Allianz Football League Division 1 Preview Team by Team
With the Allianz Football League set to start in the coming weeks, we here at Sportstalk.ie have decided to preview the top division. We will focus on Division 1 of the football league with 8 teams looking to claim the Division 1 title in late April. Reigning All-Ireland, Leinster and League champions, Dublin, will be looking for their fifth successive title, while the division will see newcomers to the top flight Cavan looking to impress and avoid relegation. A new format has been put in place by the GAA that will see only the top 2 qualify for the final. There will be no league semi-final in Division 1 unlike previous years.
Division 1 Football League
Teams: Mayo, Monaghan, Tyrone, Roscommon, Donegal, Kerry, Dublin, Cavan
- Mayo – Mayo boss Stephen Rochford will be happy with his side’s progress in pre-season in the Connacht league. However, Rochford will know that after last year’s disappointment in the All-Ireland Final replay that there is very little between the top teams. Mayo were unlucky in the drawn All-Ireland Final in 2016 and perhaps should have beaten Dublin. However, it wasn’t to be, but Rochford will want to get back there come September. The league campaign will probably be used to blood some players in games to find that extra player or two that Mayo need in my opinion. Aidan O’Shea, Lee Keegan, Andy Moran and Cillian O’Connor are all key and they if remain fit I can’t see Mayo been troubled by relegation in the division.
- Monaghan – Malachy O’Rourke will be in charge for another year with Monaghan as they look to make an impact in this year’s Allianz League and championship. Monaghan fared well in the Dr McKenna Cup and got to the semi-finals where they lost narrowly to Derry. Monaghan will be without Paul Finlay and Dick Clerkin for the upcoming campaign though having both decided to retire from inter-county football. In saying that, they have some very talented players, much will once again hold on the shoulders of Conor McManus. However, Kieran Hughes, Darren Hughes and Dessie Mone are also superb. Monaghan’s focus is probably on the May 20th meeting with Fermanagh, but a good league campaign under their belt would do no harm.
- Tyrone – Mickey Harte remains in charge of Tyrone and he will be hoping to build on last season when they won Division 2. They have some top players in their ranks, Peter Harte, Sean Cavanagh and Mattie Donnelly are all exquisite footballers. Mickey Harte will be aiming to reach an Ulster Final again this year and to go one step further then to reach an All-Ireland Final.
- Roscommon – Kevin McStay remains in charge of Roscommon. They did well last season to reach the league semi-finals. They have some good footballers, but will have to plan without Senan Kilbride, Geoffrey Claffey and Niall Carty all of whom have retired from the inter-county game. However, they do have Cathal Gregg, Fintan Gregg, Ciaran Murtagh and Ultan Harney all very good footballers in their ranks. McStay will be hoping that his side can avoid the drop once again, his side will travel to Omagh on the opening weekend of the league campaign.
- Donegal – Rory Gallagher remains in charge of Donegal and will have to plan without some of the key players in the Donegal side over the last few years. In total, the former Fermanagh player will have to plan without 5 players due to retirement these players been Rory Kavanagh, Eamonn McGee, Colm McFadden, Christy Toye and David Walsh. Ohdran McNiallais is also set to miss the 2017 league and championship citing personal reasons for this. However, Gallagher can still call on Paddy McBrearty, Karl Lacey, Mark McHugh, Eoin McHugh and of course Michael Murphy. Donegal’s first game in the league will be at home to Kerry on the 5th of February.
- Kerry – Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s team will be coming into the league campaign having won the McGrath Cup against Limerick. To be fair to Fitzmaurice he has made a statement this year by fielding very strong teams in the McGrath Cup games. Fitzmaurice will be minus Aidan O’Mahony and Marc O’Se this year due to retirements, but he will be boosted of news that Kieran Donaghy, Colm Cooper and Donnachadh Walsh will all play a part in 2017 with the Kingdom. Fitzmaurice has an abundance of talent in his squad with James O’Donoghue, Paul Geaney, Killian Young and Paul Murphy. Kerry will be there or thereabouts when it comes to August/September and I fully expect them to reach the league final in 2017.
- Dublin – Jim Gavin’s Dublin will begin their league campaign with an away trip to Breffni Park, Cavan. Dublin fielded experimental sides in the O’Byrne Cup, but when it comes to the league I think we will see most of the 2016 All-Ireland winning team lining out. Dublin, to be fair have been the kingpins the last few years and will be going for their 5th league title in a row. They have excellent players all over the field such as, Jonny Cooper, Bernard Brogan, Brian Fenton to name a few. However, I feel the other teams are catching up with Dublin and they are not as prolific in recent years. They will be around come August, but I think Kerry or Mayo may shock them this year.
- Cavan – Mattie McGleenan will take charge of his first league game against Dublin on the 5th of February. McGleenan has done great work with Scotstown in recent years in Monaghan and has now made the step up to inter-county management. His first job will to make sure Cavan can stay in the top flight. It will be difficult for them though. The key game for Cavan will probably be against Roscommon. They have some good footballers though such as Seanie Johnston, Gearoid McKiernan, Conor Moynagh and Cian Mackey. However, I feel they will be up against it in the Division and will be battling it for relegation.
Who will win the league?
I think Kerry will win the league this year. They have started strong teams in the pre-season tournaments which means Eamonn Fitzmaurice is sending out a statement of intent. They will also be boosted by Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy who are to play a part in 2017. Dublin will not be far away, it is difficult to rule them out as they have been the best team in the country over the last 3-4 years. However, I feel the other teams are gradually getting up to Dublin’s level and we may see the wheels fall of the wagon this year. Mayo will be strong as well they were so close to beating Dublin. Stephen Rochford will be looking for a good league campaign and I think Mayo will have one. Personally, I think Cavan and Roscommon will be relegated.