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Thursday 19 October 2017

Early speed wobbles for Sam busters

We assess our football top-ten after a bumpy start on the road to September

Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan tries to get past Carlow’s Shane Clarke in their Leinster SFC quarter-final at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan tries to get past Carlow’s Shane Clarke in their Leinster SFC quarter-final at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise. Photo: Sportsfile

Last month, as part of The Herald's football championship preview magazine, we ranked all the heavyweights and wannabes and minnows in ascending order.

By 6pm last Sunday, our top-ten picks had already completed at least one match on a road paved, they hope, with All-Ireland glory.

Several of them have already hit early speed wobbles, none more hazardous than Mayo's Salthill skid as they crashed out of the Connacht SFC race - for the second consecutive June - to Galway. But they aren't alone among the top contenders with early-summer issues. Here's our top ten, as rated in May ...

1 DUBLIN

SO FAR: Dublin 0-19 Carlow 0-7.

NEXT UP: Leinster semi-final v Westmeath or Offaly, Croke Park, June 25.

Mayo’s Keith Higgins goes in to tackle Galway’s Michael Daly in last Sunday’s Connacht SFC semi-final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile
Mayo’s Keith Higgins goes in to tackle Galway’s Michael Daly in last Sunday’s Connacht SFC semi-final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Sportsfile

POSITIVES: Jack McCaffrey's seamless return, coupled with summer game-time for a handful of 'newbies' who could yet be key in keeping Dublin fresh.

NEGATIVES: Diarmuid Connolly's proposed 12-week ban, now being contested, with all the media circus trappings entailed.

REVISED RATING: 1

2 KERRY

SO FAR: Kerry 1-18 Clare 1-12.

NEXT UP: Munster final v Cork, venue TBC, July 2.

POSITIVES: James O'Donoghue. Imperious second half in Ennis on Sunday. Keep him fit and the O'Donoghue/Geaney axis could make all the difference.

NEGATIVES: That first half against Clare was not the stuff of champions-elect. Was it merely dirty petrol?

REVISED: 2

3 MAYO

SO FAR: Mayo 2-14 Sligo 0-11; Galway 0-15 Mayo 1-11.

NEXT UP: Round 2A Qualifier, July 1.

POSITIVES: Whoever they draw in the 2A hat, the fixtures looks eminently winnable - even without the banned Keith Higgins.

NEGATIVES: Beyond that, this back door road is laden with booby-traps for a team that has passed its peak, that mightn't have the stomach for it, and that hasn't unearthed the marquee forward it clearly needs.

REVISED: 6

4 TYRONE

SO FAR: Tyrone 0-22 Derry 0-11.

NEXT UP: Ulster semi-final v Donegal, Clones, next Sunday.

POSITIVES: So far, so straight-forward. The bench is getting stronger and deeper, based on the admittedly facile evidence of Celtic Park.

NEGATIVES: Their Donegal showdown screams danger, and a back door detour might not suit Tyrone as this point in their evolution.

REVISED: 3

5 MONAGHAN

SO FAR: Monaghan 1-20 Fermanagh 1-11; Monaghan 1-15 Cavan 0-15.

NEXT UP: Ulster semi-final v Down, Athletic Grounds, June 24.

POSITIVES: Back-to-back wins, survived a stern derby test in Cavan, and Conor McManus is in the zone.

NEGATIVES: A long road, even through the front door.

REVISED: 4

6 DONEGAL

SO FAR: Donegal 3-19 Antrim 1-9.

NEXT UP: Ulster semi-final v Tyrone.

POSITIVES: Michael Murphy's recent knee injury scare was only that, a scare. Their handful of SFC first-timers enjoyed an untroubled baptism against Antrim.

NEGATIVES: We've yet to discover if the young guns are ready for the real step-up. Sunday will tell us loads more.

REVISED: 7

7 GALWAY

SO FAR: Galway 0-15 Mayo 1-11.

NEXT UP: Connacht final v Roscommon or Leitrim, venue TBC, July 9.

POSITIVES: Confidence must be soaring. A year older and wiser than 2016, tougher to crack and more consistent.

NEGATIVES: Red-hot favourites now to retain the JJ Nestor Cup ... but Kevin Walsh's men are yet to fully convince they can step up from last-eight to last-four.

REVISED: 5

8 MEATH

SO FAR: Meath 0-27 Louth 3-9.

NEXT UP: Leinster semi-final v Kildare, Tullamore, next Saturday.

POSITIVES: Twenty-seven points! Graham Reilly's prolific leadership.

NEGATIVES: Can you trust that porous defence?

REVISED: 9

9 KILDARE

SO FAR: Kildare 1-21 Laois 1-7.

NEXT UP: Leinster semi-final v Meath.

POSITIVES: Young, gifted and back in the mix; stronger and more cohesive.

NEGATIVES: The fear that a loss to Meath could stall progress.

REVISED: 8

10 CORK

SO FAR: Cork 1-12 Waterford 1-11; Cork 1-10 Tipp 1-9.

NEXT UP: Munster final v Kerry, venue TBC, July 2.

POSITIVES: Eh, the second half against Tipp.

NEGATIVES: The three previous halves.

REVISED: 10

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