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Pat Nolan

2022 Football Power Rankings: Kerry regained Sam but new challengers have emerged

For the first time since 1908, and the delayed completion of the 1907 Championship, All-Ireland winners were crowned in the month of July this year.

It was an outcome that was all too familiar to history, however, as Kerry won their 38th title, albeit after an uncomfortable eight-year gap to their previous success.

After successive knockout Championships due to the pandemic, the qualifiers returned this year but that’s the last we’ll see of them as a new system, which will see League and provincial Championship performances dictating whether teams enter the All-Ireland race or the second tier competition, both of which will be run on a round robin basis.

Read more: Antrim boss Andy McEntee to explore goalkeeping options after Saffron stalwart confirms retirement

The Tailteann Cup finally got off the ground this year and was reasonably well received, though how sustainable that is after the initial burst of enthusiasm for its first staging inevitably fades remains to be seen.

Giving the winners a way back into the All-Ireland race in the same year would grant the competition far greater credibility.

1 Kerry (2 last year)

Worthy All-Ireland champions as they matched the achievement of Jack O’Connor’s two previous comings as Kerry manager by completing the League and Championship double.

But they weren’t so convincing as to suggest that they can build a dynasty in the coming years. Perhaps breaking their duck will advance the maturing process and allow them to dominate teams more at the back end of the Championship, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

They start 2023 as the team to beat and deserved favourites, and with David Clifford anything is possible, but they haven’t yet acquired the aura to really spook the other top teams, all of whom will feel that they’re within reach of Kerry.

2 Galway (8)

Padraic Joyce entered 2022 at a crossroads as another stagnant season would surely have brought his reign to a frustrating end but, instead, they managed to regain the momentum of his early months in charge pre-pandemic in 2020 and then some.

They won immediate promotion in the League and came through a demanding route to reach the All-Ireland final, where they only faltered in the closing minutes.

But taking the next step is the biggest ask. It’s a long way back to being in contention in the last 10 minutes of the All-Ireland final for Galway. And even if they get there, there’s no guarantee that the outcome will be any different.

3 Dublin (4)

It looked like the year was going disastrously after a string of League defeats resulted in relegation from Division One for the first time since 1995, but Dublin reclaimed some of their best form in the Championship and might even have nabbed an All-Ireland which would have been as sweet as any since 2011.

On the other hand, Kerry could and should have been out of sight by the early stages of the second half of the All-Ireland final, which would have rendered any Dublin fightback irrelevant and sparked a fallout of a very different nature in the aftermath.

With the surprise return of Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion, along with Pat Gilroy being added to the management team, Dublin are clearly throwing everything at 2023, which will almost certainly be a last hurrah for several of their long-serving stalwarts. Whether they can turn the clock back far enough remains to be seen.

4 Derry (14)

Derry’s Chrissy McKaigue with the Anglo Celt Cup following their win over Donegal in the Ulster SFC Final at Clones in May (©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

For all the talk about the competitiveness of the Ulster Championship, the Anglo-Celt Cup doesn’t get shared around half enough and so Derry’s re-emergence to take a first provincial title in 24 years was a welcome departure.

And after 20 minutes of the All-Ireland semi-final, they looked the more likely to progress. None of their games will go down as memorable spectacles, however, and they will likely need to refine their play in order to make a greater impact at the climax of the season.

Similar to Galway, you’d wonder if they can find the improvement necessary to kick on to greater things but, firstly, getting out of Division Two is essential and then they must try and get a stranglehold of Ulster just like the All-Ireland winning teams from the province over the last 20-odd years did.

5 Armagh (7)

The glass is most certainly half-full, if not more, from an Armagh perspective as they impressed in the League and took some meaningful scalps in the Championship.

Against that, however, is the meek exit from Ulster, the fact that they were outplayed by Galway for the most part and benefited from charitable goalkeeping, as well as their indiscipline, which cropped up time and again.

A consistent feature of Kieran McGeeney’s reign has been the team’s inability to make progress through Ulster, something which you feel they must right if they are to emerge as a sustainable force in the coming years.

6 Mayo (3)

Sometimes early round provincial games can be overhyped but the Mayo-Galway tie last April was no such case. The victory was huge for Galway and propelled them to an All-Ireland final, while Mayo were running on fumes for the rest of the season.

Muscle memory got them through against Monaghan and Kildare but they needed much more against Kerry and it wasn’t there, with James Horan inevitably departing shortly afterwards.

Kevin McStay is clearing throwing every possible resource at it with a wide-ranging management team, though there is a danger that it contains too many strong personalities, while the loss of Oisin Mullin is considerable.

7 Donegal (5)

The qualifier spanking from Armagh was a sad end to Michael Murphy’s distinguished career and it’s difficult to imagine Donegal’s curve moving upward in the immediate aftermath of his retirement.

Even with him in situ, many of the same failings were manifest in Donegal’s season as they mixed the good with the bad and, once again, allowed less seasoned opposition to dictate to them.

The search for Declan Bonner’s successor was inordinately long and Paddy Carr has a big job on his hands. Donegal may well get worse before they get better.

