Every county, every detail: Under the bonnet of the Allianz Football League 2023

A team by team guide as the eagerly awaited 2023 Allianz National Football League gets underway
Every county, every detail: Under the bonnet of the Allianz Football League 2023

ALL TO PLAY FOR: Mayo footballer, Padraig O’Hora, and Kerry footballer, Paul Geaney, at the launch of the Allianz Leagues, which return this weekend. Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan



Manager: Kieran McGeeney (ninth season).

New additions: Rarely for McGeeney, he hasn’t rolled the dice in the off-season. Could it be down to his one-year extension?

Skipper: They retain joint-captains Rian O’Neill and Aidan Nugent.

Unavailable: There are injury fears over Oisin O’Neill who missed most of last year before returning for his club Crossmaglen. Brendan Donaghy has retired.

Schedule: January 28, Monaghan (a); February 5, Mayo (h); February 19, Roscommon (a); February 25, Kerry (a); March 4, Donegal (h); March 18, Galway (h); March 26, Tyrone (a).

Making an impression: Cian McConville – nephew of Oisin - has been bubbling under for a couple of seasons and notched a few points against Antrim. Will add further heft to an impressive attacking squadron.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: They consolidated their position in Division 1 last season by coming out of the traps early with big wins against Dublin and Tyrone. By contrast, their championship results disappointed. Will they take a longer-term view in 2023? They will be striving for consistent performances by finding a way to win on the days when they aren’t operating at full throttle. Whether by S&C intervention or less intense training sessions they will also aim to avoid the injury epidemic that severely hurt their chances last season.


Manager: Paddy Carr and Aidan O’Rourke (first season).

New additions: Former Derry All-Star Paddy Bradley comes into the backroom team. Bradley has previous experience with Donegal football from a period co-managing Gaoth Dobhair alongside Kevin Cassidy.

Skipper: Patrick McBrearty takes over from Michael Murphy.

Unavailable: After the guts of two decades service, Neil McGee has retired. And then you have the mammoth of Donegal football in Michael Murphy announcing his retirement, breaking hearts and leaving the rest of us checking our ages. Apart from that, Mrs Lincoln…

Schedule: January 29, Kerry (h); February 5, Tyrone (a); February 19, Monaghan (a); February 26, Galway (h); March 4, Armagh (a); March 19, Mayo (h); March 26, Roscommon (a).

Making an impression: Carr is renowned for his work in developing new talent and he has already handed debuts to Domhnall MacGiolla Bhride, Luke McGlynn, Jack McSharry, Joel Bradley Walsh, Kane Barrett, Brian O’Donnell, John Ross Molloy, Hugh O’Donnell and Johnny McGroddy. You see what’s happening here, of course?

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: Donegal have been stuck in gear for a few seasons. They promise plenty but haven’t delivered enough. Michael Murphy is gone and so is Neil McGee. Of all teams, as a neutral observer looking from the outside in, I would love to see them throwing off the shackles and cutting loose. They have footballers and legs all over the pitch. Slow, lateral and especially backwards football should be abandoned. Aidan O’Rourke played in a great, direct team. Can he mould Donegal in their likeness?


BACK INVOLVED: Peter Cooke has returned to the Galway panel. Pic: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
BACK INVOLVED: Peter Cooke has returned to the Galway panel. Pic: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Manager: Pádraic Joyce (fourth season).

New additions: Coach Cian O’Neill returns after a well-received debut year. Bernard Dunne’s move to Team India as high-performance director ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games does mean Galway need a new performance coach.

Skipper: Seán Kelly.

Unavailable: Defender Kieran Molloy tore his cruciate during the club championship. The back six is also down Liam Silke who is in New Zealand until at least April.

Schedule: January 28, Mayo (a); February 5, Roscommon (h); February 19, Tyrone (h); February 26, Donegal (a); March 5, Monaghan (h); March 18, Armagh (a); March 26, Kerry (h).

Making an impression: 2018 All-Star Ian Burke is back and already excelling in the FBD League. After a sensational campaign with Moycullen, Peter Cooke’s return to the panel is another gamechanger. Their failing in last year’s All-Ireland final was the lack of bench power.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: Padraic Joyce will use this league to build on last year’s positive progress. As they came down the stretch neck and neck in the All-Ireland final, I think he will have felt the need to develop top-notch closers from the bench. While the loss of Kieran Molloy is significant, the return of Ian Burke, Peter Cooke and eventually Seán Mulkerrin will be huge. Tomo Culhane is another player I expect to see plenty of in this league. He is a lethal forward and goal getter, neither of which will ever go out of fashion.


