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How 'National Football League' A County Is Your County?

How 'National Football League' A County Is Your County?
By Conor Neville
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What is it that makes a 'League team'?

A 'League team' is not necessarily a team who wins the League most often - for such teams can also perform well in the championship (to illustrate this Kerry top the roll of honour in terms of National League titles). A 'League team' is a side whose performance in the League is far superior to their efforts in the championship.

The Ultimate League Teams

1. Derry

The ultimate 'League team' in the modern era, Derry were at their most 'League team-esque' in 2014, when they made it all the way to the decider against Dublin.

A couple of months after that Longford dumped them out of the championship in front of paltry crowd on a sun-drenched Saturday evening in Celtic Park. It was the first round of the qualifiers. It was the third time Longford had knocked them out of the championship in a decade.

Since 1990, Derry have been the most successful League team, winning five titles during the period (Kerry, Cork and Dublin all have four). The first arrived in 1992, a year before Derry claimed the ultimate prize. There followed two in a row in 1995 and 1996, with Mr. Brolly proving influential - interesting Joe won all-stars in '96 and '97 and not in '93. Two further titles followed in 2000 and 2008.  And they also reached deciders in 2009 and 2014.

In the same period, Derry have won only two provincial titles.


The Kings of April.



2. Westmeath

Westmeath's presence in Division 1 last season will have baffled anyone who had only bothered watching championship over the previous few seasons.

Fair enough, they endured a punishing campaign, suffering loss after loss but that they were mixing it with the elite at all was a fair old achievement.


After all, any punter who had just taken in their championship outings last season would have concluded that Division 3 or perhaps even Division 4 (though that may be pushing it) was more their speed.

A defeat at home to Louth in the first game of the summer and an away loss to a disinterested and out-of-sorts Cavan side was it for them.

It's not the first time in the modern era that Westmeath have found themselves above their station, sparring with (or perhaps more accurately, being punched by) the big boys.


They claimed the Division 2 title in 2008 with a victory over Pillar Caffrey's Dublin in Pairc Tailteann. This again proved to be a curse in disguise as they acquired a losing habit in Division 1, which they sustained in the championship.

3. Cork


They have sat at the top table for a good few years now, but they have enjoyed more success in the League than they have in the championship, winning three successive Leagues between 2010 and 2012.

This is in contrast with their championship win in 2010, a victory which has been curiously ignored by history - partly because of the unmemorable nature of the final and partly because Cork are not the most romantic of football counties.

With their power and playing resources, they are the ultimate League team in the last few years.


After losing the 2009 All-Ireland final to Kerry, they acquired a reputation for choking in big games, a label often attached to League teams.

The Ultimate Non-League Teams


A respectable contender in the League in the 1990s, when they reached three finals in four years (1993, 1995, 1996), and the surprising victors in 2007, Donegal gained a reputation for being indifferent to the League in the Jim McGuinness era.

Methodical to a fault, he treated the 2011 League seriously, using a stepping stone and a chance to build up his side's confidence. They won Division 2 that year.

In 2012, they just about survived in Divison 1, before sweeping all before them in the championship. The following season, coming off the back of their All-Ireland victory, they didn't bust a gut too survive and went down.


In 2014, they did get promoted again, but nothing they did suggested they were going to strong contenders that summer.


The 2005 League champions won in their only appearance in a League final this century, despite numerous long summers, marked by provincial success and Croker epics.

Despite last year's resurgence, they now find themselves almost in Leeds United territory, among the minnows in Division 3. They will likely be the heaviest of heavy favourites.


Based on their championship performance in the past decade, Wexford have spent most of the decade a division or so lower than they should be.

A Division 3 team in 2008 (albeit champions that year) they got all the way to All-Ireland semi-finals - a rare achievement for a team in the third tier.


The Modest League Teams

The sides who have a somewhat better League record than their championship form suggests:

Cavan: Largely in recent years

Longford: Reached Division 1 in 2004 and won double promotions in 2011 and 2012. Have won the same number of League titles as provincial titles - one apiece.

Fermanagh: Based on championship performance, they should probably be in Division 4.

Down: In recent years they have spent more time in Division 1 than their championship form (save 2010) suggests.


The Modest Anti-League Teams

The sides who have a somewhat poorer League record than championship form suggests:

Wicklow: Perennial Division 4 bottom feeders, they have had a few good runs in the championship in recent years.

Monaghan : Their arrival in Division 1 is long overdue.


Little appreciable difference:

Everybody else:

The truth is for a lot of counties their League standing is a rough barometer of where lie in championship terms.

Kerry : While Fitzmauurice seems to unmoved by the idea of winning the League, Kerry remain most successful county in terms of League titles as they are in the championship.

Mayo: Reach a lot of League finals. They also reach a lot of championship finals though. I suppose they have won the League this century.

Dublin: While they have been unassailable in the League in the last two years, they have looked similarly slick in the championship - and they went 20 years without winning the League between 1993 and 2013.

Galway: About where they should be in the League now, they over-performed during the noughties when they reached three finals. However, they also haven't won it since 1981 while they have lifted Sam a couple of times in that period




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