Football review: The Accordion Effect

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Kerry remain top of the football rankings after a hectic weekend, but the manner of their defeat away in Cork means the gap between the teams at the top is becoming all the tighter. It’s conceivable that either Mayo or Dublin could take over at the top of the rankings table after the next round of games.

Mayo move into second with their win in Celtic Park over Derry, leapfrogging Dublin who seep some points because of their home draw with Tyrone.  Galway are the main drop of the week, after losing away to Down. Kildare, thanks to a relieving win on Saturday night against Cavan, also gain one spot.

Football rankings
(w/e March 8, 2015)
1 Kerry 1894
2 (+1) Mayo 1857
3 (-1) Dublin 1850
4 Donegal 1781
5 Cork 1771
6 (+1) Monaghan 1644
7 (-1) Tyrone 1639
8 Armagh 1488
9 Derry 1458
10 Meath 1440
11 (+1) Kildare 1437
12 (+1) Down 1427
13 (-2) Galway 1397
14 Roscommon 1342
15 (+1) Laois 1293
16 (+1) Tipperary 1243
17 (-2) Cavan 1234
18 (+2) Fermanagh 1178
19 Westmeath 1175
20 (-2) Louth 1154
21 (+1) Wexford 1085
22 (-1) Clare 1080
23 Longford 1066
24 (+1) Sligo 1048
25 (-1) Limerick 985
26 Offaly 939
27 Antrim 913
28 Wicklow 849
29 Leitrim 827
30 Carlow 706
31 Waterford 689
32 London 540
33 New York 364
34 Kilkenny 147

We’ll be back twice later in the week to preview next weekend’s football.

Hurling preview: ‘Tis Far From Here You Were Reared

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A lot of travelling involved in Division 1A this weekend. All three of our top-ranked teams hit the road as the league table reaches a key weekend that may confirm, if not who will be in contention for silverware, who will be gunning to avoid the drop.

For the first time this year, all ’34’ counties are in action, so let’s get down to it… Continue reading Hurling preview: ‘Tis Far From Here You Were Reared

Football review: All White on the Night

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Kerry remain top of the rankings after their win over Dublin in Killarney, in a game blighted by awful weather and awful indiscipline.

That same awful weather also forced the postponement of two matches in Division 2, the home matches of Galway (versus Laois) and Roscommon (versus Meath). Their hiatus meant the winners of the other two matches had a chance to leapfrog either and rise up the rankings, temporarily at least.

And what’s why Kildare’s loss at home to Westmeath is so damaging. It’s Kildare’s third loss on the bounce, but a loss at home against the lowest-rated team in the Division is even worse. After making it to the O’Byrne Cup final, Jason Ryan’s tenure is looking tough already. A relegation battle looms, and all of a sudden a Leinster opener against Laois (or maybe Carlow) looks like it could be a monumentally important day for football in the county.

Kildare’s loss sends them down three spots, with Derry’s Division 1 draw against Tyrone lifting them into 9th. Meath and Galway also benefit from Kildare’s slump, although partly because neither had the opportunity to lose any points this weekend. Their games have been refixed for three weeks’ time.

If there’s still snow around by then, we’re in trouble – but given Kildare’s form thus far, other teams may not be so fearful about the sight of white.

Football rankings
(w/e March 1, 2015)
1 Kerry 1944
2 Dublin 1865
3 Mayo 1846
4 Donegal 1829
5 Cork 1721
6 Tyrone 1624
7 Monaghan 1596
8 Armagh 1505
9 (+1) Derry 1469
10 (+1) Meath 1424
11 (+1) Galway 1416
12 (-3) Kildare 1410
13 (+1) Down 1408
14 (-1) Roscommon 1375
15 Cavan 1261
16 Laois 1260
17 Tipperary 1225
18 Louth 1211
19 Westmeath 1191
20 Fermanagh 1161
21 (+1) Clare 1098
22 (-1) Wexford 1070
23 Longford 1060
24 Limerick 1000
25 Sligo 991
26 (+1) Offaly 950
27 (+1) Antrim 904
28 (-2) Wicklow 851
29 Leitrim 816
30 (+1) Carlow 704
31 (-1) Waterford 695
32 London 549
33 New York 364
34 Kilkenny 147

It’s a double weekend of League action next weekend, with full programmes in football and hurling. We’ll be back twice later in the week with previews of each.

