2021 review – how will these 7 counties look back on their football season?


Darragh Foley dejected after Carlow’s season ended.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

CARLOW’S CHAMPIONSHIP AMBITIONS ended with a 0-25 to 2-13 defeat to Longford in Tullamore. They fell nine points behind in the opening half and must be credited with staying in the game when a hammering looked on the cards.

Niall Carew’s side struck goals through Darragh Foley and Conor Crowley. They might have added a few more had they taken their chances, but Longford’s point-taking abilities meant they always looked comfortable

Occupying the three team Division 4 South, the Barrowsiders enjoyed wins over Waterford and Wexford. They fell by eight points to Mickey Harte’s Louth in the promotion play-off. The arrival of Tipperary and Cavan in the bottom tier next season will make promotion extremely difficult, so they’ll be hoping for a decent championship run in 2021.


Eoin Cleary performed well for Clare in 2021.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A sobering end on Saturday night in Killarney to a campaign that had been so promising. Losing to Kerry is not new for Clare but the scale of the beating by 17 points was tough to take. It was only the third time that Clare have lost by a double-digit margin against Kerry in Munster under Colm Collins, all of those arriving in Killarney.

The disappointment for Clare lies in the fact that they don’t get the chance to make amends, something they have done successfully in the qualifiers in the past. That’s salient given what they have shown over the past six weeks, impressive in defeating Laois and Kildare, producing a high-scoring tussle with Cork and posting 2-18 in a competitive showing with Mayo.

But we won’t get to see the bright form of Sean Collins, Darren O’Neill and Eoin Cleary again on the county stage in 2021. Clare have reason to feel they are a top 12 team yet the knockout system works against them proving that.


Referee Maurice Deegan red cards Gerard McGovern of Down during the loss to Donegal.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A year that started with an illegal training February session concluded with a low-key Ulster demolition by Donegal. Paddy Tally served his eight-week ban without missing a game and later claimed he was made a ‘scapegoat’ as other counties got away with committing similar offences.

Down’s defensive approach saw them concede second-highest score in Division 2, but they saved their place in the second tier with a one-point win over Westmeath in the relegation play-off.

It was always going to be a tall order for Paddy Tally’s men to put it up to Donegal at the weekend. There has been significant turnover in the squad in recent years. They look to be a long way off the big boys in Ulster.


One and out for Mickey Harte’s side in the Leinster SFC.

Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

Had Sam Mulroy slotted over his late chance to win the game in normal-time, Louth would be preparing for a Leinster quarter-final against Kildare this weekend. They ran out of legs in extra-time and Mickey Harte admitted afterwards his team have plenty of strength and conditioning work to do.

On the plus side, Wee County did seal promotion from Division 4, recovering from an opening day loss to Antrim to beat Leitrim, Sligo and Carlow by 27 points combined. 

Harte has most of the best footballers in the county as part of the panel. That includes former AFL man Ciaran Byrne, who kicked three points against Offaly and was steady presence at midfield throughout. 


Sligo have played just one championship game between 2020 and 2021.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A Covid outbreak in the panel meant they couldn’t fulfil last year’s Connacht championship clash against Galway, and Sligo’s 2021 didn’t last much longer.

Tony McEntee’s side failed to secure promotion from Division 4 after a narrow loss to Antrim and 10-point defeat to Louth. In the Division 4 Shield final, Wexford handed out a 2-15 to 0-9 beating. 

McEntee’s men were predictably swatted aside by All-Ireland finalists Mayo on their only championship game since 2019. Niall Murphy’s five points from play was a rare bright spark in the game. Fortune has not been on Sligo’s side recently and they’ve a lot of work to do to emulate the teams that reached Connacht finals in 2010, 2012 and 2015.

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Waterford’s Tommy Prendergast and Limerick’s Iain Corbett shake hands after the game.

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

A grim season on the football front for the Deise. Started with a 15-point thrashing against Carlow and ended with a similarly one-sided outing against Limerick on Saturday. There was some brief hope when they toughed it out against Wexford by a point and they gave Antrim a test before losing that Division 4 promotion play-off.

Manager Shane Ronayne rightly pointed to the building job needed with their squad after Saturday’s loss and the lack of proper time with the players in his debut season can hardly have helped either. The gap between themselves and Limerick on the scoreboard has grown from 11 to 18 points since last October, indicative of the contrasting fortunes for both.


Wicklow manager Davy Burke was extremely disappointed with his team’s performance.

Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Wicklow sent shockwaves around the country when they sent Ulster champions Cavan packing to Division 4 after victory in their third tier relegation play-off a couple of weeks ago.

Survival in Division 3 had been the primary aim for Davy Burke. Their scoring difference of -7 showed how competitive they were in narrow losses to Offaly, Limerick and Tipperary.

Progress had been solid until Wexford’s 2-11 to 0-14 win in Aughrim ended their season. Burke described it as the worst performance of his tenure – and this is from a manager who watched his team concede 7-14 against Meath in the Leinster championship last year. 

“They probably read into themselves after Cavan,” he noted. Like the other six, Wicklow will be forced to wait for a long time to put it right.

-Additional reporting by Fintan O’Toole

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