Allianz Football League Division 2: Our team-by-team guide and predictions

Paul Keane previews Division 2 of the Allianz Football League.

Allianz Football League Division 2: Our team-by-team guide and predictions

Paul Keane previews Division 2 of the Allianz Football League.

ARMAGH

Last year: Fifth

Manager: Kieran McGeeney (6th year)

2nd season in Division 2 following 2018 promotion

Captain: Rory Grugan

Something old: Brendan Donaghy, 33, first played for Armagh 15 years ago but remains a key figure in defence for Kieran McGeeney.

Something new: A 2-1 blast on his debut against Cavan in the McKenna Cup last month indicated that Conor Turbitt is a serious prospect. A former Ulster U20 finalist.

What rule change should affect them the most: Blaine Hughes has the accuracy and the experience to use the new kick-out rule to his advantage, picking out key players in attacking positions higher up the pitch.

What's their manager most likely to say: "This is my sixth season in charge. The time for transition is over, we're ready to push on now."

    Fixtures: Jan 25: v Cavan (h); Feb 1 v Laois (a); Feb 8 v Kildare (h); Feb 23 v Westmeath (a); Mar 1 v Fermanagh (a); Mar 14 v Roscommon (h); Mar 22 v Clare (a)

Key tie and why: This weekend's opener in Cavan is a grudge match, a repeat of last summer's two-game Ulster championship saga which Cavan edged. The Round 5 and 6 games against old rivals Fermanagh and Roscommon are huge ties too.

Prediction: Third. Armagh have jumped between Divisions 2 and 3 under Kieran McGeeney but having completed five years in the hot-seat the indicators are that they're ready to push hard for a return to the top flight.

CAVAN

Last year: Relegated from Division 1

Manager: Mickey Graham (2nd year)

1st season in Division 2 following 2019 relegation

Captain: Raymond Galligan

Something old: He turns 33 this year and has over 130 games played for Cavan but Martin Reilly is still going strong. Thirty-something goalkeeper Raymond Galligan is back too.

Something new: With key forwards missing this year for various reasons, Conor Smith hinted in the McKenna Cup that he could be one to step up.

What rule change should affect them the most: Sky-scraping forwards have rarely been a feature of Cavan lineups so perhaps wily Galligan can take advantage of the new rule on kick-outs.

What's their manager most likely to say: "Nobody knows better than us how to get out of Division 2 - we did it in 2016 and 2018."

    Fixtures: Jan 25: v Armagh (a); Feb 1 v Westmeath (h); Feb 9 v Laois (a); Feb 22 v Fermanagh (a); Mar 1 v Clare (h); Mar 15 v Kildare (a); Mar 22 v Roscommon (h)

Key tie and why: Cavan have to travel to play both Kildare and Armagh, the two favourites to go up. Wins there would be a giant boost to their promotion hopes.

Prediction: Fourth. Cavan have flitted between Divisions 1 and 2 in recent seasons but returning to the top flight is a big ask without the retired Cian Mackey and former captains Dara McVeety and Killian Clarke who have opted out.

CLARE

Last year: Sixth

Manager: Colm Collins (7th year)

4th season in Division 2 following 2016 Division 3 title success

Captain: Eoin Cleary

Something old: With Gary Brennan and Jamie Malone unavailable for 2020, David Tubridy's return is a major boost. He was terrific last summer, 12 years after his debut in 2007.

Something new: Jack Sheedy and Jack Morrissey impressed in defence and attack respectively on their debuts in the McGrath Cup against Waterford.

What rule change should affect them the most: Brennan's absence robs Clare of a potential outlet for marks if they need to go route one. Their forwards are skillful enough to still take advantage, finding space to take marks on their chest.

What's their manager most likely to say: "We've worked to be ranked the second-best team in Munster - let's keep it that way."

