after losing to Carlow. The Modelmen did rally with a one-point success against Limerick but McEneaney’s native Monaghan proved far too good in the next round. Since then ‘Banty’ resigned as manager, citing the 500km round trip as the reason behind his decision. The county have yet to appoint his successor.

NFL Division Four: Wexford 0-14 1-8 Limerick, Leitrim 0-14 0-16 Wexford, Wexford 1-09 0-10 Waterford, Wicklow 0-13 1-13 Wexford, Wexford 0-15 0-09 London, Wexford 0-9 3-24 Westmeath, Carlow 2-14 1-7 Wexford

Leinster SFC: Carlow 2-17 2-13 Wexford; Qualifiers: Limerick 0-11 0-12 Wexford, Wexford 1-11 3-23 Monaghan

28 Leitrim

EVEN with Emlyn Mulligan contributing 1-33, Leitrim were never in the Division Four promotion race. A Championship win over London inspired by two goals by second-half substitute Ronan Kennedy set up a Connacht semi-final but Roscommon proved too strong at won by 17 points. In the Qualifiers they were out-fought by surprise packets Carlow at Dr Hyde Park.

NFL Division Four: Wicklow 0-10 1-17 Leitrim, Leitrim 0-14 0-16 Wexford, Westmeath 2-18 1-09 Leitrim, Leitrim 2-14 2-12 Carlow, Limerick 2-11 0-15 Leitrim, Leitrim 2-16 0-15 London, Leitrim 1-13 2-8 Waterford

Connacht SFC: London 0-16 Leitrim 3-10, Roscommon 2-23 Leitrim 1-9; Qualifiers: Carlow 2-14 0-13 Leitrim

29 Limerick

A TERRIBLE start to Division Four – they lost their first three games – meant that four wins on-the-trot in the latter stages wasn’t enough to force promotion.

Billy Lee’s side was competitive, but luckless, in the Championship. Limerick suffered a one-point loss to Clare in Munster after Josh Ryan’s goal dragged them back into the game. They also lost by the minimum against Wexford in the Qualifiers when late wides from Jamie Lee and Iain Corbett put paid to their hopes of snatching victory.

NFL Division Four: Wexford 0-14 1-8 Limerick, Limerick 0-12 1-18 Westmeath, Carlow 1-10 0-10 Limerick, Limerick 1-13 0-12 London, Limerick 2-11 0-15 Leitrim, Waterford 0-8 0-14 Limerick, Limerick 2-13 2-09 Wicklow

Munster SFC: Clare 1-13 Limerick 1-12; Qualifiers: Limerick 0-11 0-12 Wexford

30 Waterford

THE Division Four Decies went from February 11’s eight-point win over Wicklow until their season ended on June 17 without a win. However, they did give Cork an unexpected run for their money in Munster but the Rebels got out of jail and won by a point. Derry handled them much more comfortably in the Qualifiers.

NFL Division Four: Waterford 2-16 1-8 London, Waterford 1-17 1-09 Wicklow, Wexford 1-09 0-10 Waterford, Waterford 2-11 3-13 Westmeath, Carlow 2-10 0-07 Waterford, Waterford 0-8 0-14 Limerick, Leitrim 1-13 2-8 Waterford;

Munster SFC: Waterford 1-11 Cork 1-12; Qualifiers: Waterford 0-13 1-17 Derry

31 Wicklow

THE Garden County has fallen on hard times and their only win of a drab season was against London in the League.

Louth proved too good for them in the Championship and Laois saw them off in the Qualifiers despite a plucky 2-3 from forward start Paul Cunningham. After that loss manager Johnny Magee stepped down. “Davy Fitzgerald (Clare hurling manager) has 34 in his backroom team,” he said.

“He has more in his backroom team than I have bleeding training.” Former Roscommon manager John Evans will be at the helm next year.

NFL Division Four: Wicklow 0-10 1-17 Leitrim, Waterford 1-17 1-09 Wicklow, Wicklow 0-17 2-04 London, Wicklow 0-13 1-13 Wexford, Westmeath 0-19 0-14 Wicklow, Wicklow 0-11 1-18 Carlow, Limerick 2-13 2-09 Wicklow

Leinster SFC: Louth 1-19 1-14 Wicklow; Qualifiers: Wicklow 3-10 2-16 Laois

32 London

DEVELOPMENT work at Ruislip made life difficult for the Exiles and their only win of a difficult season was against Carlow in January. Finished bottom of Division Four but were much more competitive in the Championship.

With former Tyrone All-Ireland winner Eoin Mulligan in form up front, London looked well placed for victory by Ronan Kennedy’s brace turned the game Leitrim’s way.

In the Qualifiers, London battled gamely against Carlow who never trailed in the game and got over the line by a point in a tense finish at McGovern Park.

NFL Division Four: Waterford 2-16 1-8 London, Carlow 0-16 2-15 London, Wicklow 0-17 2-04 London, Limerick 1-13 0-12 London, Wexford 0-15 0-09 London, Leitrim 2-16 0-15 London, Westmeath 3-26 1-9 London

Connacht SFC: London 0-16 Leitrim 3-10; Qualifiers: London 0-12 0-13 Carlow

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