Rebels facing Capital start

Cork will begin the defence of their Division 1 title with a visit to Dublin next February but, at the other end of the scale, Kilkenny have elected to pull out of the competition.

After finishing bottom of Division 4 with no points for the fourth year in a row, with no points and a negative difference of 239 points — including a 46-point defeat to Fermanagh — the county board unanimously voted on Monday night to quit the league.

They have also decided to withdraw from the Leinster junior championship as well as the U21 competition, a competition in which Louth inflicted upon them a 50-point defeat in February.

Instead, Kilkenny will enter the British championship that will be played over the month of June, the winners of which will enter the All-Ireland junior championship.

Travels costs to London, Manchester and Scotland will be partly financed by the GAA.

Far removed from that, Cork are likely to form part of the National League’s opening day bill against Dublin at Croke Park on Saturday, February 2.

Winners of the last three Division 1 titles, they have been pencilled in to face the Blues first day out with a home game in Páirc Uí Rinn against Kildare on February 9.

Kerry are due to face Mayo in Castlebar on the opening weekend.

With four home league games next year, Dublin are planning to stage their third spring series at Croke Park.

“It’s our intention to produce one again next year,” said Dublin chairman Andy Kettle. “We’ll be looking to have the Cork game under lights at Croke Park and there’s a possibility of having Tyrone in football and Limerick in hurling as a Saturday night double header.”

Dublin also have Down and Mayo at home while Jim Gavin’s side must travel to Kerry, Kildare and Donegal.

Kettle said there is a possibility one of their home games could be staged as a Friday night fixture in GAA HQ.

Gavin is set to operate from the same St Clare’s training base in Glasnevin that Pat Gilroy used during his four-year tenure.

All-Ireland champions Donegal begin their 2013 season in earnest with an away fixture against Kildare on February 3.

The game will carry plenty of interest for neutrals after the tensions between Jim McGuinness and Kieran McGeeney following the counties’ 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final.

Like Dublin, Kildare are down for four home games, with the Lilywhites visiting Cork, Mayo and Down.

McGeeney yesterday hinted he is prepared to make significant changes to his panel ahead of the 2013 campaign.

Speaking to the Leinster Leader, he indicated some experienced players might have to make way.

“A few will be making up their minds in the next few weeks and we will be finalising our panel. It is probably time for a wee bit of a change, it is not the nicest part of management but, as I know myself, time stands still for no one.”

McGeeney, who was critical of his own decision to move Michael Foley away from midfield in the Leinster semi-final defeat to Meath, said he feels hugely connected to the county after being appointed back at the end of 2007.

“Did I think five years ago I would still be here? I’m not too sure but loyalty has always been a big thing with me and I have got to know this group of players as well as the players I played with and despite being an Armagh man, I now genuinely feel like a Kildare man.

“While I am disappointed that we have not achieved what we set out to, as of yet, I firmly believe there is more in us. I think we have a few young players coming through, the type of players Kildare need; big, strong, aggressive, and smart.”

Meanwhile, new Meath manager Mick O’Dowd last night met with his management team as a unit for the first time. O’Dowd, 39, is joined by his Skyrne club-mate Trevor Giles, Sean Kelly and fitness and conditioning coach Colm Brady.

After his predecessor Seamus McEnaney was accused by some former players of playing a brand of football foreign to Meath, O’Dowd is hoping to restore the county’s traditional style.

“I hope it would be a brand of football that Meath supporters would be used to and be very happy to watch,” he told LMFM.

Newly-appointed Louth manager Aidan O’Rourke, who was only informed on Monday morning that he was being recommended to succeed Peter Fitzpatrick, revealed on the local radio station that Bernie Murray will be one of his selectors. Having coached Kildare and Down in recent times, Armagh’s 2002 All-Ireland winner O’Rourke said: “It was really enjoyable cutting my teeth with two great managers, Kieran and James. I’d like to think I’ll take the best from those things and merge them together for the benefit of Louth football.”

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