The Division 1 football campaign will begin on the 27th of January when reigning All-Ireland Champions Dublin welcome near neighbours Kildare to Croke. On the same weekend, on the Sunday, Kerry will host Donegal. Mayo travel to Clones to play Monaghan and Tyrone make the journey to Salthill to play Kevin Walsh’s Galway. As we know this Division is very competitive from the get go so it is vital for teams to get a good start or they will find themselves in the relegation zone very quickly. Dublin are odds on favourites to win the league and that is understandable given their dominance the last 4 or 5 years in every competition. Kerry and Mayo you would feel would be next in line to get league honours if Dublin were to slip up. I have once again done a team by team preview and how I feel things will plan out over the Spring.
Dublin – The pace setters in the division for the last 5 years and with the talent they have in their squad it is very hard not to see them winning again to make up for last years defeat in the league final to Kerry. They have talent all over the field like James McCarthy, Jonny Cooper, Con O’Callaghan, Diarmuid Connolly and Ciaran Kilkenny to name just a few, however Jim Gavin will use the league to blood new players in my opinion, players like Brian Howard will start a few games I would imagine. Will close to winning yet again either way.
Kerry: It’s hard to know where Kerry are but we all know they will around come August at the very least. Eamonn Fitzmaurice remains in charge and still has a wealth of talent to call from, players like David Moran, Tadhg Morley, Paul Geaney are all top class players. Kerry begin with a tough game against Donegal, before they travel to Mayo a week later. Won’t be far away in my opinion.
Mayo : Another tough winter for Mayo after their All-Ireland loss to Dublin, however, they are not far away from them and realistically should have beaten the Dubs last September. They will have Andy Moran yet again having decided to stay on, while Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor are all vital cogs in the side. Probably won’t be to fussed with the league, a mid table finish will suffice for them.
Monaghan: Monaghan have been playing well over the last few years but always seem to fall at the final hurdle. Malachy O’Rourke remains in charge for the Farney men, but much will depend on the performance of Kieran Hughes, Conor McManus and Darren Hughes if Monaghan are to make a bid for top flight honours. Face difficult last game against Dublin which could be the difference in them battling it out for relegation or not.
Donegal : Donegal will use the league to blood new players as they are in a transition period to be fair. They have lost good players such as Karl Lacey , Neil Gallagher, Christy Toye to name a few in recent years and months all of which can impact the team. However, Michael Murphy, Odhran Mac Niallais and Ryan McHugh are all top class footballers. Much will depend on how these players fair out over the league campaign to see if Donegal can claim top flight honours. Mid table finish for me though.
Galway: Kevin Walsh’s charges will face difficult games in this division especially away to Kerry and their opening games against Tyrone. They will need to beat Kildare at the very least but that will also be difficult in Newbridge. They have great players though with Shane Walsh, Gary O’Donnell, Damien Comer and Michael Daly. Could be in the relegation mix.
Tyrone: Mickey Harte’s men are a team that have been improving. They will not fear anyone and will make themselves very difficult to beat. They travel to Galway on the opening night, before welcoming Dublin to Omagh a week later, Sean Cavanagh has retired but players like his brother Colm, Mattie Donnelly and Peter Harte are all capable of stepping up to the plate. Could a dark horse.
Kildare: It is very hard to see where Kildare are going to win a game in my opinion. They do have good players in their ranks, Mick O;Grady, Niall Kelly and Kevin Feely to just name some. They will target their home game against Galway and Monaghan as games they can win. Will be up against in the opening round though against Dublin. Relegation candidates.
League Winners: Kerry
Relegation: Kildare and Galway