Football preview: Make it stick

What is it about Dublin versus Kerry? First versus second, in both GAA Elo rankings and All-Ireland titles. Any meeting between the game’s two leading sides is always something to savour – it’s merely a shame that it’ll clash with the Ireland-England match in the Six Nations. Fire up the Sky+.

Division 1

Kerry (1, 1926) v Dublin (2, 1883)
Where else would you start? The All-Ireland champions of 2014 versus the reigning League champions and the All-Ireland winners of 2013. Put it simply: if the Dubs can overcome our form-book model that gives them only a 34% chance of success, they’ll overtake Kerry at the top of the table.

Tyrone (6, 1637) v Derry (10, 1456)
The Saturday night clash sees Mickey Harte’s rejuvenated Tyrone side hoping to put the opening-night loss to Monaghan further back in their memories. Derry are the division’s weakest side and are given only a 22% chance of success.

Donegal (4, 1814) v Cork (5, 1736)
Another clash between two evenly-matched teams. Cork are the only side in Division 1 to have won both their openers, and if they can escape from Ballybofey with that record intact, they’ll be increasingly difficult to overcome. Our model, however, gives the home side a 69% likelihood of winning.

Mayo (3, 1829) v Monaghan (7, 1613)
This writer spent last weekend in Castlebar where it seems to have been raining almost constantly since roughly 1997. Last week Dr McHale Park was unplayable for the hurlers and if there’s no improvement this week, we could be in for an odd venue. Either way, one suspects that bumpier terrain might help the visitors to be more competitive than our model suggests – it says Mayo are 81% likely to win.

Division 2

Cavan (15, 1297) v Down (14, 1372)
These two provincial rivals are only one spot apart in the ratings, but the rankings gap illustrates something of the difference between them. However, having home venue could help – the model says Cavan have a 52.8% chance of success, which is a virtual 50-50.

Galway (12, 1416) v Laois (16, 1260)
Galway are another of only six sides in the country with a two-from-two record and are fancied to keep that run going against Laois. Our model says they’re 76% likely to do so.

Kildare (9, 1459) v Westmeath (19, 1142)
Kildare have lost both of their opening fixtures in Division 2 – and both because of late onslaughts by their victors. Having home venue against a Westmeath may give them a 87% chance of success, but Westmeath won their first game well and only lost to Galway by a single point. An upset would not be out of the question.

Roscommon (13, 1375) v Meath (11, 1424)
The Rossies are yet to lose in this year’s campaign (draw versus Cavan, win versus Down) and will fancy themselves to pop a Meath team that, beating Kildare aside, has still to find its feet. Much to your writer’s annoyance, the home side are tipped by 55.8%.

Division 3

Clare (22, 1078) v Sligo (25, 1011)
The Banner followed their opening-day thrashing of Wexford with a somewhat surprising defeat to Louth – but Sligo have lost both their openers by two points. Clare’s 68.3% likelihood of victory doesn’t seem all that unfair as a result.

Fermanagh (20, 1128) v Tipperary (17, 1258)
The hosts are two-from-two, while Tipp will be merely annoyed that their 12-point thrashing of Limerick came ahead of a two-weekend break. Our model says they’re expected to over-come that break with a 53.5% chance.

Limerick (24, 1013) v Armagh (8, 1492)
Armagh are two-from-two and this ought to be an easy one – Limerick’s first win over Sligo was followed by a thrashing by Tipperary. Armagh are 85% likely to win it and it would be genuinely stunning if they didn’t.

Louth (18, 1192) v Wexford (21, 1089)
Louth beat Clare who beat Wexford. No problem, surely? If only it were that simple. Nonetheless, Wexford’s thrashing on the opening day has damaged their rating and Louth are tipped by 71%.

Division 4

London (32, 562) v Longford (23, 1047)
The Exiles gave Carlow a good game before losing three weeks ago and remaining rooted to the foot of the (32-county) table. Longford drew one match and won the other by a single point – there’s a reason our model gives them a 85% chance of success.

Waterford (30, 732) v Carlow (31, 667)
Both are one-from-two; Waterford’s ranking is boosted by their 100-point home venue bonus, giving them a 68% probability of coming out on top.

Wicklow (26, 907) v Offaly (27, 894)
The closest-matched sides to face each other this weekend, with only 13 Elo points between them. Wicklow’s home venue is enough to nudge them over the line with a 62.7% likelihood.

Leitrim (29, 851) v Antrim (28, 869)
Leitrim have one point from four and a points difference of -1. Antrim have one point from four and a points difference of… -1. But, again, a tight game may well be settled by a home venue. Leitrim are ruled 59% likely to prevail.

