MICKEY HARTE HAS in the past said that no team outside Division 1 can win the Sam Maguire.
It stands to reason. Armagh won the All-Ireland from Division 2A but no other team has done so this century.
Harte’s Tyrone and perhaps Kildare look the most likely of any team to challenge for the All-Ireland football title this year but for a team outside the top two tiers, that doesn’t look realistic.
So the question is: which teams outside that can challenge for provincial glory? Wexford fans may not like to hear it but, from NFL3, a Leinster title might be their height of their ambitions – though being drawn on the same side as Dublin is hardly helpful.
Indeed the capital crew are the perfect county to look at when talking about winning a provincial title from outside the top tiers. They won Leinster in 2008 from Division 2, and Cork claimed Munster glory from that same position that year and the next.
Roscommon won Connacht from Division 3 in 2010, though their record in the NFL 3 was poor: played 7, lost 6, -26 points differential, finishing second last. The implication being that even if you are struggling in one of the lower leagues, success is not beyond you.
Indeed it might be the case that another team in your province might put down a couple of the bigger hurdles for you, as was the case when Sligo eliminated Galway and Mayo from Connacht that year.
The Rossies are the only side from outside the top two tiers to win their province since the league reverted to the current four-level structure in 2008. However, eight teams from Division 3 and 4 have made finals.
(Roscommon enjoyed some unexpected success in 2010 – INPHO/Ryan Byrne)
Curiously, teams from NFL 3 and 4 have made the same number of finals as those in Division 2 – nine in total. But as you would expect, the second tier have had far more winners: five to one. With 2008 being a particularly strong year for Division 2 sides: Cork, Dublin and Armagh all picking up the local honours.
In 2012, Longford look the most likely to do damage in the championship if their league form is anything to go by – which we already know is not a necessity. They have a perfect record of five wins from five thus far and have even outperformed Wexford. Though Glenn Ryan’s men would have to climb over Jason Ryan’s men, among others, if they are to win Leinster.
Fermanagh have a 100-per-cent record in NFL4 but they are another team that have a dangerous pathway to provincial glory, needing to beat Down and possibly champions Donegal on the way.
In Munster, Cork or Kerry will be gone before the final so halves the task of Limerick, Clare and Waterford if they are to pick up local silverware.
In Connacht, Mayo and Galway are on opposite sides of the draw so if history is anything to go by, the other sides there will do well to add to the 25 titles that have not gone the way of the province’s duopoly.
It looks a tall order for any team to replicate what Roscommon achieved in 2010 when Donie Shine lit up the west. But relative to the tasking of winning an All-Ireland, provincial glory is clearly a much better bet.
*from 2008-11, with league in its current structure
Teams outside top two tiers to win province
Teams outside top two tiers to make provincial final
Roscommon (2011), Limerick (2010), Louth (2010), Sligo (2010),
Limerick (2009), Antrim (2009), Wexford (2008), Fermanagh (2008)
Teams from Division 2 to win province
Dublin (2008), Cork (2008), Cork (2009), Meath (2010), Armagh (2008)
Teams from Division 2 to make provincial final
Derry and Donegal (2011), Wexford (2011), Kildare (2009)