8 Monaghan (6)

They will play Division One football for the ninth successive season in 2023 after a stirring final day victory over Dublin maintained their top flight status at Dessie Farrell’s side’s expense, though that proved to be as good as it got for them this year.

Shipping early goals to Derry gave them an uphill task that even the very best of teams would struggle to overcome and they were unlucky in the qualifiers, both in being drawn away to Mayo and on the day itself.

Having lost to the eventual Ulster champions, twice by a single point, in each of the three years of his second coming, Seamus McEnaney stepped down pondering a lot of what-ifs.

9 Tyrone (1)

Tyrone's Conor Meyler is dejected after their All-Ireland SFC Qualifier loss to rivals Armagh in June (©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo)

Their All-Ireland title defence was the worst of the qualifier era as they bowed out after just three games, the least of any Sam Maguire Cup holders since Meath were beaten in their first and only outing by Offaly in 2000.

The ever-lengthening list of defections from the turn of the year did little to inspire confidence in their ability to retain the title and was most unusual in an All-Ireland winning camp.

Their meek defeats to Derry and Armagh has done little to dispel the perception that they were fortuitous champions in 2021. It behoves them to change that narrative in 2023.

10 Roscommon (12)

Yet again, Roscommon followed relegation from Division One with promotion to Division Two but their Championship showing was very underwhelming.

They had a favourable draw in Connacht but couldn’t maintain their decent record against Galway in Salthill, while the Clare game was very much an opportunity missed.

Anthony Cunningham has since stepped down with Davy Burke coming in, but there’s little to suggest that Roscommon will break the glass ceiling in 2023.

11 Kildare (9)

The League win over Dublin felt like a significant result at the time, though the Leinster final showed that the Dubs’ psychological grip remains as tight as ever.

12 Clare (11)

Would have felt they could have been more competitive against Derry but Colm Collins continues to max out with his squad.

13 Cork (13)

Amid managerial upheaval and near relegation to Division Three, they performed reasonably well in the Championship without suggesting that they’re going places any time soon.

14 Meath (10)

Any suggestions that they were closing in on Dublin fell quiet this year. Colm O’Rourke has a big job on his hands to bridge the gap in Leinster.

15 Louth (25)

Mickey Harte continues to work the oracle with a second successive promotion, though there were slim pickings for them in the Championship.

16 Westmeath (17)

Took great sustenance from the Tailteann Cup win though, as Dessie Dolan replaces Jack Cooney, you’d wonder if there’s much scope for further improvement.

17 Cavan (20)

Got some upward momentum again at last and will feel they would have won the Tailteann Cup but for indiscipline. Need to get out of Division Three in 2023.

18 Limerick (18)

Billy Lee walked away this year having done a superb job but you’d worry if Limerick have lost more than just a manager with his departure.

19 Offaly (16)

John Maughan stayed on at least a year too long as his side was relegated, beaten by lowly Wexford in Leinster and humiliated by Westmeath in the Tailteann Cup.

20 Fermanagh (19)

A nondescript season, all told. Made life uncomfortable for Tyrone for a while but that was put into context by Red Hands’ subsequent struggles.

21 Antrim (23)

Antrim's Marc Jordan after their Ulster SFC defeat to Cavan (©INPHO/John McVitty)

Pushed for a second successive promotion under Enda McGinley but his reign then petered out disappointingly against Cavan and Leitrim.

22 Down (15)

A disastrous showing all round for Down and the players would want to afford new manager Conor Laverty more respect than his predecessor James McCartan got.

23 Tipperary (22)

Rescued their League campaign after an iffy start but would have expected more from themselves against Limerick in Munster and particularly Carlow in the Tailteann Cup.

24 Longford (21)

Did well to retain their Division Three status after a lengthy search for a manager last winter but little to report thereafter. Paddy Christie takes charge for 2023.

25 Sligo (30)

Breaking out of Division Four was always going to be difficult with Cavan and Tipperary for company but put together a decent run in the Tailteann Cup.

26 Leitrim (31)

So close to a day out in Croke Park as Sligo eliminated them on penalties in the Tailteann Cup. An encouraging first season under Andy Moran.

27 Wicklow (26)

Relegated from Division Three but took something from the season after beating Laois in Leinster and Waterford in the Tailteann Cup. Oisin McConville is an exciting appointment.

28 Laois (23)

Very little to salvage after relegation from Division Three and swift exits from Leinster and Tailteann Cup, but perhaps they can build much needed momentum in Division Four.

29 Wexford (28)

Didn’t mount a promotion charge and the Leinster Championship win over Offaly was probably more a reflection of where the midlanders were at that particular time.

30 London (-)

Made a flying start to the League on their return to inter-county football post-pandemic but it all unravelled for them from there.

31 Carlow (27)

Seemed to get a bounce from the Tailteann Cup, where they beat Tipperary, but they badly need to find some form in Division Four this year.

32 Waterford (29)

A pitiful showing in the League while their Munster and Tailteann Cup campaigns ended as abruptly as would have been expected.

33 New York (-)

Readmitted to the Connacht Championship after the pandemic and took part in the Tailteann Cup but a victory over an inter-county side remains elusive.

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