Allianz Football League Division 4: Our team-by-team guide and predictions

Paul Keane previews Division 4 of the Allianz Football League.

Allianz Football League Division 4: Our team-by-team guide and predictions

Paul Keane previews Division 4 of the Allianz Football League.

ANTRIM

Last year: Third

Manager: Lenny Harbinson (3rd year)

3rd season in Division 4 following 2017 relegation

Captain: Declan Lynch

Something old: Paddy McBride is still in his mid-20s but first played for Antrim way back in 2012 and is a hugely experienced performer.

Something new: Eunan Walsh has been on the scene a couple of seasons but is still just 22 and looks a player with plenty of potential.

What rule change should affect them the most: McBride has the quality to pull down quality deliveries and punish defences. His 2-3 haul against Fermanagh was one of the highlights of the McKenna Cup.

What's their manager most likely to say: "We're on the right side of the Championship draw to spring a surprise. We'll have to or it'll be Tier 2 football next summer."

    Fixtures: Jan 26 v Wexford (h); Feb 2 v Sligo (a); Feb 9 v London (a); Feb 23 v Carlow (h); Mar 1 v Limerick (h); Mar 15 v Wicklow (a); Mar 22 v Waterford (h).

Key tie and why: The back-to-back home games against Carlow and Limerick in rounds 4 and 5 will be crucial. Four points from those games would leave the Saffrons sitting pretty in the division.

Prediction: Third. Antrim also finished third last year though were six points off second place and eight behind table-toppers Derry. They've set promotion to Division 3 as a top priority this year.

CARLOW

Last year: Relegated from Division 3

Manager: Turlough O'Brien (6th year)

1st season in Division 4 following 2019 relegation

Captain: John Murphy

Something old: Daniel St Ledger is heading into his third different decade playing for Carlow and has played in just about every position for them too. Paul Broderick is another thirty-something who was in full O'Byrne Cup mode.

Something new: Old Leighlin duo Niall Roche and Mikey Bambrick figured prominently in the pre-season games and look certain to be utilised during the league.

What rule change should affect them the most: Sean Murphy's pace and direct running at defences is sure to result in a few black cards and sin-binnings for opposing defenders.

What's their manager most likely to say: "We've had a bad 12 months but let's get Carlow rising again."

    Fixtures: Jan 25 v Wicklow (h); Feb 1 v Wexford (a); Feb 9 v Limerick (h); Feb 23 v Antrim (a); Feb 29 v Waterford (a); Mar 14 v Sligo (h); Mar 22 v London (a).

Key tie and why: Saturday's Round 1 game against Wicklow is a big local derby. Antrim are the bookies' favourites to go up so a win against the Saffrons in Round 4 would be significant too.

Prediction: First. Carlow were unfortunate to be relegated last year, going down on scoring difference. With high profile suspensions now served and a new-look management team, ambitions will be high.

LIMERICK

Last year: Seventh

Manager: Billy Lee (4th year)

4th season in Division 4 following 2016 relegation

Captain: Iain Corbett and Donal O'Sullivan, joint captains

Something old: Corbett is the experienced head in a relatively young group of Limerick players. This will be his ninth season with the Limerick seniors.

Something new: Danny Neville missed last year to finish off a Masters degree. Getting him back and in such good form, he fired 0-7 in the McGrath Cup final win over Cork, is like a new signing.

What rule change should affect them the most: Limerick's success with the advanced mark in the win over Cork, Neville scored two points from marks, suggests they can capitalise on the new rule.

What's their manager most likely to say: "We've been down in Division 4 for long enough, we need to climb back up the ladder."

    Fixtures: Jan 25 v Waterford (a); Feb 2 v London (h); Feb 9 v Carlow (a); Feb 23 v Wicklow (h); Mar 1 v Antrim (a); Mar 15 v Wexford (h); Mar 22 v Sligo (a).

Key tie and why: Promotion is often wrapped up in Division 4 before Round 7 so we can see the Round 5 trip to Antrim being a crucial game for the Shannonsiders.

Prediction: Second. Limerick operated in Division 1A in 2007 but 10 years later found themselves in Division 4 and haven't escaped it since. Their McGrath Cup win hinted that Billy Lee can finally lift them from the basement group.

LONDON

Last year: Eighth

Manager: Michael Maher (1st year)

13th season in Division 4. League restructured in 2008, Division 2A status in 2007

Captain: Liam Gavaghan

Something old: London born and bred, Gavaghan is living the dream as the Exiles captain again this year.

Something new: Just 32, the second youngest boss in the Allianz league behind Wicklow's Davy Burke, Maher is the newest addition to the inter-county management circuit.

What rule change should affect them the most: London have several big men in attack who are well capable of making their Mark. The problem, as ever, is executing quality deliveries, particularly on some of the pitches they'll be playing on.

What's their manager most likely to say: "I managed a non-league soccer club but this is my toughest challenge yet."

    Fixtures: Jan 26 v Sligo (h); Feb 2 v Limerick (a); Feb 9 v Antrim (h); Feb 23 v Wexford (a); Feb 29 v Wicklow (h); Mar 14 v Waterford (a); Mar 22 v Carlow (h).

Key tie and why: Promotion is out of the question but nobody hammered London last year either and winning a couple of games is a possibility. They'll be targeting the home games against Sligo and Wicklow.

Prediction: Eighth. London played all their league games in Ruislip in 2018 and were competitive throughout the campaign, finishing fourth. It was back to normality last year with six losses from seven and more punishment probably awaits.

