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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Home is not always where the heart is in qualifiers

Dublin don’t tend to go through the gears in Leinster

Mayo's Andy Moran was 2017 Footballer of the Year
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1 Home advantage is not critical in qualifiers
Home comforts were not so comfortable in 2017 as 14 out of the 20 qualifier clashes in rounds one, two and three were won by the visiting teams.

All four away teams in round three were successful as Mayo saw off Clare  (2-14 to 0-13) in Ennis, Donegal edged out Meath in Navan (1-15 to 1-14), Armagh were too good for Tipperary (1-17 to 1-15) in Thurles and Monaghan saw off Carlow (1-12 to 1-7) at Dr Cullen Park.

The layers probably give home advantage too much importance at this stage so it will be fascinating to follow the fortunes of the away sides in the qualifiers in 2018.

2 Dublin do not always cover the handicap in Leinster
The biggest price available about Dublin winning Leinster once again is 1-20. They are head and shoulders above every other team in the province and they could navigate their way to the Super 8s with their eyes shut in 2018.

That said, the All-Ireland champions failed to cover the handicap in two of their three games in Leinster last year.

The handicap was set at 16 to 18 points for their clash with Carlow in the Leinster quarter-final but they only managed to pull away in the closing stages to run out 12-point winners (0-19 to 0-7). They easily surpassed the handicap against Westmeath (4-29 to 0-10) but they had only nine points to spare over Kildare in the provincial decider (2-23 to 1-17) which was bang on the handicap line.

Dublin don’t tend to go through the gears in Leinster so the advice is to treat their provincial campaign with caution.

3 Ulster is not as competitive  as we are led to believe
There is a theory out there that Ulster is the most competitive of all the provinces. However, Tyrone’s dominance dispelled that notion entirely in 2017.

They helped themselves to an 11-point win over Derry (0-22 to 0-11), a 9-point success over Donegal (1-21 to 1-12) and were 8-point victors over Down (2-17 to 0-15) on the way to defending their Ulster title in style.

Tyrone are 5-4 to complete a hat-trick of Ulster titles in 2018 and, given how dominant they were 12 months ago, that might just be value.

4 Footballer of the Year does not need to play for the champions
There was once a time when the Footballer of the Year always played for the All-Ireland champions, but not anymore.

For the last two years the coveted award has gone to Mayo men despite the fact that they were tamed by Dublin in the All-Ireland final at the end of both campaigns.

Lee Keegan was a slightly surprising winner in 2016 but there could be no arguments about Andy Moran getting the gong a year later as he was simply outstanding.

It seems that the judging panel are now keen to pick the best player in the championship, not just the best player on the All-Ireland winning team.

5 Heslin has the midas touch
Cillian O’Connor finished the 2017 All-Ireland champaign as top scorer once again, getting 3-66 in ten matches, but the player with the most impressive average was John Heslin of Westmeath.

Heslin, an imposing individual who can score from all ranges, racked up 1-20 in his three games – an average of 7.7 points per game.
Westmeath play Laois or Wexford in a Leinster quarter-final and are likely to meet Kildare next if they win that.

Keep Heslin in mind for individual player totals with Paddy Power for those games.

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For the last two years the coveted award has gone to Mayo men despite the fact that they were tamed by Dublin in the All-Ireland final
E.W. Terms
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