The 2011 All Ireland Senior Football Championship steps up a gear this weekend, with the meeting of Donegal and Antrim in Ulster. Sportsnewsireland has been looking at the likely winners and losers in the season ahead:
The big three in this years championship look to be Cork, Kerry and Dublin. It is difficult to look outside of that trio for the outright winner. Tyrone are next in the betting, but Mickey Harte’s side have had a mixed season and while the championship could yet ignite the Northern side,we have seen little evidence to date. As the defending champions, Cork have to be the first port of call. Last year’s decider was a make or break game for the Rebels and had they lost,it is likely that they would have struggled in 2011. Instead they have come out with all guns blazing, and have already reclaimed their league title. They are clearly the team to beat once again.
Munster rivals, Kerry have had the Indian sign over Cork in recent years and have proven far too strong for their neighbours, everytime they clashed at headquarters. Down saw off the kingdom in 2010 and Cork claimed their title without having to face the ultimate test. While this young Cork team are hugely talented and most likely the best side in the country at present,they have still to prove that they can beat Kerry at Croke Park. If the two sides progress far enough to reach the last four, it could set up a mouthwatering encounter at the home of Gaelic Football.
Dublin have been the nearly team in recent years and must surely be close to making the breakthrough. Pat Gilroy’s side sauntered through the league until they were beaten by Cork in the final. Once again,the Blues surrendered a big lead and fitness appeared to be an issue late on. The current group of players are certainly good enough to win a national title, but questions must be asked regarding their inability to see out their matches.
Much will depend on the results in other games this summer,but at the prices, Kerry have to be the selection at 7/2. Jack O’Connor had a difficult year in 2010 but it’s already clear that the kingdom are looking stronger this season. Paul Galvin should hopefully be available for the full campaign and Declan O’Sullivan is returning to his best form. Colm Cooper is captain in 2011 and looks a man on a mission. It would be fitting should the Dr Crokes man lift the Sam Maguire come September.
Every year a team emerges from the pack and surprises fans with a good run in the competition. This year we are going for two outsiders to do just that. One obvious, and one not so obvious.Donegal have impressed in the league under new boss,Jim McGuiness and if they can bring their new found momentum into the championship, then they could surprise a few better fancied teams. Galway have been disappointing in 2011 but have the pedigree and the players to shock a few people. While the Tribesmen were very poor in the league, they won the games that mattered, and have since claimed an All Ireland Under-21 title. Pádraic Joyce made a huge difference when he returned for the latter stages of the league and when Michael Meehan is available he will also make a difference. Mark Hehir proved he was a player for the big stage, with a man of the match display in the Under-21 final and will be a big addition to the seniors. Despite their poor start to the year,Galway could yet rise from the ashes.
In the provincial championships,the above named sides were obviously be competitive. Galway probably have Mayo to beat in the West and at odds of 19/10 they are a fair bet to do so.Last year’s winners, Roscommon are on the opposite side of the draw to the big two,so odds of 17/2 appeal. Although no bookmakers offer eachway prices, the Rossies can be backed, and laid back at 5/2 or 3/1 on betfair, should they reach the decider.
Dublin are a standout bet at 5/4 to win the Leinster title. The competition in the province is not as strong as it used to be and realistically, only Kildare look any kind of serious threat to the Blues. With both on the same side of the draw, Louth at 10/1 look the value for those seeking a trade. Unlucky losers in last years final, the Wee County should again make that stage and the 4/1 or 9/2 on offer at that point will allow backers to hedge for a free bet.
In Munster, it’s a close call between Kerry and Cork for honours. The Rebels may just shade the verdict at 5/6 although there is little value at that price. In a 50-50 match,the 6/5 available about the kingdom is obviously better value. Having said that, if Cork are going to beat Kerry in 2011, it is most likely at this stage of the competition. Munster looks a no go area and no bets are advised.
The Ulster championship is always notoriously difficult to win and must be approached with caution. Tyrone are the obvious starting point,and at 9/4 they are arguably a fair price. However, for the bet, we are going with the improving Donegal. Jim McGuineess has done a wonderful job in his first season at the helm and 8/1 is too big about the Division Two champions.
Munster: No Bet
Connacht: Galway 19/10 (2 points win)
Roscommon 17/2(to lay off) (0.75 win)
Leinster: Dublin 5/4 (3 points win)
Louth 10/1(to lay off) (0.75 win)
Ulster: Donegal 8/1 (1 point win)