    Fixtures: Jan 26: v Westmeath (a); Feb 2 v Kildare (h); Feb 9 v Roscommon (a); Feb 23 v Laois (h); Mar 1 v Cavan (a); Mar 15 v Fermanagh (h); Mar 22 v Armagh (h)

Key tie and why: Clare's last two games in the campaign are at home to Ulster duo Fermanagh and Armagh, two massive games that could shape Clare's entire year if relegation is an issue and Tier 2 football is staring them in the face.

Prediction: Eighth. Captain Gary Brennan and Jamie Malone were so influential in last year's run to Round 4 of the qualifiers that it's hard to imagine they won't be missed.

FERMANAGH

Last year: Third

Manager: Ryan McMenamin (1st year)

2nd season in Division 2 following 2018 promotion

Captain: TBC

Something old: A decade on from his inter-county debut, Tomas Corrigan turns 30 this year but is fully committed in a big boost to Ryan McMenamin. Ruairi Corrigan is available too.

Something new: Stephen McGullion was with Fermanagh briefly in the past, under Pete McGrath, but reckons he's more mature this time and the Derrygonnelly midfielder looks a decent prospect.

What rule change should affect them the most: Eoin Donnelly has form as a nuisance under the high ball close to goal, just ask Monaghan. With fans hoping for a more adventurous approach, the advanced mark could offer a route one outlet.

What's their manager most likely to say: "We're on the right side of the Championship draw in Ulster - let's try to finally win it before they scrap it."

    Fixtures: Jan 26 v Kildare (a); Feb 2 v Roscommon (h); Feb 9 v Westmeath (a); Feb 22 v Cavan (h); Mar 1 v Armagh (h); Mar 15 v Clare (a); Mar 22 v Laois (h)

Key tie and why: If Fermanagh are to upset the odds and secure a promotion place, they'll need to hit the ground running with ties against Kildare and Roscommon first up.

Prediction: Sixth. It's easy to forget that Fermanagh were sitting pretty after five games last season, unbeaten and eyeing promotion. Losses to Armagh and Meath cost them promotion. Losing Sean Quigley is a big blow.

KILDARE

Last year: Fourth

Manager: Jack O'Connor (1st year)

2nd season in Division 2 following 2018 relegation

Captain: David Hyland

Something old: Paul Cribbin, Niall Kelly, Johnny Byrne, and Daniel Flynn are all established performers who missed 2019 for various reasons.

Something new: Clogherinkoe's Jack Robinson looks a real prospect. He scored 0-7 from play in last summer's Leinster junior final and made his debut against Longford in the O'Byrne Cup.

What rule change should affect them the most: Former Aussie Rules player Daniel Flynn, just back after taking 2019 out, is well placed to take advantage of the advanced mark.

What's their manager most likely to say: "If I could be as successful as Micko that would do".

    Fixtures: Jan 26 v Fermanagh (h); Feb 2 v Clare (a); Feb 8 v Armagh (a); Feb 23 v Roscommon (h); Feb 29 v Laois (a); Mar 15 v Cavan (h); Mar 22 v Westmeath (h)

Key tie and why: The Round 3 trip to Armagh is a huge game for Kildare. Aside from facing old boss Kieran McGeeney, a win would be a huge step towards promotion. Then they're at home to Roscommon.

Prediction: First. Jack O'Connor put it out there straight away that securing promotion and returning to Division 1 was a big target. All the players he wanted have committed so a top-two finish looks a good bet.

LAOIS

Last year: Division 3 runners-up

Manager: Micheal Quirke (1st year)

1st season in Division 2 following back to back promotions from Divisions 3 and 4

Captain: TBC

Something old: Ross Munnelly, 37, is back for an 18th season having made his debut way back in 2003. Mark Timmons and Colm Begley, both 33, are available too.

Something new: Diarmuid Whelan, last year's U20 captain, was among five players handed their debut against Offaly in the O'Byrne Cup last month by the new management. An exciting prospect in attack.