Manager: Jack O'Connor (second season, third term).

New additions: No changes to 2022 All-Ireland winning management ticket.

Skipper: Have appointed David Clifford.

Unavailable: All leading midfield options, aside from Jack Barry. Diarmuid O’Connor has an eight-week ankle injury to contend with, David Moran retired this week, while next in line Joe O’Connor is sidelined with a torn ACL.

Schedule: January 29, Donegal (a); February 5, Monaghan (h); February 18, Mayo (a); February 25, Armagh (h); March 5, Tyrone (a); March 18, Roscommon (h); March 26, Galway (a).

Making an impression: O'Connor drafted in ten new kids for the League, with a lot of positive chat circulating around Listry's Ruairi Murphy. With 10 of last year’s All-Ireland final team currently out of action, Murphy can expect League minutes.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: Four away games including three monster trips, injuries, the longest post-All Ireland carnival in history because of the July final and Kerry clubs surviving deep into January in the club championships ensure a challenging start to the league for the champions. The opposite set of circumstances existed this time twelve months ago. Yes, plenty of quality but unproven players hoping to stake a claim will get sustained chances. So many doing so together isn’t ideal, especially with the loss of David Moran’s experience. Division 1 status will be maintained.


Manager: Kevin McStay (first season)

New additions: Assistant manager is Stephen Rochford (first season, second term), Donie Buckley is back as coach (first season, second term), Liam McHale has additional responsibility for U20 liaison while Damien Mulligan has additional responsibility with clubs. Sports psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick, who worked with the team under Rochford, is also part of the set-up.

Skipper: Paddy Durcan

Unavailable: Oisin Mullin’s eventual move to Australia means the two-time Young Footballer of the Year is out. Lee Keegan’s retirement adds to a sizeable gap in their defence.

Schedule: January 28, Galway (h); February 5, Armagh (a); February 18, Kerry (h); February 25, Tyrone (h); March 5, Roscommon (a); March 19, Donegal (a); March 26, Monaghan (h).

Making an impression: Next off the athletic defender production line is Sam Callinan. Made his league debut as a Leaving Cert in 2022, caught the eye already in pre-season. Tommy Conroy is yet to make his return after an ACL injury 12 months ago, but already supporters are anticipating the comeback as The Neale forward would add much-needed firepower.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: As ever Mayo will be a compulsive watch, further franked with the arrival of Kevin McStay and his cast of Avengers backroom team. Tommy Conroy and Ryan O’Donoghue’s return coupled with the departure of Lee Keegan and Oisín Mullin may be about to signal an ironic shift. Mayo traditionally lacked the forwards to win the big one. Now as that end of the field looks healthy could they be short at the back? Aidan O Shea at full forward with Cillian O Connor at 11 would give both a new challenge and Mayo a fresh look.


Manager: Vinny Corey (first season).

New additions: Vinny Corey had been with Seamus McEnaney the last few years and he brings along his brother Martin, Dermot McArdle and Gabriel Bannigan.

Skipper: Unannounced at present.

Unavailable: Ryan McAnespie is in Australia at present, partnering Cork’s Ronan O’Toole at midfield for Michael Cusack’s in Sydney. Wily campaigner Drew Wylie has finally retired, as has Colin Walshe.

Schedule: January 28, Armagh (h); February 5, Kerry (a); February 19, Donegal (h); February 26, Roscommon (h); March 5, Galway (a); March 19, Tyrone (h); March 26, Mayo (a).

Making an impression: New players to have been called up include Fabian Beggan, Kevin Loughran, Shane Slevin, Francis Hughes and Darren McDonnell. Loughran maybe the most likely to make a breakthrough. He had been captain of the Ulster Minor and Under-21 teams in 2013 and ’16, so it’s a long time brewing.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: Monaghan still have plenty of quality all over the field. Yes many of those players have been on the go for a long time, but they got a good break this winter and appear ready for another assault. It will be interesting if new supremo Vinnie Corey looks to bring through some of the under 20 team that got to the Ulster final in 2021. A fresh approach and new voices including Corey’s brother Martin in a coaching capacity could be enough to reignite them once again.


