GAA Football

Down, Derry and Antrim all fail to make the top 12 in review of the 2018 season

Derry manager Damian McErlain and assistant Killian Conlan on the line against Kildare during the All Ireland Senior Championship round 1 Qualifier at Owenbeg. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.

13 Cork

DIVISION Two consolidation and an appearance in the Munster final were the least Rebel county fans expected. They were achieved Ronan McCarthy’s side suffered back-to-back hidings at the hands of Kerry (in the Munster final) and then Tyrone (Qualifiers).

Those results should have given the players plenty to focus on as they prepare for next season.

NFL Div 2: Cork 1-16Tipperary 3-16, Down 0-10 Cork 1-13, Cork 2-11 Louth 0-10, Cork 0-11 Cavan 0-14, Meath 1-15 Cork 2-16, Cork 0-12 Clare 0-14, Roscommon 0-17 Cork 1-11; Munster SFC: Tipperary 0-9 Cork 1-17, Cork 2-4 Kerry 3-18; All-Ireland SFC: Cork 0-13 Tyrone 3-20

14 Meath

THE mercurial Royals are a dangerous outfit on their day and they showed occasional flashes of potential throughout the 2018 season. Defeats to Cavan and Tipperary undermined their promotion chances and losing to Longford was a hammerblow in Leinster. Not many gave them a prayer next time out against Tyrone but they took the game into extra-time before the Red Hands got over the line.

NFL Div 2: Roscommon 2-12 Meath 2-12, Meath 0-21 Clare 0-7, Cavan 2-14 Meath 1-12, Tipperary 2-15 Meath 1-10, Meath 1-15 Cork 2-16, Louth 0-7 Meath 1-12, Meath 4-14 Down 1-14; Leinster SFC: Longford 0-16 Meath 0-14; All-Ireland SFC: Meath 0-19 Tyrone 2-14


15 Clare

DIVISION Two form was a good barometer and Clare’s third-place finish indicated the footballing talent in the panel. There should be more to come from them next season.

It’s all about levels though and the Bannermen were humbled by Kerry in the Munster semi-finals, but recovered to beat Offaly. They had Armagh on the rack at the Athletic Grounds (the game was played because Armagh was a Division Three team) before the Orchardmen produced a spectacular comeback to knock them out.

NFL Div 2: Clare 1-12 Cavan 2-9, Meath 0-21 Clare 0-7, Clare 0-11 Tipperary 0-11, Down 1-10 Clare 1-12, Clare 2-12 Roscommon 2-19, Cork 0-12 Clare 0-14, Clare 3-12 Louth 1-11; Munster SFC: Limerick 0-14 Clare 1-23, Kerry 0-32 Clare 0-10; All-Ireland SFC: Offaly 2-14 Clare 1-19, Armagh 2-16 Clare 1-15


16 Tipperary

ALL-Ireland semi-finalists in 2016, Tipperary remain a dangerous but inconsistent outfit. Liam Kearns’ men had to settle for a mid-table finish in Division Two and their Championship form was a disappointment. Cork saw them off with ease in the Munster semi-finals and Mayo did likewise in the Qualifiers.

NFL Div 2: Cork 1-16 Tipperary 3-16, Tipperary 3-9 Roscommon 1-17, Clare 0-11 Tipperary 0-11, Tipperary 2-15 Meath 1-10, Tipperary 2-17 Louth 0-9, Down 2-11 Tipperary 1-11, Cavan 0-17 Tipperary 2-10; Munster SFC: Tipperary 0-20 Waterford ¬0-9, Tipperary 0-9 Cork 1-17; All-Ireland SFC: Tipperary 1-11 Mayo 1-19

17 Laois

SIX wins out of six saw the O’Moore men win Division Four and they built on that form by reaching the Leinster final. They were no match for Dublin on the day but regrouped to give Monaghan a game in round four of the Qualifiers.

NFL Div 4: Laois 2-12 Limerick 0-9, Leitrim 3-10 Laois 3-16, Laois 0-18 Waterford 1-11, Wicklow 0-10 Laois 1-16, London 2-9 Laois 0-17, Carlow 0-8 Laois 1-6, Laois 0-15 Carlow 0-11; Leinster SFC: Wexford 1-18 Laois 2-21, Laois 4-13 Westmeath 1-12, Laois 0-12 Carlow 0-8, Laois 0-10 Dublin 1-25; All-Ireland SFC: Laois 1-11 Monaghan 0-19


18 Down

AFTER the highs of 2017 had seen the Mournemen reach an unexpected Ulster final and return to Croke Park for a round four Qualifier against Monaghan, 2018 was a disappointment.

