The leading contenders

1 Dublin

Right, they played in Division Two and haven’t been as formidable looking since Jim Gavin set sail a few years ago, but I’m still tipping Dublin to take home the big one at the end of the season.

You get the sense that the old heads on the Dublin team are determined to win one more All-Ireland for the road – Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion and Stephen Cluxton have all returned to the fold, and they looked ominously good in their recent demolition job of Louth in the Leinster final.

Even though they were missing those players (and Con O’Callaghan, who was injured at the time), they were probably the second best team in the country last year, losing by a point to Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final.


2 Galway

I like the cut of Galway’s jib. They didn’t set the world alight in their group stage victory over Tyrone at the weekend, but they have the feel of a team that is capable of landing the Sam Maguire.

They obviously weren’t too far away last year and in my book they’ve made a number of positive readjustments to their style of play and they have plenty of individual talent in their ranks. Pádraic Joyce has his head firmly screwed on and I can definitely see them making another All-Ireland final.


3. Mayo

We all know what happens to Mayo in All-Ireland finals, but they produced a real statement victory against Kerry last weekend.

It’s a very rare day indeed that Kerry are horsed out of it at Killarney, but that’s what transpired as they claimed a deserved 1-19 to 0-17 victory.

They also had a good league campaign, reaching the Division One final and there’s a nice balance to their team in the first year under Kevin McStay. There’s the whole psychodrama about their inability to get over the line on All-Ireland final day, but it has to happen some day, surely.


4 Kerry

Part of me feels relucant to rank Kerry outside the top three given they’re the reigning All-Ireland champions.

But they have been signs of wear and tear and they were poor against Mayo last weekend. The Cliffords haven’t had much of a break (they carried Fossa to All-Ireland Junior final club glory) and they’re in need of a strong midfielder now that David Moran is retired. It’s very hard for teams to complete the two in-a-row but you can’t discount them just yet.


5. Tyrone

Technically they lag behind Derry in the bookies rankings and I’m admittedly a tad biased.

But there’s two reasons why I’ve made Tyrone the fore-runners from Ulster.

Firstly, I believe the Rory Gallagher situation will have a detrimental impact on the Oakleafers (it’s bound to) and further, Tyrone showed they know how to get the job done when they won the All-Ireland in 2021.

They gave a good account of themselves with 14 men on the pitch for the majority of proceedings against Galway.

And if they get a bit more from their half-forward line and sub’s bench, they can go deep into this year’s championship.


6 Derry

The back-to-back Ulster Champions.

In an interview conducted after their penalty shoot-out win over Armagh, Brendan Rogers made no bones about their desire to win an All-Ireland title, and they’ll certainly be in the mix-up if they keep up their good form.

There’s a few question marks hanging over the team at present – they haven’t fared well for whatever reason in their recent matches in Croke Park and it remains to be seen what impact the whole Rory Gallagher affair will have on the team. But they’re a strong side who’ll quietly fancy their chances.


7 Armagh

It’s hard to see any team outside the top four or five winning the Sam Maguire, but it’d be unfair not to give Armagh a nod.

They more than played their part in an Ulster final classic nearly a fortnight ago and have had some good days out against the top teams in the country in the national league in recent years. They have a talented, motivated bunch of players and maybe they’ll cut loose now they’re out of the bearpit of Ulster Championship football.


8 Roscommon

The Rossies have surprised quite a few people this year, it’s fair to say.

They got off to a flying start in their first season back in Division One and ensured their survival for another year and pulled off a deserved four-point win over Mayo in the first round of Leinster. They gave a good account of themselves against Galway but it’d be more surprising than not if they manage to make it to the last four of the All-Ireland series.

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