Manager: Davy Burke (first season). 

New additions: Donegal All-Ireland winner Mark McHugh joins the coaching ticket. The 2012 All-Star previously worked with the Donegal ladies and the Fermanagh minors.

Skipper: Diarmuid Murtagh captained the team in the FBD League final.

Unavailable: Some big players have departed the dressing room. Former captain Conor Devaney has retired. Ultan Harney is gone travelling while Ronan Daly is currently based in the Middle East.

Schedule: January 29, Tyrone (h); February 5, Galway (a); February 19, Armagh (h); February 26, Monaghan (a); March 5, Mayo (h), March 18, Kerry (a); March 26, Donegal (h).

Making an impression: After a summer in America, Keith Doyle returned and immediately kicked two goals from midfield on his first outing of the intercounty season.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: Roscommon will want to avoid their recent yo-yo history with Division 1. As they did in 2016 they will want to consolidate their position. The fact they won the Connacht championship in 2017 for the first time since 2010 after successive years in Division 1 isn’t a coincidence. Davy Burke is the new boss and his first task would seem to be to clarify roles within his own management team. Sparks were flying amid mixed messaging on the sideline during the FBD League final.


Manager: Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher (third season). 

New additions: No changes to the backroom.

Skipper: Padraig Hampsey retains the responsibility.

Unavailable: Tyrone had another winter that would make you wince. They lost Conor McKenna who is returning to AFL. Rory Brennan is still young enough but has stepped away, while Ben McDonnell is travelling.

Schedule: January 29, Roscommon (a); February 5, Donegal (h); February 19, Galway (a); February 25, Mayo (a); March 5, Kerry (h); March 19, Monaghan (a); March 26, Armagh (h).

Making an impression: Now for the good news. Conor Cush is a throwback to his father Adrian and takes frees off the grass. Nathan McCarron is made of the aggressive stuff that Tyrone backs have been lacking, while Ryan Jones of Dungannon has shown up well so far. Last year’s Under-20 captain Niall Devlin will also push hard.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: Indiscipline, desertions and a meek defence of their All Ireland crown meant 2022 was a write off for the then All-Ireland champions. Expect a reaction. They will return fresh, hungry and I imagine with a cause, any cause, as that is when they are at their best. Enjoyably we should see plenty of Ruairí Canavan and possibly Michael McGleenon in the league and if early season form is anything to go by Cathal McShane is on the way back to his best. Watch out.



Manager: Colm Collins (10th season).

New additions: Former Clare No 1 Joe Hayes takes over from All-Ireland winner with Kerry Declan O’Keeffe as goalkeeping coach. Brian Carson returns to the set-up as head coach. He was previously involved between 2018 and ‘20. Down native Mark Doran joins as assistant coach. Limerick native Micheal Cahill, previously involved during Mick O’Dwyer and Micheal McDermott’s respective tenures, is another returning to the backroom team. His role is that of S&C coach, replacing Rob Mulcahy.

Skipper: Eoin Cleary.

Unavailable: After 16 seasons leading the attack, David Tubridy has called it a day.

Schedule: January 29, Louth (h); February 5, Meath (a); February 19, Kildare (h); February 25, Dublin (a); March 5, Cork (h); March 19, Derry (a); March 26, Limerick (h).

Making an impression: A fine underage player, Dermot Coughlan’s debut senior season in 2019 was over as early as the second round of the League because of a broken ankle. He started both McGrath Cup games this month and should continue to feature.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: Clare were in the All Ireland quarter-final last year and have developed an impressive habit out of staying in Division 2. David Tubridy is a loss but Colm Collins’ steady influence continues. Significantly they have four home games, as they are always more than a handful in Cusack Park. However, it is critical for them to get off to a good start against Louth. Limerick away in round seven could be a battle for Sam Maguire status.


KEY APPOINTMENT: Former Galway manager Kevin Walsh has joined Cork's backroom team. Pic: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
KEY APPOINTMENT: Former Galway manager Kevin Walsh has joined Cork's backroom team. Pic: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Manager: John Cleary (first season, although he spent a good chunk of last year as interim manager).

New additions: Kevin Walsh is the big-ticket addition. The new Cork coach brings 10 years of inter-county managerial experience to the table. Former 50km race walking world champion Rob Heffernan has been enlisted as a performance coach.