Down failed to build on what they had achieved and were relegated to Division Three despite gathering more points (six) than they had the previous year (five).

A paltry crowd of 5,589 turned out to watch them see off Antrim comfortably in Newry in the Ulster Championship. Next up was Donegal at Clones and Down were out-muscled and out-played by the eventual provincial champions.

Should have beaten Cavan next time out though but they were undermined by bad luck and their own indiscipline. Key men Connaire Harrison and Kevin McKernan shown needless black cards and manager Eamonn Burns has stepped down after three years in charge.

St Mary’s Sigerson Cup-winning manager Paddy Tally has been brought in. He has talent to work with but there are places up for grabs in this Down team.

There is talent in the Down panel and Tally has to find a way of getting the best out of it. He’ll

NFL Div 2: Louth 0-11 Down 1-14, Down 0-10 Cork 1-13, Roscommon 0-7 Down 0-12, Down 1-10 Clare 1-12, Cavan 0-17 Down 0-14, Down 2-11 Tipperary 1-11, Meath 4-14 Down 1-14; Ulster SFC: Down 1-18 Antrim 1-14, Donegal 2-22 Down 1-12; All-Ireland SFC: Cavan 1-14 Down 0-15

19 Carlow

TURLOUGH O’Brien and Stephen Poacher continue to work their magic with the Barrowsiders. They’d argue that it isn’t magic; it’s hard work and a good gameplan but whatever it is, it’s paying off.

After 33 years in the basement division, Carlow were promoted to Division Three and then beat Louth and Division One outfit Kildare in Leinster before Laois saw them off at the semi-final stage. Tyrone survived a few nervy moments to end their summer but it was another year of growth as Carlow keep rising.

NFL Div 4: London 2-9 Carlow 2-14, Limerick 0-13 Carlow 2-11, Carlow 2-11 Leitrim 0-5, Waterford 2-9 Carlow 2-12, Carlow 1-17 Wicklow 0-12, Carlow 0-8 Laois 1-6, Carlow 0-8 Laois 1-6; Leinster SFC: Louth 0-12 Carlow 2-17, Kildare 1-10 Carlow 2-14, Laois 0-12 Carlow 0-8; All-Ireland SFC: Carlow 1-10 Tyrone 3-14

20 Derry

DAMIAN McErlain had the Midas touch at underage level but, like his predecessors, he found success harder to come by with the Oak Leaf seniors.

Derry, as always hamstrung by the unavailability of their Slaughtneil players who were chasing the All-Ireland club title, were relegated to Division Four thanks to their poor away form which saw them lose all three games on the road.

And results did not improve in the Championship. Back to full strength, Derry battled in a six-point loss to Donegal (the eventual champions) but then a loss to Kildare in the first round of the Qualifiers.

Twenty-five years on from his county’s All-Ireland triumph, 2018 was a difficult debut season for McErlain and promotion is absolutely essential for Derry next year.

NFL Div 3: Derry 2-14 Westmeath 2-17, Longford 1-13 Derry 1-6, Derry 1-15 Offaly 0-13, Fermanagh 1-16 Derry 3-8, Armagh 1-15 Derry 0-14, Derry 2-20 Wexford 3-8, Sligo 3-11 Derry 2-12; Ulster SFC: Derry 0-16 Donegal 2-16; All-Ireland SFC: Derry 2-14 Kildare 2-22

21 Louth

2018 always promised to be a challenging season for the Wee County and it was. Pete McGrath was brought in to replace Colin Kelly but the former Down manager was unable to steer the side to safety in Division Two and Louth lost all seven games. Carlow had too much for them in the Leinster Championship and, although Louth recorded their only meaningful win of the year next time out, Leitrim ended their summer in round two of the Qualifiers.

McGrath, frustrated by the lack of commitment, walked away and Wayne Kierans has taken over with former Down number two Cathal Murray in as his assistant.

NFL Div 2: Louth 0-11 Down 1-14, Cavan 3-17 Louth 0-13, Cork 2-11 Louth 0-10, Louth 0-12 Roscommon 1-21, Tipperary 2-17 Louth 0-9, Louth 0-7 Meath 1-12, Clare 3-12 Louth 1-11; Leinster SFC: Louth 0-12 Carlow 2-17; All-Ireland SFC: London 1-19 Louth 2-26, Leitrim 0-25 Louth 1-12

22 Westmeath

FOUR wins out of five at the start of their Division Three campaign raised hopes of promotions but form fell away with defeats to Longford and Offaly and the midlanders had to settle for a fourth-place finish. Laois accounted for them in Offaly and Armagh were too strong in the Qualifiers.

