Allianz Football League Division Three: Derry and Down set to scrap over promotion spot
Manager: Ronan McCarthy
Last year: 7th in Div 2
Fixtures: Offaly (H), Leitrim (A), Down (H), Tipperary (A), Derry (H), Louth (H), Longford (A)
CORK’S freefall from All-Ireland champions to a Division Three side within the space of a decade seemed to show no signs of halting last spring, and yet by high summer there was a spring in their step once more. They took into the championship and buoyed by giving Kerry real bother in a high-scoring Munster final, the Rebels reached the Super 8s and showed more than enough to prove they shouldn’t be anywhere near the third tier. They should have the Nemo Rangers contingent from early on, and have only lost goalkeeper Mark White from their panel. With a kind fixture list, it’s unthinkable that they won’t earn promotion.
Manager: Rory Gallagher
Last year: 1st in Div 4
Fixtures: Leitrim (H), Down (A), Tipperary (H), Louth (H), Cork (A), Longford (H), Offaly (A)
HAVING dropped like a stone to Division Four, Derry took the first step in its rehabilitation last spring. There are plenty of recent examples in the GAA of teams winning successive promotions as they will hope to do. The earlier All-Ireland club semi-finals means Rory Gallagher will have his Slaughtneil and Coleraine players back. Barring a few long-term injuries, including one to Enda Lynn, they will be close to a full deck by the time they travel to Newry next weekend and then host Tipperary in what will be a defining fortnight. The former Fermanagh boss has a good track record in the league and, with the exception of a bare midfield, there’s enough there to make use of having four very winnable home games.
Manager: Paddy Tally
Last year: 3rd in Div 3
Fixtures: Tipperary (A), Derry (H), Cork (A), Longford (H), Offaly (A), Leitrim (H), Louth (A)
THERE are still nightmares about that day against Louth last year, when Down passed up the chance of promotion with a shock home defeat in their final game. And yet, would they rather now be looking at a league campaign without Caolan Mooney, Connaire Harrison and Niall Donnelly for a while at least, and be facing Division Two teams trying to stay up, or Division Three teams trying to win? With championship status at stake, you’d think they’d choose the latter. Their fixture list is fairly horrendous though. Tipperary, Derry and Cork in their opening three games means they have to hit the ground running.
Manager: David Power
Last year: 8th in Div 2
Fixtures: Down (H), Louth (A), Derry (A), Cork (H), Longford (A), Offaly (H), Leitrim (A)
PLAYERS like Michael Quinlivan don’t grow on trees anywhere, and least of all in a county like Tipperary. His decision to take 2020 out of inter-county football has made the headlines, but scorer Liam McGrath and midfielder Liam Casey are also significant losses for new manager David Power, who memorably coached a handful of the current team to All-Ireland minor glory in 2011. There remains a core of the side that found its way to an All-Ireland semi-final in 2016, but they’ve struggled to match those heights since, especially in the Munster championship. They’ll still challenge at the top end but that absence of real attacking quality will undermine them.
Manager: Padraic Davis
Last year: 5th in Div 3
Fixtures: Louth (H), Offaly (A), Leitrim (H), Down (A), Tipperary (H), Derry (A), Cork (H)
THIS time last year, there were obituaries being written for Longford on the basis that they’d never cope without their club-tied Mullinalaghta crew, yet they made a right stab at it. But having missed a chance to scalp Kildare and then given Tyrone a decent game in summer, Padraic Davis finds his squad decimated by defections. Robbie Smyth, Conor Berry, Barry McKeon, Darren Quinn, Aidan McElligott, John Keegan and David McGivney have all opted out, leaving a colossal hole in their resources. They’ve started the new term with a rare piece of silverware in the O’Byrne Cup. They should be alright but promotion is beyond them.
Manager: John Maughan
Last year: 6th in Div 3
Fixtures: Cork (A), Longford (H), Louth (A), Leitrim (A), Down (H), Tipperary (A), Derry (H)
NOTHING like a drill sergeant to straighten up a county in disarray. Offaly, in hurling and football, have been besieged by negativity and in-fighting in recent years, but since Maughan grabbed the reins that Paul Rouse had steadied in his short time in charge. Reaching the O’Byrne Cup final was a significant boost for the confidence. They will be without Niall McNamee for the foreseeable future after suffering a bad head injury on club duty last autumn, although Maughan insists he will be back. Of all the squads in the league, theirs has arguably stayed the most solid over the winter. That will stand to them.
Manager: Wayne Kierans
Last year: 4th in Div 3
Fixtures: Longford (A), Tipperary (H), Offaly (H), Derry (A), Leitrim (H), Cork (A), Down (H)
IT’S hard to know what Louth were left feeling last spring. They wouldn’t have been in many people’s pre-league reckoning for promotion yet they took it right to the wire before ultimately missing out. Wayne Kierans had them playing a lovely brand of kicking football, but a beating from Dublin left them so demoralised that they crumbled at Antrim’s hands in the second half of their qualifier. They’ve lost significant players in Andy McDonnell, Jim McEneaney and Anthony Williams, while Derek Maguire had a bit-part role last year. They’ll do well to manufacture the scores they’ll need.
Manager: Terry Hyland
Last year: 2nd in Div 4
Fixtures: Derry (A), Cork (H), Longford (A), Offaly (H), Louth (A), Down (A), Tipperary (H)
LAST year’s league campaign brought a beautiful madness upon Leitrim. Virtually the entire population of the county descended on Croke Park for their Division Four final with Derry, a first visit to headquarters since 2008. They’d had a brilliant run and it brought such optimism and life. They went on to earn a rare qualifier win over Wicklow, but their games with Roscommon and Clare showed a fair gap. They’re weakened by losing Cathal McCrann and Michael McWeeney, although Gary and Noel Plunkett and Jack Heslin were more fringe players. Dropping Emyln Mulligan weakens their hand. Read little into their pre-season hammering by Roscommon, for which they were missing almost their whole team. But it’s still a big ask.