Breffni eye promotion to the second tier

CAVAN

Breffni  eye promotion to the second tier

Manager: Terry Hyland (2nd season).

Captain: Alan Clarke (2nd season).

Where they are: Sixth consecutive season in Division 3.

What they want: To see another scattering of the three-in-a-row U21 brigade make their mark ahead of the championship. Oh, and promotion to the second tier.

What they fear: Their long championship run last summer might not translate to league silverware, or at least promotion.

On the rise: Joshua Hayes, Killian Brady, Turloc Mooney and Philip Tinnelly.

On the mend: Gearoid McKernan.

Super stat: Cavan haven’t won a league title at any grade since 1950.

Prospects: McKenna Cup form an early indicator they have picked up where they left off in 2013. Difficult to see the Breffni men not fighting it out at the top end of the table.

Fixtures: Feb 1 – v Fermanagh (h); Feb 9 – v Offaly (a); March 2 – v Wexford (a); March 9 – v Sligo (h); March 16 – v Longford (a); March 29 – v Roscommon (h); April 6 – v Limerick (a).

Prediction: 1st.

FERMANAGH

Manager: Pete McGrath (1st season).

Captain: Eoin Donnelly (1st season).

Where they are:2nd season in Division 3.

What they want: A mid-table finish. Relegation after the nightmare that was their 2013 championship would represent the worst possible start for new boss Pete McGrath.

What they fear: A relegation scrap.

On the rise: Conor Foy, Stephen McElrone, Dwayne McNulty.

On the mend: Ruairi Corrigan, Tómas Corrigan, Brian Cox, Barry Malone.

Super stat: Among other competitions, Fermanagh have never won a National league title. They came close in 2012, losing to Wicklow in the Division 4 final.

Prospects: Really tough opener away to Cavan and should they fail to overcome Sligo at home in their subsequent outing, it will be extremely difficult to halt the slide thereafter.

Fixtures: Feb 1 – v Cavan (a); Feb 8 – v Sligo (h); March 2 – v Longford (a); Mar 9 – v Roscommon (h); Mar 16 – v Limerick (a); Mar 30 – v Wexford (h); April 6 – v Offaly (h).

Prediction: 6th.

LIMERICK

Manager: John Brudair (1st season).

Captain: Seanie Buckley (2nd season).

Where they are:Returning to Division 3 for the first time since 2011.

What they want: A break, God knows Limerick football hasn’t had too many of them in recent years.

What they fear: John Galvin won’t return for the league, significantly hindering their bid to avoid the drop.

On the rise: Danny Neville, Sean Sheahan.

On the mend: Injury ward reported empty.

Super stat: Last April’s Division 4 final win over Offaly was their last of 2013.

Prospects: Difficult to envisage anything other than relegation for the Treaty men. McGrath Cup withdrawal won’t have helped New Year preparation. Offaly and Longford at home could be saving grace.

Fixtures: Feb 1 – v Sligo (a); Feb 9 – v Longford (h); Mar 3 – v Roscommon (a); Mar 9 – v Wexford (h); Mar 16 – v Fermanagh (a) Mar 30 – v Offaly (a); April 6 – v Cavan (h).

Prediction: 7th.

LONGFORD

Manager: Jack Sheedy (1st season).

Captain: Paul Barden (8th season).

Where they are:Back in Division 3 after winning it outright two years ago.

What they want: to hit the ground running under their new boss.

What they fear: Successive league titles in 2011 and ’12 to be followed by successive campaigns ending in relegation.

On the rise: Ronan Keogh, Paddy Collum, Andrew Dalton, Barry O’Farrell.

On the mend: Declan Reilly.

Super stat: Longford lost only one league match during 2011 and ’12, contrasting strongly to the seven defeats encountered last spring – the only team to record nul points in 2013.

Prospects: Sufficient points will need to be accumulated ahead of their final two group games – Sligo and Wexford away. If they are in trouble after round 5, relegation will be tough to prevent.

Fixtures: Feb 2 – v Roscommon (h); Feb 9 – v Limerick (a); Mar 2 — v Fermanagh (h); Mar 9 – v Offaly (a); Mar 16 – v Cavan (h); Mar 30 – v Sligo (a); April 6 – v Wexford (a).

Prediction: 4th.

OFFALY

Manager: Emmet McDonnell (2nd season).

