Allianz Football League Division 3: Our team-by-team guide and predictions

John Fogarty previews Division 3 of the Allianz Football League.

Allianz Football League Division 3: Our team-by-team guide and predictions

John Fogarty previews Division 3 of the Allianz Football League.

CORK

Last year: Relegated from Division 2.

Manager: Ronan McCarthy (3rd season).

1st time in Division 3 since 1970.

Captain: Ian Maguire.

Something old: Paul Kerrigan, having turned 33 last month, will look to put Nemo’s disappointing loss to Corofin behind him when he commences a 13th senior season. And then there’s the returning Ciarán Sheehan.

Something new: Damien Gore and Cathal O’Mahony will bring plenty of energy to the Cork attack after their U20 exploits last year.

What rule change should affect them the most: Sheehan shouldn’t be too shabby when it comes to taking marks.

What's their manager most likely to say: “Of course we want to avoid the second tier but May 24 is the biggest date in our calendar.”

    Fixtures: Jan 25: v Offaly (h); Feb 2: v Leitrim (a); Feb 9: v Down (h); Feb 22: v Tipperary (a); Mar 1: v Derry (h); Mar 14: v Louth (h); Mar 22: v Longford (a).

Key tie and why: The most important week will be that stretch between the Tipperary and Derry games. Win those and it should be Division 2 football again in 2021.

Prediction: First. Cork traditionally do well against Ulster teams in the league, the mood is good in the camp and they’ve been preparing for this campaign from a long way out.

DERRY

Last year: Division 4 champions.

Manager: Rory Gallagher (1st season)

1st season in Division 3 since 2018.

Captain: TBC.

Something old: Thirteen years after starting out his senior career, Enda Lynn will be available again after he recovers from his knee problem.

Something new: Gallagher this time last year saw himself how Ben McCarron can hurt teams and the forward can push on in 2020.

What rule change should affect them the most: Selector Enda Muldoon, that wisest of footballers, will be scheming with Gallagher to find ways to exploit the advanced mark.

What's their manager most likely to say: “Ach sure, we have to be a wee bit cuter if we want to progress.”

    Fixtures: Jan 25: v Leitrim (h); Feb 1: v Down (a); Feb 9: v Tipperary (h); Feb 23: v Louth (h); Mar 1: v Cork (a); Mar 15: v Longford (h); Mar 22: v Offaly (a).

Key tie and why: The trip to Cork could go a long way to defining the early part of their season. What’s certain is with so much at stake teams are going to be taking points off each other everywhere in Division 2 and 3.

Prediction: Fourth. A lot of potential in this group but their preparations have been a little disjointed due to club commitments and injuries. Best will be seen of them later in the campaign.

DOWN

Last year: Third.

Manager: Paddy Tally (Second season).

Second consecutive season in Division 3.

Captain: TBC.

Something old: At 32 years of age, Kevin McKernan is still fighting the good fight for the Mourne County.

Something new: Liam Kerr looks the real deal and will be a fine addition over the coming years.

What rule change should affect them the most: Down have picked up a lot of black cards in previous Leagues so will want to be on their best behaviour now that there is a tougher punishment.

What's their manager most likely to say: “We don’t want to be hurt by score difference for the second year running.”

    Fixtures: Jan 26: v Tipperary (a); Feb 1: v Derry (h); Feb 9: v Cork (a); Feb 22: v Longford (h); Mar 1: v Offaly (a); Mar 15: v Leitrim (h); Mar 22: v Louth (a).

Key tie and why: The visit of Derry to Newry at the beginning of next month will tell plenty about Down’s attitude to the League.

Prediction: Sixth. Probably still kicking themselves after letting promotion slip from their grasp last year. Missing a lot of players from last year’s panel excluding the Kilcoo men who will be back later and a further rebuild is needed.

LEITRIM

Last year: Division 4 finalists.

Manager: Terry Hyland (Second season).

First season in Division 3 since 2008.

Captain: TBC.

Something old: With Emlyn Mulligan and Cathal McCrann not involved, Paddy Maguire, 30 this year, is one of the oldest remaining.

Something new: Mark Diffley looked like a prospect at U20 level last year and provides Hyland with a freshness in the forward line.

What rule change should affect them the most: Like Down, Leitrim have picked up black cards too easily in the past and they have to be more careful.

What's their manager most likely to say: “We are fighting above our weight but we’re capable of doing it.”

    Fixtures: Jan 25: v Derry (a); Feb 2: v Cork (h); Feb 9: v Longford (a); Feb 23: v Offaly (h); Mar 1: v Louth (a); Mar 15: v Down (a); Mar 22: v Tipperary (h).

Key tie and why: With just three home games, Leitrim have to make them count. Offaly appears to be the most winnable of them but they’ll need five or six points to survive.