SLIGO

Last year: Relegated from Division 3

Manager: Paul Taylor (2nd year)

1st season in Division 4 following 2019 relegation

Captain: Patrick O'Connor

Something old: Still just 24, talented dual player Gerard O'Kelly Lynch remarkably first hurled for the Sligo seniors as a 17-year-old in 2013. He joined the footballers in 2016.

Something new: Liam Gaughan's form with Tourlestrane - he 2-4 in October's county final - and more recently against Roscommon in the FBD League indicates he could be set for a big year. Hardly a novice but still in his early 20s and full of potential.

What rule change should affect them the most: Sligo conceded the most in Division 3 last year, an average of 20 points per game. The advanced mark is another headache for their defenders to contend with this year.

What's their manager most likely to say: The old Saw Doctors song, 'To win just once'.

    Fixtures: Jan 26 v London (a); Feb 2 v Antrim (h); Feb 9 v Wicklow (a); Feb 22 v Waterford (h); Feb 29 v Wexford (a); Mar 14 v Carlow (a); Mar 22 v Limerick (h).

Key tie and why: Sligo haven't won a game under Paul Taylor. That's 11 competitive games in all competitions and 11 defeats. So they will be treating Sunday's trip to London as the perfect opportunity to generate vital momentum.

Prediction: Fourth. The exit of captain Niall Murphy, as well as midfielder Adrian McIntyre, is a huge setback but Sligo retain enough quality to be competitive at this level.

WATERFORD

Last year: Fourth

Manager: Benji Whelan (2nd year)

9th season in Division 4 following 2011 relegation

Captain: Conor Murray

Something old: Michael Curry is a player on form and while he's got plenty of years ahead of him he's among a dwindling group of Waterford players with several seasons of Championship experience.

Something new: Gaultier's Aaron Jones and Rathgormack's Robbie Flynn are among a sizeable group of new players brought in for 2020.

What rule change should affect them the most: Boss Whelan will be imploring his rookie group to keep their heads and not to fall foul of the new sin-bin rule.

What's their manager most likely to say: "So many of our players have left since last summer. What we want now is guys that want to pull on the jersey and want to commit."

    Fixtures: Jan 25 v Limerick (h); Feb 2 v Wicklow (a); Feb 8 v Wexford (h); Feb 22 v Sligo (a); Feb 29 v Carlow (h); Mar 14 v London (h); Mar 22 v Antrim (a).

Key tie and why: Waterford are long shots for promotion but shocking Limerick in the Munster championship isn't out of the question. Therefore this Saturday's Round 1 game will have extra resonance.

Prediction: Seventh. Benji Whelan has lost virtually the core of his team that lost a qualifier to Westmeath last summer including his centre-back, both midfielders and Dessie Hutchinson in attack. He has a tough task on his hands.

WEXFORD

Last year: Fifth

Manager: Paul Galvin (1st year)

2nd season in Division 4 following 2018 relegation

Captain: TBC

Something old: Ben Brosnan was a familiar face in the Wexford setup during the O'Byrne Cup - 13 years on from the attacker's debut in the pre-season competition.

Something new: Adamstown's Colm Feeney is a promising young forward for the Slaneysiders, as he displayed with 1-4 last month against Laois.

What rule change should affect them the most: If new boss Galvin can teach his players to deliver the ball like he once did on a plate to Kieran Donaghy, the advanced mark rule could be a big hit.

What's their manager most likely to say: "Wexford aren't a Division 4 team but they need to prove it on the pitch."

    Fixtures: Jan 26 v Antrim (a); Feb 1 v Carlow (h); Feb 8 v Waterford (a); Feb 23 v London (h); Feb 29 v Sligo (h); Mar 15 v Limerick (a); Mar 22 v Wicklow (h).

Key tie and why: The opening two games could shape Wexford's campaign, a trip to promotion hopefuls Antrim followed by a local derby with Carlow.

Prediction: Fifth. It's been a turbulent start to life as Wexford manager for Galvin. They haven't started the league and already he's lost a selector, Matty Forde, and two disgruntled players, Kevin O'Grady and Tiernan Rossiter. It could be a bumpy spring.

WICKLOW

Last year: Sixth

Manager: Davy Burke (1st year)

7th season in Division 4 following 2013 relegation

Captain: Dean Healy

Something old: New skipper Healy made his league debut almost a decade ago in 2011 against Kilkenny. His leadership will be vital as new boss Burke attempts to build a new group.

Something new: Mark Jackson is still only 21 but is developing into a top goalkeeper and a leader for Wicklow. The man who scored 0-7 against Offaly in the 2018 Championship has just been made vice-captain.

What rule change should affect them the most: Taking kick-outs from the 20m line will suit net-minder Jackson who is a long and accurate distributor.

What's their manager most likely to say: "I had a ball with the Kildare U20s but I'm bursting a gut to make the next step with a senior team."

    Fixtures: Jan 25 v Carlow (a); Feb 2 v Waterford (h); Feb 9 v Sligo (h); Feb 23 v Limerick (a); Feb 29 v London (a); Mar 15 v Antrim (h); Mar 22 v Wexford (a).

Key tie and why: Two away games in the middle of the league, trips to Limerick and London in late February, has the potential to make or break Wicklow's campaign.

Prediction: Sixth. Having finished sixth, eighth and seventh in the last three seasons, and lost a number of experienced players in the closed season, there's little evidence to suggest a promotion push is on the cards.

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