What rule change should affect them the most: The advanced mark would have suited towering Donie Kingston but he's quit so perhaps Graham Brody can exploit the new 20m kick-out rule instead. A few give-and-go moves could even be on the cards for the wandering 'keeper.

What's their manager most likely to say: "We have to stay in Division 2 because Tier 2 football would be a giant blow to the county."

    Fixtures: Jan 26 v Roscommon (a); Feb 1 v Armagh (h); Feb 9 v Cavan (h); Feb 23 v Clare (a); Feb 29 v Kildare (h); Mar 15 v Westmeath (a); Mar 22 v Fermanagh (a)

Key tie and why: Four away games means Portlaoise needs to be a fortress for Laois if they're to stand any chance of battling for a Division 1 place. The home game against Kildare, pitting Quirke against his former Kerry manager Jack O'Connor, will be intriguing.

Prediction: Seventh. Just three home games, allied to the loss of the Kingston brothers and former captain Stephen Attride means it could be a baptism of fire for new manager Micheal Quirke.

ROSCOMMON

Last year: Relegation from Division 1

Manager: Anthony Cunningham (2nd year)

1st season in Division 2 following 2019 relegation

Captain: Enda Smith

Something old: A decade after helping Roscommon to a breakthrough 2010 Connacht title, Cathal Cregg is still going strong. A point scorer in last weekend's FBD League final.

Something new: Boyle's Cian McKeon, Richard Hughes, a county finalist with Roscommon Gaels last October and Elphin's Luke Mollohan are fringe talents who have the potential to make their mark.

What rule change should affect them the most: Even without Diarmuid Murtagh who is unavailable in 2020, Roscommon have the forward quality to draw plenty of black cards and sin-binnings this year.

What's their manager most likely to say: "We want to get up to Division 1 and to stay there this time. We've been a yo-yo team for too long."

    Fixtures: Jan 26 v Laois (h); Feb 2 v Fermanagh (a); Feb 9 v Clare (h); Feb 23 v Kildare (a); Mar 1 v Westmeath (h); Mar 14 v Armagh (a); Mar 22 v Cavan (a)

Key tie and why: The promotion issue could easily come down to the last day for Roscommon who travel to play Cavan on March 22. That's a derby date at this stage considering all their recent battles and shared history.

Prediction: Second. A Super 8s team for the last two years, the reigning Connacht champions and back to back FBD League winners. All the indicators are that the Rossies will push hard for an immediate return to Division 1.

WESTMEATH

Last year: Division 3 winners

Manager: Jack Cooney (2nd year)

1st season in Division 2 following 2019 promotion

Captain: Kieran Martin

Something old: John Heslin may be just 27 but made his debut almost a decade ago in 2011. Considering how 2020 ended - with a dismissal in the qualifier defeat to Clare in Mullingar - he'll be keen for a big season.

Something new: Conor McCormack looks an interesting player in attack for Westmeath, featuring throughout their run to the O'Byrne Cup semi-finals.

What rule change should affect them the most: Heslin has the potential to pick a ball out of the sky if played in attack though Westmeath aren't blessed with big forwards generally.

What's their manager most likely to say: "We've got to secure our Tier 1 status through the league because we play Dublin first in the Championship and reaching a Leinster final is unlikely."

    Fixtures: Jan 26 v Clare (h); Feb 1 v Cavan (a); Feb 9 v Fermanagh (h); Feb 23 v Armagh (h); Mar 1 v Roscommon (a); Mar 15 v Laois (h); Mar 22 v Kildare (a)

Key tie and why: Next Sunday's campaign opener is a repeat of last June's qualifier in Mullingar, which Clare won. Motivation won't be lacking and a home win would set Westmeath up nicely for three tough ties against Ulster opposition.

Prediction: Fifth. Westmeath could be the surprise packet of this year's division if they get on a roll and three of their first four games are at home. Promotion seems unlikely but they could definitely take a scalp or two.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up