Prediction: Eighth. The awful stage-related Connacht League semi-final result aside, Leitrim have made great strides under Hyland but losing at least five players over the winter will be felt.

LONGFORD

Last year: Fifth.

Manager: Pádraic Davis (Second season).

Fifth consecutive season in Division 3.

Captain: Michael Quinn.

Something old: Looking at what he did in the O’Byrne Cup final, it’s like he’s getting younger but Quinn turns 30 this weekend.

Something new: Longford’s under-age talent isn’t as plentiful as it was a few years ago but Oran Kenny should make the grade.

What rule change should affect them the most: Paddy Collum has a good boot on him and can add more from the 20-metre line.

What's their manager most likely to say: “The O’Byrne Cup gave us some momentum but we can’t rely on that throughout the spring.”

    Fixtures: Jan 26: v Louth (h); Feb 2: v Offaly (a); Feb 9: v Leitrim (h); Feb 22: v Down (a); Mar 1: v Tipperary (h); Mar 15: v Derry (a); Mar 22: v Cork (h).

Key tie and why: Considering they beat them at the weekend, going to Offaly will be a trip fraught with danger.

Prediction: Fifth. Longford look like a team back in training some time but so many of the 2019 panel opted out and that has to take its toll irrespective of good pre-season form.

LOUTH

Last year: Fourth.

Manager: Wayne Kierans (Second season).

Second consecutive season in Division 3.

Captain: Bevan Duffy.

Something old: Duffy is now the eldest in the panel now that Jim McEneaney and Derek Maguire are no longer part of the panel.

Something new: At 25, Ciarán Byrne is not a young player but how Kierans will be thrilled to have him at his disposal following his time in Australia and injury last year.

What rule change should affect them the most: Byrne’s advice should be worthwhile as Louth look to optimise the advanced mark and his brother Declan showed such skills in the O’Byrne Cup.

What's their manager most likely to say: “I know what’s in this group and I know it’s more than what most other people think.”

    Fixtures: Jan 26: v Longford (a); Feb 2: v Tipperary (h); Feb 9: v Offaly (h); Feb 23: v Derry (a); Mar 1: v Leitrim (h); Mar 15: v Cork (a); Mar 22: Down (h).

Key tie and why: You could go as early as this weekend given they face Longford in the Leinster championship preliminary round and have a decent recent record against them.

Prediction: Seventh. Could prove us wrong and did that to many during last year’s League campaign but they have lost some good leaders.

OFFALY

Last year: Sixth.

Manager: John Maughan (Second season).

Fifth consecutive season in Division 3.

Captain: TBC.

Something old: Bernard Allen is among the elder statesmen as he turns 29 in a couple of months. Will we see 34-year-old Niall McNamee at some stage this season?

Something new: After some fine football with Ferbane last year, Cian Johnson’s senior career now looks like it’s going to begin in earnest.

What rule change should affect them the most: Caught out by the sin bin at the weekend but Maughan will hope it was an early lesson.

What's their manager most likely to say: “We have the ability to tap into our potential but our work-rate has to improve.”

    Fixtures: Jan 25: v Cork (a); Feb 2: v Longford (h); Feb 9: v Louth (a); Feb 23: v Leitrim (a); Mar 1: v Down (h); Mar 15: v Tipperary (a); Mar 22: v Derry (h).

Key tie and why: Just like it will be for Longford, the second round clash is significant. Offaly will want to show that they have learned from Saturday’s defeat.

Prediction: Third. The O’Byrne Cup final game and the four away fixtures aside, there are real grounds for optimism in the Faithful County and unlike a lot of counties they haven’t lost too many that they wanted to retain from their 2019 panel.

TIPPERARY

Last year: Relegated from Division 2.

Manager: David Power (1st season).

First season in Division 3 since 2017.

Captain: Conor Sweeney.

Something old: He turns 32 this summer but Brian Fox’s engine shows no signs of letting him down.

Something new: Conal Kennedy could be featuring a lot with his older brothers Colman and Jack this year.

What rule change should affect them the most: Captain Sweeney has the nous on the right side of attack to be able to take advanced marks in and outside the 20-metre line.

What's their manager most likely to say: “This group is about being positive. I can guarantee we are giving it everything.”

    Fixtures: Jan 26: v Down (h); Feb 2: v Louth (a); Feb 9: v Derry (a); Feb 22: v Cork (h); Mar 1: v Longford (a); Mar 15: v Offaly (h); Mar 22: v Leitrim (a).

Key tie and why: The February 22 battle with Cork is likely to either propel them towards promotion or see them fending off relegation. They will feel they owe Cork one.

Prediction: Second. Without question, Michael Quinlivan is a considerable loss but then there is still plenty of talent, Power knows these players inside out and has formed an excellent management and support group. In a league where the margins between success and failure should be fine, Tipperary can be on the right side.

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