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Comment & Analysis

Gaelic football counties ranked 1-32


IF Sean Boylan eventually takes the reins in Meath again, more optimistic Royals might start dreaming that his second coming may recreate the glory of 1996.

More Comment & Analysis:


That year, Meath were supposed to be starting a long rebuilding process and some more excitable pundits even wrote that they might come a cropper in the first round of that year’s Leinster championship, against Carlow.


They not only didn’t lose to Carlow, but didn’t lose to anyone, winning the All-Ireland only a year after being crushed by Dublin for the first time in living memory.


According to our ratings system, however, Meath are among the teams most unlikely to do a ‘Meath 96’ this year. If you’re looking for a team with an outside shot of winning the All-Ireland on the back of a fresh injection of high-grade talent just 12 months after being destroyed by the Dubs, you should not look beyond Tyrone.


The system tells us that Tyrone are one of the most improved teams in Ireland since the start of the year. We have been compiling results and using the Elo system – a mathematical method initially used to rank chess players but now used by major sports organisations around the world – to rank counties since the end of 2008.


One of the most interesting points since then is that the teams who have been the most improved over a league season have tended to have excellent championships. Down were that team in 2010, Donegal in 2011.


This year’s most improved team by some distance are Division Three table toppers Longford, although before you go out and remortgage the house to back them to beat Laois in the Leinster championship, do be aware that there are still 100 rating points between the teams, meaning that the Larries’ win expectancy against the O’Moore’s is about 36 per cent.


Regardless of what happens in that game, however, Glenn Ryan must surely already be one of the managers of the year, having presided over such an improvement in his side’s fortunes, moving them from being the 25th-best team in the country to the 21st.


Another county that must be chuffed with their choice of boss are Fermanagh, the second-biggest improvers, who were in freefall before Peter Canavan took over. Clare were another big winner from the past few months, even if they are coming from a series of seasons so poor that they remain 30th in the rankings.


Back up north, Down are heading in the right direction again despite another sound beating from Cork on Sunday. Things may not be as gloomy as they seem in Donegal, either, as they moved up a place, despite coming nowhere near matching their improvement at this time last year.


When we last wrote about this system, it seemed inevitable, given their results in 2010 and 2011, that Dublin would close the gap to the number one ranked team, Kerry. However, the wheels have fallen off that ratings charge this spring, to the extent that our old friend Mr Elo now ranks the Dubs as only the fourth-best team in the country.


Mayo people may already be having their minds torn apart by the hope inherent in their draw and win against Kerry in recent weeks, but the ratings show they are unlikely to win Sam this September. The table shows them ranked about where they always are, a highly-respectable fifth. A win over any of the counties rated above them would not be a surprise, but to win the big one, they would probably have to beat two of those teams, which is a statistical improbability.


Meath may be the crisis county of the moment, but Derry dropped even more sharply, as the league consistency that kept them highly-ranked in recent times deserted them. Offaly, Monaghan, Laois, Tipperary and Limerick are other counties that appear to be going nowhere fast, apart from downhill.


Cork, Kildare and Galway are about where they were, as are Kerry, who remain the most likely All-Ireland winners. The ratings say they would have a win expectancy of more than 80% against Meath, almost 60% against Dublin, but, and these are odds Mickey Harte would undoubtedly take, only 55% against Tyrone.



Rank (Last rank)   Team          Rating      Change since start of NFL

1 (1)                          Kerry            2518          +5

2 (4)                          Tyrone          2482         +20

3 (=2)                        Cork             2469         +2

4 (=2)                        Dublin           2458         -9

5 (5)                          Mayo             2409          0

6 (7)                          Donegal       2387         +9

7 (8)                          Kildare          2380         +5

8 (9)                          Galway          2361         0

9 (6)                          Derry             2358         -27

10 (12)                      Down             2319        +23

11 (11)                      Armagh          2310         -2

12 (10)                      Meath             2281        -21

13 (15)                      Wexford         2262        +6

14 (14)                      Monaghan     2261        -17

15 (13)                      Laois             2260        -20

16 (17)                      Roscommon  2181        +4

17 (19)                      Westmeath     2179       +15

18 (18)                      Sligo                2178       +4

19 (20)                      Louth               2170        +16

20 (16)                      Limerick         2162         -24

21 (25)                      Longford         2159        +62

22 (21)                      Antrim             2153        +9

23 (27)                      Fermanagh     2116       +38

24 (23)                      Cavan              2113       -19

25 (26)                      Wicklow           2100      +14

26 (22)                      Tipperary         2099      -34

27 (24)                      Offaly                2094      -33

28 (29)                      Leitrim              2046      -14

29 (28)                      Waterford         2044      -20

30 (30)                      Clare                 2018     +29

31 (31)                      Carlow              1944     -10

32 (32)                      London              1818     -16




Eamonn O Molloy

Eamonn O'Molloy is Gaelic Football columnist withThe Irish Post. Follow him on Twitter @EamonnOMolloy

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