GAA Football

Allianz Football League Division One: Donegal to push on as Tyrone and Monaghan battle

Donegal look primed to push on in Division One this spring, but Tyrone's attacking absentees may make their life difficult. Picture by Seamus Loughran

Kerry

Manager: Peter Keane

Last year: 1st in Div 1; Beaten finalists

Fixtures: Dublin (A), Galway (H), Tyrone (A), Meath (H), Mayo (A), Monaghan (A), Donegal (H)

THE excitement about this stage of Kerry’s development was rather tempered right up until the All-Ireland final last year. Now there’s an expectation that’s hardly unfamiliar in the Kingdom, but is rather less helpful for a team that is still in relative infancy. David Clifford being named as captain is a glowing endorsement of his ability and temperament. They’ve lost Killian Young, Michael Geaney and Mark Griffin, but all three were fringe players. There are still issues to iron out but they will only get better from here on.

Prediction: 1st

Dublin

Manager: Jim Gavin

Last year: 4th in Div 1

Fixtures: Kerry (H), Mayo (A), Monaghan (H), Donegal (H), Tyrone (A), Meath (H), Galway (A)

THE new era that everyone will be keeping their eyes trained on. Dessie Farrell has the toughest boots to fill, and in terms of this year’s league won’t have been aided by the traditionally late return of the Dublin players to camp. There will be pressure on to deliver immediate success but patience may be required too. Kerry and Mayo in their first two fixtures is a tough start, but once they find their feet it would be hard to see anything other than sweeping up their last 10 points. That Eoghan O’Gara and Bernard Brogan are the only retirees is slightly surprising but it will be more about what impact their youth can make.

Prediction: 2nd

Donegal

Manager: Declan Bonner

Last year: 2nd in Div 2

Fixtures: Mayo (H), Meath (A), Galway (H), Dublin (A), Monaghan (H), Tyrone (H), Kerry (A)

THEY’VE been a Division One side all along but were forced into a purgatorial spring of 2019 that threatened briefly to go completely wrong on them. Declan Bonner has guided them to back-to-back Ulster titles but they’ve yet to step beyond the Super 8s. Reports suggest that they will be without up to 10 men for the whole of the National League, although Donegal’s recent track record in miraculous recoveries is strong. They couldn’t convince Odhran MacNiallais to rejoin the fold but it’s not in attack that they have major issues. There’s still a small bit of tightening up to be done at the back.

Prediction: 3rd

Mayo

Manager: James Horan

Last year: 2nd in Div 1; Winners

Fixtures: Donegal (A), Dublin (H), Meath (A), Monaghan (A), Kerry (H), Galway (A), Tyrone (H)

THERE was an upside-downness about Mayo’s 2019 campaign. So often league strugglers and championship lions, they flipped it by winning the league and then eking their way into an All-Ireland semi-final with Dublin that turned horribly against them. Yet there’s no doubt that squad wise, James Horan has a lot more to call upon now than he did 12 months ago. The fruits of last year may only come to bear this year and beyond. Andy Moran has retired but they’ll have a fully fit Cillian O’Connor and a returned Tom Parsons among others.

Prediction: 4th

Galway

Manager: Padraig Joyce

Last year: 5th in Div 1

Fixtures: Monaghan (H), Kerry (A), Donegal (A), Tyrone (H), Meath (A), Mayo (H), Dublin (H)

THE Kevin Walsh reign has drawn to a close and it is perhaps only with the passing of time that it will be properly appreciated for what it was. Galway were nowhere before he took over and gave them a bit of structure and belief. The next phase is to move properly out of their defensive comforts and start to go and attack games, which is surely the direction Padraig Joyce will look to take them. Midfielders Peter Cooke and Ciaran Duggan, along with forward Danny Cummins, are the notable absentees from last year. Sunday’s opener at home to Monaghan will tell a fair bit of the tale as to where they’re headed.

Prediction: 5th

 

Tyrone

Manager: Mickey Harte

Last year: 3rd in Div 1

Fixtures: Meath (H), Monaghan (A), Kerry (H), Galway (A), Dublin (H), Donegal (A), Mayo (A)

ABOUT as significant a spring as Tyrone have had for quite a while. With Mickey Harte in the final year of his contract and not guaranteed a new one, the timing of Cathal McShane’s exile to Australia, Mattie Donnelly’s long-term injury and Connor McAliskey’s defection could not have been worse. They’ve spent January experimenting with different full-forwards but in the cut and thrust of Division One football, it remains to be seen how their attack copes. Colm Cavanagh’s decision to stay on means they at least won’t have a significant defensive overhaul, although they could do with Padraig Hampsey finding full fitness and form again. Round two in Monaghan will be a huge game.

Prediction: 6th

 

Monaghan

Manager: Seamus McEnaney

Last year: 6th in Div 1

Fixtures: Galway (A), Tyrone (H), Dublin (A), Mayo (H), Donegal (A), Kerry (H), Meath (H)

MALACHY O’Rourke brought them into Division One and not only kept them there, but established them as a side that were more than comfortable mixing it with the top sides. Seamus McEnaney comes back into the hotseat and the energy provided by Conor Laverty and Peter Donnelly in his backroom may give them a fresh spark, but they have lost veterans Vinny Corey and Dessie Mone, as well as young forward Stephen O’Hanlon. His goal helped them beat Dublin in the opening round last year, after which they form never really lifted and they only just did enough to stay up. Everyone knows their issue in attack at this stage, and they don’t look that much closer to solving it, meaning their luxury of defensive qualities may go to waste.

Prediction: 7th

 

Meath

Manager: Andy McEntee

Last year: 1st in Div 2

Fixtures: Tyrone (A), Donegal (H), Mayo (H), Kerry (A), Galway (H), Dublin (A), Monaghan (A)

IT had been a long sit in the second tier for Meath but their promotion last spring was thoroughly deserved, and the latest sign of their gradual progression under Andy McEntee. Defensively they have a good core but they’ve had struggles in the goalkeeping position, while in attack they look to Cillian O’Sullivan and Mickey Newman but are very physically light around those two. The fact that Newman is out injured for the early part of the league at least is a huge blow to their chances of staying up. Nobody will get an easy game, least of all down in Navan, but it’s just hard to envisage Meath scoring enough to survive.

Prediction: 8th

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