The end of November is not usually a time of year that we associate with profitable GAA betting, however after a busy season of provincial club championships, this is often a good time to catch the bookies unawares. All too often compilers will sit down and look at a market from first principles initially, but as the market matures they chop and change the prices depending on results and their field books instead of constantly going back to square one with all their new information. This results in the potential for anomalies. We start our examination by looking at the All Ireland club football race.
Based on form so far, there are three provinces with high class teams and one that isn’t quite at the same standard. Crossmaglen look to be as good as ever and it will be a huge shock if Kilcoo turn them over this Sunday, while in Connacht, St Brigids are playing as well as they did in 2010/2011, the season when they won their province, beat Nemo Rangers and came within a goal of Cross at Croke Park.
Down south, Dr Crokes have been equally impressive. Their one point away win against Kilmurry-Ibrickane – a decent result in its own right – is the only time this year that they’ve failed to cover their handicap, and even then they had the Clare champions well beaten before losing focus in the last fifteen minutes. However in Leinster, while Ballymun Kickhams and Portlaoise have both played some good football at times, they’ve done nothing to suggest that they’re good enough to turn over any of the big three. Equally Castlehaven have done all that’s been asked of them, but at this level there is only so far you can go on the back of a very good defensive unit. Eventually you have to be able to take your own scores and we suspect that they’ll run aground this Sunday too.
However for outright value, the bet has to be St Brigids at 6/1 with Hills. That price may look fair enough on the basis of their likely fixtures – a tie against Cross in the semi-final and a final against Crokes on St Patrick’s Day – but if there are any upsets along the way, something we cannot rule out, then they would represent a decent betting option. They are playing like the second best team in Ireland and it’s impossible to ignore the value of comprehensive victories over the champions of Galway and Mayo, both on enemy territory.
Three of the four semi-finalists are known already in this competition, with Leinster the only province still to determine a winner. Loughgiel are well exposed after their exploits last season but it’s impossible to ignore this simple fact – they were available at 10/1 and even bigger at this same stage last year, even though we already knew that they were going to be up against first time winners in every province. This time around we have first time winners in Munster and Connacht, but St Thomas and Thurles Sarsfields are significant upgrades on Gort and Na Piarsaigh respectively. Meanwhile, the big bad boys of Ballyhale still loom large, even though they face a tough test this Sunday.
Here, we’re going to take the old fashioned approach – when we eliminate the bad value, what remains, must be the good. We know that Loughgiel aren’t a punt at half the price of last year. We know that Thurles, even though they’ve looked good, have been pushed to the wire in their last three games and that’s in a province where no team has beaten a Galway or Leinster champion for nine years. Munster club hurling is not as strong as Kilkenny/Galway, and so we’re not going to take them at 9/4. God knows what Ladbrokes are thinking with a price of 6/4.
We know that Kilcormac-Killoughey are out of their depth in this company and narrow wins over Carlow and Laois champions suggests that they’ve hit their ceiling. We know that Oulart face a huge test this Sunday and even if they win, they won’t be any shorter than 3/1 for the All Ireland. No value there.
That leaves Ballyhale and St Thomas. Ballyhale could be an option simply because they will get better as the year goes on, but pricing so far indicates that they would be 4/7 or so against Thurles. We’d disagree, but that’s the time to bet them.
So again, we’re going west of the Shannon. St Thomas looked really good in the Galway final against a decent Loughrea team, crucially their defence stepped up instead of depending on their young attacking line up, and they will improve for the drier ground in March. 5/1 is generally available and again, if Ballyhale reach the final, that’s probably a correct price. If Oulart/KK/Thurles trip up Ballyhale, then we know we have value on our side.
All Ireland Club Football: St Brigids @ 6/1 (1pt win)
All Ireland Club Hurling: St Thomas @ 5/1 (1pt win)
Profit/Loss to date: +4.18 points (tracking started from Saturday Aug 4th 2012; 27.5 points staked, 15.2% ROI)