We’ll be back after the weekend reflecting on the results of the weekend’s football.

Hurling mini-preview: London v Derry

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We’d already written half of a lengthy sequence about ‘how English people reacted to seeing hurling on Sky Sports’ before we realised that one of the two hurling matches scheduled for this weekend, Longford v Warwickshire, has been pushed back a fortnight.

That leaves the Division 2A clash of London (21, 1069) and Derry (19, 1195) as the sole fixture of the weekend. London are looking out of sorts after two heavy defeats to London and Carlow; Derry have three points from four after a draw with Kerry and a two-point win over Westmeath.

The men from the Oak Leaf County are in good form and have form on their side – but London have calibre and home venue, and accordingly a lesser disadvantage in the Elo modelling stakes. Derry are listed as 53% favourites but this one could really go either way.

Hurling review: Rhapsody in Blue

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Well, how about that? Kilkenny might have saved some pride with a late rally to reduce their deficit to five points – and they feel aggrieved about one of their two red cards – but Dublin at one point led by 14 points and can take pride in having battered both of last year’s All-Ireland and League finalists.

The win in Nowlan Park sends the Dubs up to fourth on the rankings chart, while Galway slide two places in the opposite direction despite a valiant effort in Thurles. Tyrone are the week’s other big winners after defeating Fingal by a single point in Swords.

Hurling rankings
(w/e February 22, 2015)
1 Kilkenny 2234
2 Tipperary 2052
3 Cork 1972
4 (+2) Dublin 1937
5 Limerick 1906
6 (-2) Galway 1901
7 Clare 1854
8 Waterford 1782
9 Wexford 1731
10 Offaly 1553
11 Laois 1451
12 Antrim 1437
13 Kerry 1434
14 Carlow 1343
15 Kildare 1299
16 Down 1248
17 Westmeath 1246
18 Meath 1231
19 Derry 1195
20 Wicklow 1082
21 London 1069
22 Mayo 1003
23 Donegal 918
24 (+2) Tyrone 902
25 (-1) FIngal 897
26 (-1) Roscommon 880
27 Armagh 873
28 Louth 740
29 (+1) Monaghan 681
30 (-1) Fermanagh 645
31 Longford 619
32 Warwickshire 532
33 Sligo 381
34 Leitrim 276
35 Lancashire 250*

We’ll be back later in the week with previews of the Football and Hurling league fixtures.

Hurling preview: Keep your frenemies close

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AS IF Cork and Clare needed another excuse to ratchet the tension up a notch or two. The 2013 All-Ireland finalists meet this Saturday evening, both searching for their first win, and both knowing that a defeat will make it all the more difficult to get out of an awkward and demoralising relegation battle.

Here’s our preview of this weekend’s 15 matches in the National Hurling League:

Division 1A

Cork (3, 1953) v Clare (7, 1873)
When there are only six teams in each division, each teams only gets to play five times. That means one defeat can be tolerated (Kilkenny lost two last year on their way to overall League success) but two, especially out of the first two, leaves virtually no margin for error. Cork’s home venue – Páirc Uí Rínn hosts for the second Saturday night in a row – gives them a 69% chance of success.

Kilkenny (1, 2279) v Dublin (6, 1892) 
Kilkenny had no warm-up competition and are missing no fewer than 12 members of the Ballyhale side who are still on All-Ireland business. Not only that, but they played the Hurler of the Year out of position last week… only for Richie Power to score 0-11 from corner-forward, taking over free-taking duties from the absent TJ Reid. Nowlan Park dictates a 90% chance of success over Ger Cunningham’s Dublin on Sunday – who will know that Tipperary, albeit poor, did not merit a 12-point defeat last weekend.

Tipperary (2, 2040) v Galway (4, 1913)
Probably the best clash of the weekend in terms of raw quality and in terms of having something to prove. Tipp will want to make amends for last weekend’s horror show in Parnell Park, while Galway will be keen to show their mettle after last week’s win over Clare. Semple Stadium may make all the difference, with our model giving Tipp a 74% likelihood of success.

Division 1B

Waterford (8, 1771) v Laois (11, 1462)
After escaping Limerick with a draw last week Waterford ought to feel they’re capable of putting away a Laois side who gave Offaly a good frightening last week. That said, Laois are far from also-rans and probably deserve more than the 14% chance of success our model gives them.