Captain: Niall McNamee (2nd season).

Where they are: Offaly made a swift return to the third tier having been relegated to Division 4 in 2012.

What they want: A mid-table finish to banish the ghosts of a terrible 2013 championship.

What they fear: Relegation and an instant return to the quagmire that is Division 4.

On the rise: Peter Cunningham, Luke Kelly, Joseph O’Connor.

On the mend: Anton Sullivan, Shane Dooley.

Super stat: Offaly’s five point win over Tipperary last April, securing their place in the Division 4 league final and guaranteeing promotion to Division 3, was their last of 2013.

Prospects: With difficult early assignments away to Wexford and home to Cavan, Emmet McDonnell’s troops will be under pressure from the word go.

Fixtures: Feb 2 – v Wexford (a); Feb 9 – v Cavan (h); Mar 2 – v Sligo (a); March 9 – v Longford (h); Mar 16 – v Roscommon (a); Mar 30 – v Limerick (h); April 6 – v Fermanagh (a).

Prediction: 8th.

ROSCOMMON

Manager: John Evans (2nd season).

Captain: Niall Carty (1st season).

Where they are: 3rd consecutive season in Division 3.

What they want: To harness the conveyor belt of talent that delivered Connacht U21 and minor titles in 2012.

What they fear: Responsibility will once more fall on the shoulders of returning forward Donnie Shine to produce the bulk of their scores.

On the rise: Ronan Daly, Cathal Compton, Ronan Stack.

On the mend: David Keenan.

Super stat: Roscommon won more league games (4) than any other Connacht team across the four divisions in 2013.

Prospects: For the first time since 2010, the county team will be able to call on the services of the St Brigid’s contingent for the league. With that in mind, promotion is now a distinct possibility.

Fixtures: Feb 2 – v Longford (a); Feb 9 – v Wexford (h); Mar 2 – v Limerick (h); Mar 9 – v Fermanagh (a); Mar 16 – v Offaly (h); Mar 29 – v Cavan (a); April 6 – v Sligo (h).

Prediction: 2nd.

SLIGO

Manager: Pat Flanagan (1st season).

Captain: TBC.

Where they are: 3rd season in Division 3, coming down from Division 2 in 2011.

What they want: To start afresh after the disaster of 2013 – a campaign dominated by retirements, resignations and the Ruislip fallout.

What they fear: Their slide down football’s pecking order may have carried over to 2014. Also, who, if anyone, will stand up to be counted in their first full season without Eamonn O’Hara.

On the rise: Niall Murphy, Aidan Devaney.

On the mend: David Kelly.

Super stat: Sligo conceded 91 points in the league in both 2012 and 2013.

Prospects: Slim. The lengthy period – 149 days to be precise – in appointing Kevin Walsh’s successor impacted on pre-Christmas preparations and the repercussions are likely to be seen with four tough away assignments.

Fixtures: Feb 2 – v Limerick (h); Feb 8 – v Fermanagh (a); Mar 2 – v Offaly (h); Mar 9 – v Cavan (a); Mar 16 – v Wexford (a); Mar 30 – v Longford (h); April 6 — v Roscommon (a).

Prediction: 5th.

WEXFORD

Manager: Aidan O’Brien (2nd season).

Captain: Graham Molloy (1st season).

Where they are: Having spent three years in Division 3 (2010-12), the Model County made a swift return following just one season in the second tier.

What they want: A return ticket back to Division 2, thank you very much.

What they fear: It may be another near-miss campaign, similar to their elimination from the O’Byrne Cup on the head-to-head rule.

On the rise: Michael Furlong, Colm Keogh.

On the mend: Kevin Gore, Craig Doyle, Rory Quinlivan.

Super stat: Wexford conceded more than any other team across the four divisions in 2013 – leaking 11-87 (120).

Prospects: Lee Chin is a loss, but their O’Byrne Cup form shows they may challenge for a league final berth. Successive games against Roscommon and Cavan in Rounds 2 and 3 will define their campaign.

Fixtures: Feb 2 – v Offaly (h); Feb 9 – v Roscommon (a); Mar 2 – v Cavan (h); Mar 9 – v Limerick (a); Mar 16 – v Sligo (h); Mar 30 – v Fermanagh (a); April 6 – v Longford (h).

Prediction: 3rd

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