The All-Ireland champions return to Championship action this Sunday with a potential banana skin. Dublin got a King Kong sized monkey off their backs thanks to last September’s thrilling victory over Kerry. Now it’s time to build the dynasty the Dubs have always felt they’re entitled to, but only recently looked capable of delivering.
39 years has passed since they last lost a competitive game to Louth. Some sketchy league form could give the Wee County hope of an upset, but absence of the Brogans from those games limits its worth. On the plus column, Louth have one Championship victory under their belt this summer. One the negative side, it took a last gasp goal and nearly nine minutes of added time to secure the narrowest of victories over Westmeath,
Looking back at the league campaign, Louth also endured the most enjoyable mixed bag it’s possible to have. They had some nice wins, a couple of heavy defeats and a couple of games that got away to end in a stalemate. But it all didn’t matter much as a resounding win in Navan secured their safety, relegated their neighbours and made up for the events of the 2010 Leinster Final. Almost.
The industrious midfield of Paddy Keenan and Ronan Carroll will make the Jackeens work for the win, but the defence behind them might undermine their efforts. They had the joint leakiest defence in Division 2 and the Blues are more than capable of taking advantage.
It’s a stat seemingly plucked from an alternate universe, but Longford are the only unbeaten team in 2012. Whilst they were always capable of sucker-punching any opponent, Glenn Ryan has turned them into a more consistent outfit. They’ve tightened up defensively and are not slouches when it comes to scoring.
Despite no longer having the services of Mattie Forde, Wexford haven’t vanished off the face of the earth. The progress the Yellowbellies have made under Jason Ryan continued last year. They were impressive in Leinster before losing narrowly to Dublin in the final. The bubble was surprisingly burst when they lost to Limerick in the qualifiers, but this year’s league campaign gave renewed cause for optimism.
It’s likely to be tighter than a pair of vintage 70s GAA shorts so maybe backing the first stalemate of the Championship summer at 15/2 isn’t the worst of ideas.
Under the guidance of Peter Canavan, Fermanagh stormed to promotion. Being the best team in Division 4 is similar to being the most musical of the Spice Girls, but it showed the revolution is underway. That revolution took a bit of a hit when they lost to Wicklow in the league final, but they look to be going places.
Down begin the Championship campaign with whatever optimism you can take from a run to the semi-finals of Division 1. They’re the stronger outfit, but the effect of home advantage will narrow the gulf in class. As a player, Peter the Great was always capable of pulling something out of the bag. If he can do it as a manager, the Ernesiders can pull off an upset.