Skipper: Brian Hurley.

Unavailable: Cork's physio table is gathering dust. It’s a far cry from 12 months ago when player unavailability, through a combination of injury, departures, and droppings, was in the high teens.

Schedule: January 29, Meath (h); February 5, Kildare (a); February 19, Dublin (h); February 26, Limerick (h); March 5, Clare (a); March 19, Louth (a); March 26, Derry (h).

Making an impression: Recalls for Ruairí Deane, Tom Clancy, and Brian O’Driscoll. The latter, four and a half years on from his last stint in red, has slotted seamlessly back into the half-forward line. 2019 minor hero Conor Corbett is finally getting his chance at the top level.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: The acquisition of Kevin Walsh and the experience garnered by a capable management team in 2022 means the Cork brains trust is in a much better position. The return of Seán Meehan, Conor Corbett and Killian O’Hanlon strengthens their hand quality wise, while Ruairí Deane and Brian O’Driscoll's reinstatement will deal with the clear experience deficit of last year. They will be looking to elbow Derry and Kildare out of the way to secure promotion, and will require four points from their first three games against Meath, Kildare and Dublin to do so. And they need to keep Seán Powter fit.


Manager: Rory Gallagher (fourth season). 

New additions: Gallagher has brought his brother Ronan in a goalkeeping coach to replace Thomas Mallon.

Skipper: Conor Glass will take over as skipper from Chrissy McKaigue.

Unavailable: Derry have managed to retain all their players and there is a clean bill of health.

Schedule: January 28, Limerick (h); February 5, Louth (a); February 18, Meath (h); February 26, Kildare (a); March 4, Dublin (h); March 19, Clare (h); March 26, Cork (a).

Making an impression: Eoin McEvoy and Lachlan Murray are just on the cusp of leaving their teens but have been given significant gametime in recent weeks. Matthew Downey will also come into the reckoning having gotten over his injury concerns.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: The parallels between Derry 2022 and Donegal 2011 were clear last season. Can Derry 2023 make that final step in terms of attacking power, as Donegal did in 2012 is the big question? The McKenna Cup would suggest so. The absence of The Glen players from the early rounds is far from ideal, but they should still account for Limerick and Louth in the first two games. Dublin come to town in round 5 which will reacquaint Derry people with the big time.


Manager: Dessie Farrell (fourth season).

New addition: The presence of Pat Gilroy alongside Farrell this season will attract plenty of attention. The rest of the coaching ticket is to be confirmed although Mick Galvin and Shane O’Hanlon appear to be involved once more.

Skipper: James McCarthy was captain last year although no announcement has been made for 2023. Brian Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny would also be options.

Unavailable: Jonny Cooper brought down the curtain on a fine inter-county career recently. Paul Mannion’s return to fitness is being monitored closely and he may be used sparingly across the spring.

Schedule: January 28, Kildare (h); February 5, Limerick (a); February 19, Cork (a); February 25, Clare (h); March 4, Derry (a); March 18, Meath (a); March 26, Louth (h).

Making an impression: Following his brother Eoghan, Killian O’Gara could add something different to the Dublin attack this spring. Half-back Greg McEneaney should be given a couple of run-outs.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: Dublin will get promoted and Division 2 will allow Dessie Farrell to accelerate the development of his young guns away from the unforgiving environment of Division 1. Four road trips will be good for spirit. The return of Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion and Pat Gilroy has garnered plenty of attention. How players like Lorcan O’Dell, Lee Gannon and Andrew McGowan continue their development will be of more significance come the championship. Could this also be the league where Ciaran Archer delivers on his underage promise?


Manager: Glen Ryan (second season). 

New additions: Kildare's star-studded management team which also includes Dermot Earley, Anthony Rainbow, John Doyle and Brian Lacey has remained intact.

Skipper: Mick O'Grady captained Kildare in 2022. Kevin Flynn wore the armband for their O'Byrne Cup opener but a formal appointment has yet to be made.

Unavailable: With almost 100 appearances behind him, Fergal Conway's retirement due to injury is a blow. Midfielder Kevin Feely will realistically be targeting full fitness for the Championship following Achilles surgery.

Schedule: January 28, Dublin (a); February 5, Cork (h); February 19, Clare (a); February 26, Derry (h); March 5, Louth (a); March 19, Limerick (a); March 26, Meath (h).