Antrim (12, 1447) v Limerick (5, 1896)
Antrim gave Wexford an almighty shakedown last week and may feel like this week’s odds of 16.7% are far from reflective of their chances of success. Limerick’s rating reflects their Championship exploits last year but, after flexing their muscles last week, should feel capable of living up to their rating.

Offaly (10, 1587) v Wexford (9, 1697)
Offaly snuck out of Portlaoise with both points last week; Wexford snuck out of Wexford Park with the scalp of Antrim and a mighty sigh of relief. This clash between two sides on a similar footing, ratings-wise, could be the clash of the weekend. Wexford are favoured with a mere 51.2% chance of success.

Division 2A

Derry (19, 1173) v Westmeath (17, 1268)
As a Liam MacCarthy side, Westmeath quite probably ought to be higher on our ratings – but the nature of the hurling structure, and the fact that teams tend to play those of their own ‘grade’ more often, means a steady string of defeats sends them further down the list. If they want to prove they’re better than 17th, and would deserve to be considered favourites for promotion, they’ll need to do better than the 49.5% chance of success that our model gives them, partly skewed by Derry’s home venue.

London (21, 1099) v Carlow (14, 1313)
London were on the wrong end of a 26-9 scoreline last week against Westmeath; Carlow were on the right-end of a 26-9 scoreline against Wicklow. Only a bumpy ride to Aughrim ought to pose any challenge – our model gives them a 90% chance of victory.

Wicklow (20, 1104) v Kerry (13, 1412)
Kerry, who are regularly there or thereabouts in the Christy Ring stakes, are really only one breakthrough season away from knocking on the door of promotion to Division 1. After a hectic draw against Derry last week, a 73% chance of success this week points to the prospect of a tilt at the Division 2.

Division 2B

Armagh (26, 847) v Donegal (23, 944)
Assuming a home venue gives a team an artificial 100-point ratings boost, this game is technically the closest of the weekend, and Armagh are favoured statistically with a mere 50.3% chance of success. Both sides are bruised from defeats last week and will want to get their challenges back on track.

Kildare (15, 1278) v Down (16, 1269)
Down and Kildare are among the other sides who regularly knock on the door of Christy Ring success, and both will be happy with their victories last week. Having disposed of Meath with such relative ease, Kildare are favoured with a 62.3% likelihood of making it two-from-two.

Mayo (22, 1035) v Meath (18, 1199)
Mayo will be happy to have escaped Donegal with two points, while Meath will be feeling very deflated after following their O’Byrne Cup win with a 10-point massacre in Trim at home to Kildare. The visitors are favoured with a 57% chance of getting their season back on track.

Division 3A

Fingal (24, 925) v Tyrone (26, 874)
Fingal are a side very much on the up, and should find it easier to flex their muscles at home against a Tyrone side who may already be a pinch ragged from a draw against Monaghan last week. Fingal have a two-thirds chance of success.

Louth (28, 715) v Fermanagh (29, 670)
Another game in which the home side has a two-thirds chance of winning. Louth will be itching for better after a double-scores loss to Roscommon last week, while Fermanagh will want for better than they showed against Fingal.

Monaghan (30, 645) v Roscommon (25, 916)
Monaghan got a draw from Tyrone last week, in yet another result that lends weight to our theory that Ulster hurling, though perhaps not of the best standard, has a better classic-to-dud ratio than the other provinces. However, Roscommon will be in good form after last week’s hammering of Louth and are 69% favourites to progress their campaign back to Division 2B.

We’ll be back after the weekend with the latest GAA Hurling rankings.

Hurling review: Down in front

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. Kilkenny don’t get a warm-up competition, miss a dozen players to club duty, move their Hurler of the Year from midfield to corner-forward, and an All-Star corner back into full back. But yet Richie Hogan goes and scores 11 points, Paul Murphy is excellent in the Number 3 shirt, and the production line keeps on rolling.

Kildare are the week’s big movers, up 3 places, after a fine win over Meath in Trim. Galway’s win over Clare sees them move into fourth, while the Banner go down to seventh, leapfrogged by Dublin who get a bounce from their win over Tipp.

