After a year of uncertainty, and ‘what if’s’ here we are finally, the senior inter-county championships are upon us. We saw two fluid, high-scoring games of hurling this past weekend in Leinster and Munster. This has paved the way for what can be an exciting and unique championship in both codes. With the commencement of the Football championship to come this weekend, we take a preview of what is to come.
1) Top scorer
Top scorer could go anywhere at this stage, so much depends how far each county progresses. With big teams set to meet early, there will be some big names taken out of the equation. However, keep an eye out for these players to shine.
- Dave Clifford (Kerry) – This man needs no introduction at this stage. He has been scoring for fun over the last couple of years.
- Sean O’ Shea (Kerry) – A very reliable free-taker and dangerous from open play, Sean O’ Shea is equally as crucial to Kerry’s scoring success as Clifford.
- Dean Rock (Dublin) – Dublin’s newly crowned all-time top scorer has shown no signs of slowing down yet. With Dublin likely to put up some big scores in Leinster, expect Rock to lead the way for the Dubs.
- Shane Walsh (Galway) – The top scorer in the National League. Simply put, Galway are a better team with Walsh on the field.
- Darren McCurry (Tyrone) – Darren McCurry has been Tyrone’s top scorer in Cathal McShane’s absence.
- Conor McManus (Monaghan) – Conor McManus has proven time-and-time again to be a handful for any defender.
- Michael Murphy (Donegal) – Donegal’s top scorer in the league with 2-18. Much will depend on their opener with Tyrone.
- Cillian O’ Connor (Mayo) – Mayo will be glad to have their free-taker back. He has been the top scorer in four previous championships and should contribute a lot of Mayo’s scores should they progress through a tricky Connacht championship.
2) Player of the year
Much depends on who wins the All-Ireland here, we could see many names added to this list depending on how things plan out. But here’s five to watch out for.
– Dave Clifford (Kerry)
– Ciaran Kilkenny (Dublin)
– Brian Fenton (Dublin)
– Shane Walsh (Galway)
– Michael Murphy (Donegal)
3) Dark horse?
In what is often a predictable championship, this year may present an opportunity for a dark horse to make a run.
- Roscommon – The Connacht champions have a tough ask ahead of them to retain their title with the prospect of Mayo and Galway in the semi-final and final respectively. However, they have been in excellent form in division 2 and should they progress to an All-Ireland semi-final anything could happen.
- Armagh – Armagh have found form in Division 2 which has eluded them for the past decade. This could be the year they challenge for the Ulster crown once again.
- Cork – Quietly went about their business in Division 3 securing maximum points on their way to promotion. Cork seem to have turned a corner in the past 18 months and look to be on the up again. Hard to see them beating Kerry this year but don’t write off the rebels too quickly.
4) Provincial Championships betting
Galway will avoid Mayo or Roscommon until the final which is probably why they are favourites. Connacht is a three-horse race but there may be money to be made on Roscommon.
Carlow, Wicklow, Louth 500/1
Please God can we have a competitive Leinster Championship for the first time in a decade?
Cork may be worth a punt here, but much like Leinster, this is Kerry’s Championship to lose.
Donegal are big favourites in the bookie’s eyes. Monaghan, Tyrone and Armagh represent good value for money and have a very realistic chance at winning Ulster.