NFL Div 3: Derry 2-14 Westmeath 2-17, Westmeath 1-11 Armagh 2-17, Wexford 1-10 Westmeath 0-16, Westmeath 0-20 Sligo 0-14, Westmeath 0-14 Fermanagh 1-9, Longford 1-16 Westmeath 1-12, Westmeath 1-14 Offaly 1-20; Leinster SFC: Laois 4-13 Westmeath 1-12; All-Ireland SFC: Westmeath 1-11 Armagh 3-16


23 Longford

DENIS Connerton’s second stint as Longford manager came to an end after defeat to Kildare in the Qualifiers. Connerton had taken the county to their first Leinster final in 30 years. It ended in a predictably one-sided loss to Dublin and the midlanders focussed on taking on their Leinster rivals in the Qualifiers. Padraic Davis has taken the reins for next season.

NFL Div 3: Offaly 1-13 Longford 3-18, Longford 1-13 Derry 1-6, Armagh 1-11 Longford 1-10, Longford 1-12 Wexford 0-9, Sligo 0-18 Longford 2-12, Longford 1-16 Westmeath 1-12, Longford 1-9 Fermanagh 1-10; Leinster SFC: Longford 0-16 Meath 0-14, Dublin 2-25 Longford 0-12; All-Ireland SFC: Longford 1-13 Kildare 1-16


24 Offaly

PAUL Rouse brought some order out of chaos when he replaced Stephen Wallace after the Leinster preliminary round defeat to Wicklow. Kerry native Wallace had kept the Faithful county in Division Three but a loss to Wicklow sent them crashing out of Leinster. Rouse rallied the troops to beat Antrim but Clare out-scored them in round two.

Since then the experienced former Mayo manager John Maughan has taken over a manager.

NFL Div 3: Offaly 1-13 Longford 3-18, Fermanagh 2-11 Offaly 1-6, Derry 1-15 Offaly 0-13, Offaly 1-9 Armagh 1-15, Wexford 1-10 Offaly 1-13, Offaly 0-8 Sligo 0-8, Sligo 3-11 Derry 2-12; Leinster SFC: Offaly 1-15 Wicklow 1-20; All-Ireland SFC: Offaly 2-20 Antrim 1-15, Offaly 2-14 Clare 1-19


25 Sligo

THE Yeatsmen were alsorans in Division Three and it was their one-point win in the final round of fixtures that saw Derry relegated to Division Four. A 10-point win over London saw them progress to the Connacht semis but they were well and truly trounced by Galway and Armagh had six points to spare in the Qualifiers.

Tyrone native Cathal Corey stepped down in August and he has been replaced by Sligo native Paul Taylor.

NFL Div 3: Armagh 2-17 Sligo 0-9, Sligo 1-16 Wexford 1-13, Sligo 0-8 Fermanagh 0-13, Westmeath 0-20 Sligo 0-14, Sligo 0-18 Longford 2-12, Offaly 0-8 Sligo 0-8, Sligo 3-11 Derry 2-12; Connacht SFC: London 1-11 Sligo 1-21, Galway 4-24 Sligo 1-12; All-Ireland SFC: Sligo 1-13 Armagh 1-19

26 Wexford

THE Garden county’s only win of the year came in their final League game when – with relegation already confirmed – they beat Armagh. Scoring returns were much better in the Championship but Laois and then Waterford exploited gaps in their defence to see them off in the

NFL Div 3: Fermanagh 3-7 Wexford 2-5, Sligo 1-16 Wexford 1-13, Wexford 1-10 Westmeath 0-16, Longford 1-12 Wexford 0-9, Wexford 1-10 Offaly 1-13, Derry 2-20 Wexford 3-8, Wexford 0-12 Armagh 1-8; Leinster SFC: Wexford 1-18 Laois 2-21; All-Ireland SFC: Wexford 1-18 Waterford 3-14

27 Antrim

PROMOTION from Division Four was the priority for last season and Antrim were in contention until they lost a winner-takes-all showdown with Carlow by three points.