Hurling rankings
(w/e February 15, 2015)
1 Kilkenny 2279
2 Tipperary 2040
3 Cork 1953
4 (+1) Galway 1913
5 (-1) Limerick 1896
6 (+1) Dublin 1892
7 (-1) Clare 1873
8 Waterford 1771
9 Wexford 1697
10 Offaly 1587
11 Laois 1462
12 Antrim 1447
13 Kerry 1412
14 Carlow 1313
15 (+3) Kildare 1278
16 (-1) Down 1269
17 (-1) Westmeath 1268
18 (-1) Meath 1199
19 Derry 1173
20 Wicklow 1104
21 London 1099
22 Mayo 1035
23 Donegal 944
24 Fingal 925
25 Roscommon 916
26 Tyrone 874
27 Armagh 847
28 Louth 715
29 Fermanagh 670
30 Monaghan 645
31 Longford 619
32 Warwicks 532
33 Sligo 381
34 Leitrim 276
35 Lancashire 250*

We’ll be back later in the week with a preview of the Round 2 fixtures.

Hurling preview: Hope springs eternal

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For any other team – in perhaps any other team sport in the world – losing players with 29 championship titles between them would be a devastating loss. For Kilkenny, it’s merely the departure of four older men – none of whom were ‘good’ enough to make the starting 15 when the latest of those titles was claimed.

Indeed, David Herity, Aidan Fogarty and Tommy Walsh might even consider themselves lucky that they didn’t finish their careers in the same way as Brian Hogan – giving away the (harsh?) harsh injury-time free that may well have cost Kilkenny the All-Ireland. Such are the standards that Kilkenny set for themselves.

The Cats may have lost twice and drawn twice last year, but when it comes to silverware – and that’s what counts in this game – they won literally everything. After failing to make it to Croke Park at all in 2013, their first visit in 2014 – almost out of spite – was destined to land the Walsh Cup. Three thrillers against Tipperary then bred League and All-Ireland success.

It’s sad in many ways that so many other wonderful hurling counties, and wonderful honest-to-God hurlers, will be historical footnotes by sheer accident of chronology. But there are two days of looking at Kilkenny’s success – it’s either a sign of a sport in an uncompetitive crisis, or a gauntlet thrown down for others to aspire to. Thankfully the era of Sheedy, Ryan and O’Shea has left Tipperary as worthy opponents, while the Championship outings of Clare, Cork and Limerick in the last two years also mean there is room for optimism. Cody and company may be raising the standard, but the rest are keen to match them – and the sport is all the better for it.

As you’ll see below, the sheer spread between the strongest and weakest counties is far wider in our hurling ratings than for football – but that’s hardly a surprise looking at the realities of the modern hurling landscape. The basis for calculations in hurling are slightly different than those of football, to account for the structure of the Championships and the impact that the lower-tier tournaments have for each participating county. The Calculations page will explain more.

There are 15 NHL matches this weekend so this time we’ll go without a general preview, save to point out that Saturday’s clash of Laois and Offaly in Division 1B is not only a local derby, but now a match between two keenly-matched sides.

Another game worth watching out for is Meath v Kildare in Division 2B – of two sides who are not only bitter local rivals, and who seem to meet each other in almost every competition every year, but of two teams who are now absolutely desperate to get to Division 2A as a breeding programme before a tilt at Christy Ring honours. If it’s anything as good as the football clash between the same counties last week, it could be a thriller.

One final note: the newly-formed Lancashire team aren’t participating in the National Hurling League, but they’ll be given a provisional rating of 250 when they begin their conquest in the Lory Meagher Cup. To think: that All-Ireland competition will include a match between Lancashire and Warwickshire, while Cavan fails to field a senior inter-county team…

Hurling rankings
(beginning of 2015 season)
1 Kilkenny 2267
2 Tipperary 2089
3 Cork 1965
4 Limerick 1906
5 Galway 1897
6 Clare 1889
7 Dublin 1843
8 Waterford 1761
9 Wexford 1690
10 Offaly 1562
11 Laois 1487
12 Antrim 1454
13 Kerry 1426
14 Carlow 1295
15 Down 1263
16 Westmeath 1247
17 Meath 1241
18 Kildare 1236
19 Derry 1159
20 Wicklow 1122
21 London 1120
22 Mayo 999
23 Donegal 980
24 Fingal 908
25 Roscommon 898
26 Tyrone 888
27 Armagh 853
28 Louth 733
29 Fermanagh 687
30 Monaghan 631
31 Longford 619
32 Warwicks 532
33 Sligo 381
34 Leitrim 276
35 Lancashire 250*

Feel free to comment below, or tweet us @GAArankings (or @gavreilly) with your gripes, questions, observations and craic. We’ll be back after the weekend with the first update to the 2015 ratings.