Making an impression: Clogherinkoe's Jack Robinson isn't a newcomer but, along with clubmate Cein McMonagle, has shown up well so far this year, as has Barry Coffey. Rookies Matthew Kelly, Brendan Gibbons, Rian Teehan and Ronan Fitzsimons all got game time too.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice verdict: Kildare had a roller-coaster season in 2022. There were some great attacking performances but not enough on the results front. Dublin tore them asunder in the Leinster final and featuring a more defensive setup they should have beaten Mayo in the qualifiers. They head for Croke Park for their first game which will be an early indicator of lessons learned from that Leinster final. To secure promotion they will have to improve on the road as last year they earned zero points away from home.


Manager: Ray Dempsey (first season).

New additions: Two-time All-Ireland winning Kerry midfielder Anthony Maher is part of Dempsey’s backroom team.

Skipper: Iain Corbett.

Unavailable: The dynamic - and towering - Josh Ryan will miss the 2023 inter-county season after sustaining a broken tibia while on club duty last October. He was Limerick’s top-scorer in Championship 2022, kicking 1-11 (0-8 from the dead-ball).

Schedule: January 28, Derry (a); February 5, Dublin (h); February 19, Louth (a); February 26, Cork (a); March 5, Meath (h); March 19, Kildare (h); March 26, Clare (a).

Making an impression: Cathal Downes hit the net twice on the evening of his senior debut against Waterford in the McGrath Cup. The Kildimo-Pallaskenry clubman hurled underage with Limerick in recent years.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: Ray Dempsey, Anthony Maher and co could be in for a fair inter-county baptism of fire. Limerick have the draw from hell. Only one of their opening four games are at home, and that is against Dublin. They also have to travel to Derry and Cork in that sequence of games. While they will be aiming to build on their incredible 2022 season they will do well to stay in the Division. While they are aiming higher at the moment would a cut off the Tailteann Cup be the worst thing?


Manager: Mickey Harte (third season).

New additions: Monaghan native Peter Dooley, who has made a few waves on the Louth club scene, joins Harte, Gavin Devlin and their existing set-up.

Skipper: It’s expected Sam Mulroy will lead Louth for a third season in 2023.

Unavailable: Seán Healy is no longer part of the panel while John Clutterbuck and Eoghan Callaghan have gone travelling. That Ciarán Byrne turned down an offer to return to the AFL was a great affirmation for the Louth project under Harte.

Schedule: January 29, Clare (a); February 5, Derry (h); February 19, Limerick (h); February 26, Meath (a); March 5, Kildare (h); March 19, Cork (h); March 26, Dublin (a).

Making an impression: Based on the amount of game-time he was given in the O’Byrne Cup, there are strong indications county hurler Paul Matthews is going to focus on football this season. Former forward Declan Byrne is now a goalkeeping option.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: In his third season, Micky Harte will well and truly have his charges playing his way. Any team that has Sam Mulroy up front always has a chance. However, because of the cut throat nature of the division Louth will struggle to stay there. They will need to win matches against the likes of Clare and Limerick to have any chance. Even at that sixth place in Division 2 may not be enough for Sam Maguire football depending on what happens in the provincial championships.


Manager: Colm O’Rourke (first season).

New additions: It’s a hefty management team O’Rourke has assembled. He initially announced Stephen Bray and Barry Callaghan as selectors before the senior ladies’ mentors Paul Garrigan and Eugene Eivers were announced. The great Seán Boylan is on board as an advisor.

Skipper: An announcement is imminent. Cillian O’Sullivan took over from Shane McEntee during last season.

Unavailable: Jack Flynn is likely to be absent due to injury. The future of former skipper Bryan Menton is uncertain and the absence of Eamonn Wallace and Shane Walsh from recent panels was noteworthy.

Schedule: January 29, Cork (a); February 5, Clare (h); February 18, Derry (a); February 26, Louth (h); March 5, Limerick (a); March 18, Dublin (h); March 26, Kildare (a).

Making an impression: O’Rourke started seven debutants in the county’s opening O’Byrne Cup game. Donal Lenihan played under Andy McEntee before and is being given another chance. There are high hopes for former minor captain Mathew Costello.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice's verdict: Colm O’Rourke is going to be a success as Meath manager. But it might take him until year two to fully get the best out of his panel. I had a wry smile when I read one of Colm’s final articles prior to Christmas. His honesty in articulating his surprise at the difference between a club/school and an intercounty setup was refreshing. With four away games including trips to Cork, Derry and Kildare consolidating their position will be a success.



