After a thrilling end to the 2016 season that saw Dublin defeat Mayo to make it two All Ireland Senior Football Championships in a row.
Bookmakers are already turning their attention to the 2017 and offering free bets as they compete for GAA football fans’ business. Dublin have naturally been installed as favourites to retain their crown, but they will face fierce competition. Here we run through the leading contenders for the 2017 Sam Maguire crown.
Most people taking advantage of free bets offers will probably go for Dublin thanks to their dominance in recent years. They won the Sam Maguire Cup in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016. Their win over Mayo in last season’s final came by the slenderest of margins, just a solitary point, but it cemented their status as the best in the business right now and they the team to beat in 2017. The team is bursting with talent, with Paul Mannion, Brian Fenton, Cormac Costello, Diarmuid Connolly and Con O’Callaghan all expected to shine this season, while manager Jim Gavin is an astute tactician. Dublin have not tasted defeat in 29 games and they stand a great chance of making it three in a row, so the smart money is on them right now.
Kerry are the most successful team in the history of the Sam Maguire Cup with 37 wins, but they have not won an All Ireland title since 2014. They were beaten by Dublin in the 2015 final and then lost an epic semi-final clash against Dublin last season. They came really close to beating Dublin and were comfortably ahead at half-time, but eventually Dublin’s greater strength in depth told and Kerry’s resistance was broken down. But Kerry have won the last three All-Ireland minor titles in a row, so they should have some excellent youngsters coming through to bolster their squad, and this could help them finally overcome the Dubliners.
Over the past five years Mayo have been one of the sport’s most consistent teams. But it has been a case of “always the bridesmaid” for Mayo, who have reached the final of of the All-Ireland Championship three times in the past five years, only to lose each one. Two of those defeats came at the hands of Dublin, and both times they lost by a solitary point, including that heart-breaking final defeat last season. They will be desperately to finally win it, and with Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan in the team they have a chance.
The only teams that look to have a genuine chance of stopping Dublin are Mayo and Kerry, but decent outsider tips include Tyrone and Cork. Tyrone (8/1) will be emboldened by their Ulster victory last year and will hope to get further than the quarter-finals, where they were knocked out by Mayo in 2016. Cork (33/1) are an interesting team that could be dark horses if they finally gel as they have a lot of excellent individual talent.