National Football League report cards: The counties assessed
Last Updated: 22/03/20 5:41pm
With the National Football League paused, we reflect on the five-game campaign and grade each team.
Things could not have gone much better for Pádraic Joyce so far, barring the narrow defeat to Kerry in Tralee.
The Tribesmen secured four wins from five while adapting to a new style.
So far in 2020, they boasted a far greater attacking threat than was seen in recent years. Shane Walsh is thriving with the added responsibility of captaincy, Damien Comer clearly benefited with a preseason of work under the belt, while Ronan Steede seized his opportunity with both hands.
2018 All-Star Ian Burke had not yet featured following the club campaign with Corofin, meaning the Galway attack is likely to improve even further.
While they did not get a shot at All-Ireland champions Dublin, the Tribesmen will have been satisfied that it was a near-perfect preparation for the summer.
After an opening draw away to Dublin, Kerry held out for wins against Galway, Meath and Mayo. However, their loss away to Tyrone will have stung. Nonetheless, the challenging conditions in Edendork mean there could be an asterisks put next to that loss.
Following the 2019 All-Ireland final, the Munster kingpins know they are not too far away, as Peter Keane looks for the missing ingredient. The departure of Donie Buckley from the management team raised eyebrows, as they continue to seek a defensive solution.
Having played their frontline stars throughout the campaign, Kerry are confident they are a side who are major challengers for Sam Maguire in 2020.
Well and truly a mixed bag for the Red Hands.
Mickey Harte would have been delighted with wins over Kerry and Dublin if offered before the start of the competition. But the manner of their 19-point hammering at the hands of Galway in Tuam, and to a lesser degree their four-point away loss to Monaghan set the side back.
The highs and lows were mirrored by the off-field saga of Cathal McShane, who after weeks of speculation turned down a move to Australia, only to suffer a serious injury that rules him out until mid-summer.
It is difficult to know what to make of their campaign as a whole, but Harte will focus on the positives; hard-working wins over both of last year’s All-Ireland finalists.
Dessie Farrell’s first league campaign in charge of Dublin will have shown the Na Fianna man just how much determination is in the squad he inherited.
In each of their first four games, they dug themselves out of a hole to secure a result. This was particularly impressive against Monaghan, after they trailed by 10 points in the first half.
However, the flip side of that coin is they’re starting games slowly, and it’s a habit Farrell will be looking to kick.
It finished on a sour note away to Tyrone, but overall it will rate as a satisfactory innings for the Sky Blues.
Declan Bonner’s charges left points behind them at home to Mayo and Galway, but when their backs were against the wall as Monaghan came to Ballyshannon, they delivered in spades.
The reigning Ulster champions showed enough in their trip to Croke Park to suggest that they could ask serious questions of Dublin this summer should they meet, and they maintained a certain level of performance throughout the campaign.
Once again, the key could be keeping their protagonists fit throughout the championship, and they will not be far off the required standard.
Once again touted by many for relegation, the great survivors of Divsion 1 Monaghan once again proved their doubters wrong. The Farney County picked up wins over Tyrone and Kerry, while also claiming an away draw to Dublin to allay fears of the drop.
They had two home games to finish out the campaign, and Séamus McEnaney would have been hopeful of picking up further wins against Kerry and Meath.
After a disappointing 2019, the Ulster side were looking to bounce back, and seemed to be moving in the right direction. Rory Beggan produced some top-drawer performances, while Micheál Bannigan carried his Sigerson Cup form with DCU onto the intercounty scene.
Banty will be quietly thrilled with how the first few months of his second reign played out.
Relegation was staring Mayo in the face when the league was put on hold, and there was pressure building both on and off the field.
Having claimed the Division 1 title in 2019, James Horan was perhaps thinking about the bigger picture rather than on defending their crown, but nonetheless Mayo found themselves in a hole.
Losses to Dublin, Monaghan and Kerry meant they were left needing two wins from their final two games to avoid the drop.
Although they injected new blood into the side, there is also a competitive balance that needs to be struck. Overall, an underwhelming league for the men in green and red.
Five losses in five games saw the Royals relegated with two rounds left to play. To that end, it was a thoroughly disappointing visit to the top flight for Andy McEntee and Co, but that’s not to say there weren’t positives.
Much like their showing in the Super 8s last year, the Royals were largely competitive.
Barring their 10-point defeat at the hands of Donegal, they were not far off the required standard to match the country’s elite. They fell to one and two-point losses to Mayo and Galway respectively in Navan, while they asked questions of Kerry for long periods in Killarney.
Despite being depleted in recent weeks, without the services of Mickey Newman and Ben Brennan, Meath need to start digging out results against the top teams if they are to take the next step.