A dropped point against Wicklow was also costly but Antrim had four wins to show for their efforts and travelled to Newry to take on Down in the Ulster Championship hoping to cause an upset.

The Saffrons were never in the race however and Down cantered to a four-point win. The Offaly forwards proved too much for the Antrim defence in the Qualifiers but the Saffrons will hope for better in 2019.

NFL Div 4: Antrim 0-15 Leitrim 0-5, Waterford 0-10 Antrim 2-12, Antrim 0-12 Wicklow 0-12, London 0-13 Antrim 0-17, Antrim 0-12 Carlow 1-12, Limerick 0-12 Antrim 1-13; Ulster SFC: Down 1-18 Antrim 1-14; All-Ireland SFC: Offaly 2-20 Antrim 1-15

28 Leitrim

A SUPERB display of point taking – there were 25 in all – against Louth in the Qualifiers was the highlight for a Leitrim side that had narrowly avoided the embarrassment of losing to New York in their previous game. Lost to Roscommon by 14 points in Connacht and to Monaghan (by 13) in the Qualifiers. Since then former Cavan manager Terry Hyland has replaced Benny Guckian as manager.

NFL Div 4: Antrim 0-15 Leitrim 0-5, Leitrim 3-10 Laois 3-16, Carlow 2-11 Leitrim 0-5, Leitrim 2-18 1-9 Limerick, Leitrim 2-15 0-10 Wicklow; Connacht SFC: New York 1-15 Leitrim 0-19, Leitrim 0-10 Roscommon 0-24; All-Ireland SFC: Leitrim 0-25 Louth 1-12, Leitrim 0-9 Monaghan 1-19


29 Waterford

SEVEN years since their previous Championship victory, the Deise footballers shocked Wexford in the Qualifiers in June. That win had come out of the blue after a poor League campaign and an 11-point loss to Tipp in Munster.

Tom McGlinchey stepped down after a loss to Monaghan in the Qualifiers and Benji Whelan has taken over for next season.

NFL Div 4: Wicklow 0-12 Waterford 0-12, Waterford 0-10 Antrim 2-12, Laois 0-18 Waterford 1-11, Waterford 2-9 Carlow 2-12, Limerick 2-10 Waterford 2-9, London 1-14 Waterford 1-16; Munster SFC: Tipperary 0-20 Waterford ¬0-9; All-Ireland SFC: Wexford 1-18 Waterford 3-14, Waterford 0-9 Monaghan 5-21

30 Wicklow

AFTER finishing bottom of the entire pile in the League, John Evans’ men beat Offaly in Leinster but were unable to host Dublin at Joule Park after the GAA adjudged it was too small to accommodate the fixture. The Dubs won at O’Moore Park and Wicklow meekly crashed out of the Qualifiers after losing to Cavan.

NFL Div 4: Wicklow 0-12 Waterford 0-12, London 1-16 Wicklow 0-10, Antrim 0-12 Wicklow 0-12, Wicklow 0-10 Laois 1-16, Carlow 1-17 Wicklow 0-12, Leitrim 2-15 Wicklow 0-10; Leinster SFC: Offaly 1-15 Wicklow 1-20, Dublin 4-25 Wicklow 1-11, All-Ireland SFC: Wicklow 1-5 Cavan 2-16

31 London

THERE was victory over Wicklow and a draw with Limerick but that was as good as it got for London in 2018. They were never in the promotion frame and Sligo and Louth travelled to their new McGovern Park facility to deny them any solace from the Championship.

NFL Div 4: London 2-9 Carlow 2-14, London 1-16 Wicklow 0-10, London 2-8 Limerick 2-8, London 0-13 Antrim 0-17, London 2-9 Laois 0-17, London 1-14 Waterford 1-16; Connacht SFC: London 1-11 Sligo 1-21; All-Ireland SFC: London 1-19 Louth 2-26

32 Limerick

FAIR to say that the Treaty county hurlers gave Limerick fans their best days out in 2018 because the footballers couldn’t get a run going. Finished second-from-bottom in Division Four before losing to Clare, then Mayo in the Championship.

NFL Div 4: Laois 2-12 Limerick 0-9, Limerick 0-13 Carlow 2-11, London 2-8 Limerick 2-8, Leitrim 2-18 Limerick 1-9, Limerick 2-10 Waterford 2-9, Limerick 0-12 Antrim 1-13; Munster SFC: Limerick 0-14 Clare 1-23; All-Ireland SFC: Limerick 3-7 Mayo 5-19

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