PREDICTIONS: Who will come out on top in Division 1B?

Eoghan Cormican tips Clare and Limerick to contest the promotion place from Division 1B
PREDICTIONS: Who will come out on top in Division 1B?

CLARE

Manager: Davy Fitzgerald (fifth season)

Captain: Cian Dillon and Tony Kelly will serve as joint-captains (first season)

Return to Division 1B after three years dining at the top table.

What they want:

To start closing out games. Of the nine games Clare played in 2015 between league and championship, they lost four of them by a point.

What they fear:

Implications of long-term injuries to Tony Kelly and Pat Donnellan on their promotion push.

On the rise: Conor Cleary, Bobby Duggan, Eoin O’Brien.

On the mend: Darach Honan, Shane Golden, Seadna Morey, Podge Collins.

2015 NHL in one word: Ominous

2015 top scorer: Colin Ryan (0-29)

Fixtures:

Feb 14: v Offaly (h); Feb 20: v Wexford (a); Mar 5: v Laois (a); Mar 13: v Kerry (h); Mar 20: v Limerick (h).

Prediction: 

Extent of casualty list when Limerick roll into Ennis on March 20 will have a significant bearing on whether or not they make a swift return to Division 1A — 1st.

KERRY

Manager: Ciarán Carey (first season)

Captain: Daniel Collins (first season)

First spring in Division 1B since the six-team second tier came into effect in 2012.

What they want:

A win. Moral victories are not much good to Kerry, well certainly not against teams like Laois, who they genuinely believe they can compete with.

What they fear: 

A series of heavy beatings would leave them in a fragile state come the Leinster round-robin phase in May.

On the rise: Michael Milner, Johnny Buckley (Lixnaw).

On the mend: Paud Costello.

2015 NHL in one word: Ground-breaking

2015 top scorer: Shane Nolan 1-34 (37)

Fixtures:

Feb 14: v Laois (a); Feb 20: v Limerick (h); Mar 6: v Wexford (h); Mar 13: v Clare (a); Mar 20: v Offaly (a).

Prediction:

Defeat at O’Moore Park on Sunday would send Kerry onto the back foot for the rest of the campaign and it is difficult to see where they will pick up points if a confidence-building result is not secured against Laois — 6th.

LAOIS

Manager: Seamus Plunkett (fourth season)

Captain: TBC Third season in Division 1B having been promoted from Division 2A in 2013.

What they want:

To tighten a few loose screws in defence. Laois had the worst defensive record of any team in either Division 1A or 1B in 2015, conceding on average 2-21 per game.

What they fear:

Implications of retiring quintet —Tommy Fitzgerald, Joe Fitzpatrick, John A Delaney, Brian Stapleton and Jimmy Walsh have all hung up their inter-county boots.

On the rise: Ryan Mullaney, Tadhg Dowling, Eoghan Fennelly.

On the mend: Clean bill of health is reported.

2015 NHL in one word: Indifferent

2015 top scorer: Zane Keenan 2-44 (50)

Fixtures:

Feb 14: v Kerry (h); Feb 20: v Offaly (a); Mar 5: v Clare (h); Mar 12: v Limerick (a); Mar 20: v Wexford (h).

Prediction:

Will have to beat Offaly in Tullamore to make quarter-finals. Doubtful — 5th.

LIMERICK

Manager: TJ Ryan (third season)

Captain: Nicky Quaid (first season)

Despite winning the Division 2 title in 2011 this is Limerick’s sixth consecutive season in the second tier

What they want:

Promotion. “We would have been very disappointed over the last number of years with the league,” said Ryan before Christmas, “We will be going after it in a major way.”

What they fear:

Loss of Na Piarsaigh contingent will hamper promotion bid; 2015 All-Ireland U21 medal-winners Ronan Lynch and David Dempsey would surely have been looked at were it not for their St Patrick’s Day commitments.

On the rise: Diarmuid Byrnes, Darragh O’Donovan, Richie English.

On the mend: James Ryan.

2015 NHL in one word: Deflating

2015 top scorer: Shane Dowling 1-20 (23)

Fixtures:

Feb 13: v Wexford (h); Feb 20: v Kerry (a); Mar 6: v Offaly (a); Mar 12: v Laois (h); Mar 20: v Clare (a).

Prediction:

Victory at home to Wexford this weekend should keep Limerick’s fate in their own hands right up to the trip to Ennis on the final Sunday of action — 2nd.

OFFALY

Manager: Eamonn Kelly (first season)

Captain: Colin Egan (first season)

Fifth consecutive season in Division 1B.

What they want:

Green shoots under new manager Eamonn Kelly. It has been a pretty awful couple of years for the Faithful County.

What they fear:

Life after Brian Carroll.

On the rise: Conor Doughan, Patrick Rigney.

On the mend: Dan Currams, Conor Mahon, Dermot Mooney, Eanna Murphy, Sean Ryan.

2015 NHL in one word: Deceptive

2015 top scorer: Shane Dooley 4-55 (67)

Fixtures: Feb 14: v Clare (a); Feb 20: v Laois (h); Mar 6: v Limerick (h); Mar 13: v Wexford (a); Mar 20: v Kerry (h).

Prediction:

Provided that they don’t slip up against Laois, they should again make the quarter-finals – 4th.

WEXFORD

Manager: Liam Dunne (fifth season)

Captain: TBC

Part of the Division 1B furniture since 2012.

What they want:

To reintegrate Jack Guiney back into the starting fold and to bring through the leading players from the U21 squads to reach successive All-Ireland finals.

What they fear:

Yet another third place finish, they’ve failed to break into the top two these past four springs.

On the rise: Eoin Conroy, Padraig Foley, Cathal Dunbar.

On the mend: Paul Morris, Conor McDonald, Shane Tomkins, Ian Byrne, Podge Doran

2015 NHL in one word: Disappointing

2015 top scorer: Jack Guiney 2-26 (32)

Fixtures:

Feb 13: v Limerick (a); Feb 20: v Clare (h); Mar 6: v Kerry (a); Mar 13: v Offaly (h); Mar 20: v Laois (a).

Prediction:

They’ll need to take two points, minimum, from the opening fortnight of action to achieve promotion. Unlikely — 3rd.

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