Our GAA tipster previews this summer’s All Ireland Senior Football Championship and believes Mayo are the team to beat for Sam.
Yet again, 2013 proved that while it’s one thing to win the All Ireland Football Championship, it’s quite another to retain it. Donegal became the latest team to learn that painful lesson and while few would have expected them to crash out in the manner in which they did, they still failed utterly to hit the heights that we saw from them in 2012.
Perhaps the most ringing endorsement of that sentiment however was the way that Dublin went about regaining the Sam Maguire Cup just two years after Stephen Cluxton’s late free accounted for Kerry in the 2011 decider. Their second title in three years was won with a revamped playing panel, a different management team and a completely different style of playing the game. They may have worn the same colours and represented the same part of the country, but otherwise they bore little or no resemblance to the 2011 group.
The pace with which gaelic football is changing from year to year is utterly breathtaking and it is that ability to adapt and still play with complete and utter commitment that will be critical. It’s 33/1 bar six counties in 2014, so here’s our view on the six main contenders, as well as two springers that could yet get involved in the race.
Dublin (Best price 15/8, Boylesports)
They weren’t far ahead of Mayo, but those two counties were head and shoulders above the chasing pack last year. Dublin’s 2013 success will make it all the more difficult for them to match the ravenous hunger that we will see from Mayo next summer, but the depth of their panel makes it easy for Jim Gavin to shake things up considerably. It’s easy to say that change for the sake of change would be dangerous, but there are several members of the Sky Blue panel that are far from exceptional as players – however they have conditioned themselves supremely well and they fit into the scheme that is employed brilliantly. It won’t be difficult to tinker with the fringes of the team on that basis. They will get out of Leinster, but their outright price is probably a bit too skinny.
Mayo (Best price 11/2, Coral)
Quite why Corals have chosen to go out of their way to lay the Connacht champions is a bit beyond us as for so many reasons, they look like the team to keep onside. Clearly, footballing talent is not the problem. Their quarter final win over Donegal was the most impressive display of the year, while Galway and Roscommon both endorsed the form they showed in Connacht with some impressive performances subsequently.
Anyone who feels that they will be mentally broken by this year’s defeat doesn’t understand the Mayo mentality, and would do well to read up a little on it here, from the always excellent Spailpín Fánach. 11/2 won’t last and is by far the best antepost bet out there.
Kerry (Best Price 6/1, BetVictor)
They’ve clearly got the right man in charge, but the real issue is how they will cope with the continually increasing age profile in the squad. James O’Donoghue’s introduction doesn’t alter the fact that players like the O’Sés and Paul Galvin are going to have to be replaced and that won’t be easily done. Nonetheless Colm Cooper’s brilliance gives any team a chance and it’s hard to imagine them either failing to make the quarter finals, or trading at 6/1 or bigger once they get there.
Cork (Best Price 12/1, Bet365)
The vast majority of firms are trading Cork at around 13/2 or 7/1, unlike Powers who are laying 10/1, and Bet365, who offer two points more again. That seems brazen, but this is a greatly changed squad and one that was well off the pace in 2013. More than anything, Cork have to completely change the way they play the game – that will be the biggest test for Brian Cuthbert in 2014, not identifying his best XV. Bet365 could have the right idea here.
Donegal (Best Price 12/1, Powers)
In 2013 they were beset by injuries and fatigue, neither of which should be as much of a factor this time around. Nonetheless an Ulster Championship campaign is arduous at the best of times, while their style of play is far more vulnerable to upset than those counties that score freely. 12/1 looks big, but it’s very easy to pass it up all the same.
Tyrone (Best Price 16/1, Boylesports)
It’s been a long time since Tyrone have started a season at 16/1 or bigger to win the All Ireland, but if you put them in a group with five or six teams that are on offer at double the price or bigger, they wouldn’t stand out. Stephen O’Neill and Eoin Mulligan haven’t been adequately replaced and with all due respect to guys like Darren McCurry and Martin Penrose, Mickey Harte simply doesn’t have that kind of exceptional attacking talent to work with any more. Neither can Seán Cavanagh keep carrying them at 31 years of age, even allowing for his incredible levels of talent and fitness.
Dark Horse – Galway (Best Price 50/1, Boylesports)
Don’t let Corofin’s comfortable domestic success fool you – there is real depth out west and yet another talented group of under-21 players are ready to step up and potentially send Galway into the latter stages of the championship. One thing is also certain – if Galway go deep into the summer, they won’t freeze on the big day.
Alan Mulholland is an astute tactical expert who has surrounded himself with good people and if they can get one more year of top level play out of Michael Meehan, they could spring a few surprises.
Dark Horse – Derry (Best Price 66/1, Bet365)
Playing in division 1 would be tough at the best of times and the absence of their Ballinderry players for at least two rounds will make it even tougher. However it will be a great learning experience for them and when they have everyone available, they can be a seriously potent outfit. On the basis that they really shouldn’t fear anyone other than Dublin, Kerry and Mayo, they possibly have the potential to go deep and so offer back-to-lay value, even allowing for a first round tie against Donegal.