Manager: Andy McEntee (first season).

New additions: Antrim native and Armagh’s All-Ireland winning coach in 2002, John McCloskey has signed up, along with selector Terry McCrudden and former world boxing champion Brian Magee.

Skipper: Dermot McAleese fulfilled the duty during the Dr McKenna Cup.

Unavailable: Veteran brothers Mick and Tomas McCann both had operations recently but neither have said they are retiring. Ricky and Martin Johnston don’t appear to be keen on a return.

Schedule: January 29, Offaly (h); February 4, Down (a); February 19, Tipperary (a); February 25, Fermanagh (h); March 5, Westmeath (a); March 18, Cavan (h); March 26, Longford (a).

Making an impression: Dominic McElhill of O’Donovan Rossa scored well against Armagh in the Dr McKenna Cup, but his hurling abilities may see him declaring for the other code. There is a bit of buzz around Pat Shivers too.

Neil Ewing's verdict: An ambivalence to season-long commitment levels re-emerged towards the end of Enda McGinley’s reign. The county with the third largest number of clubs has huge potential. This potential had to be the carrot that tempted Andy McEntee to point the car North on the M1. His straight up approach could make a quick impact in Antrim if their best players make the effort. The cycle for some experienced campaigners coming to an end will require a rebuild of sorts but the talent is there. Paddy McBride’s pace is impactful in defence and attack and his drive will need to be contagious for a transitional squad to avoid relegation trouble.


Manager: Mickey Graham (fifth season).

New additions: Former Mayo selector under James Horan, James Burke comes in.

Skipper: Raymond Galligan once again.

Unavailable: Thomas Galligan is a massive loss. The 2020 All-Star is going travelling in Australia and will not be available this year at all.

Schedule: January 29, Westmeath (a); February 5, Tipperary (h); February 19, Longford (h); February 26, Offaly (a); March 5, Down (h); March 18, Antrim (a); March 26, Fermanagh (h).

Making an impression: Graham used 32 players during the Dr McKenna Cup, handing out ten debuts in the last three games. Returning David Brady impressed against Tyrone while Brandon Boylan had moments in attack.

Neil Ewing's verdict: By a stretch the best team in Division 4 last year. As you would expect from 2020 Ulster champions. Followed up promotion with stuttering league final and Ulster championship displays. Largely untroubled en route to a Tailteann Cup final but let a commanding position in that final slip to Westmeath. Any semblance of complacency should be well dampened by the presence of that same Westmeath, a triumvirate of Ulster rivals, and neighbours Longford. Mickey Graham and Ryan McMenamin will know a passionate Cavan following will quickly turn if promotion looks unlikely. They have the tools. Goalkeeper Raymond Galligan recently became a centurion, multiple excellent man markers, Gerard Smith is a beast on transition while Paddy Smith and Gearoid McKiernan can notch big scores.


PASSION: New Down manager Conor Laverty. Pic: INPHO/Tom Maher
PASSION: New Down manager Conor Laverty. Pic: INPHO/Tom Maher

Manager: Conor Laverty (first season). 

New additions: Laverty brings a decent looking coaching war cabinet with Martin Clarke, Declan Morgan and Tyrone native Mickey Donnelly.

Skipper: Rotated through the Dr McKenna Cup with Liam Kerr fulfilling duties against Derry in the semi-final, but no announcement.

Unavailable: The very last of the connections with the team that reached the 2010 All-Ireland final has been severed with the retirement of Kevin McKernan, while it’s unlikely Darren O’Hagan will return. James Guinness is also recovering from a cruciate injury last summer.

Schedule: January 28, Tipperary (a); February 4, Antrim (h); February 19, Fermanagh (a); February 25, Westmeath (h); March 5, Cavan (a); March 18, Longford (h); March 26, Offaly (a).

Making an impression: In the games to date, Laverty appears to have brought a bit of togetherness to the county and has convinced talents such as Shay Millar to come back. Ceilum Doherty will become a more prominent figure while the emergence of Donnach McAleenan would put Down fans in mind of Mark Poland.

Neil Ewing's verdict: A county that has generated a lot of noise off the pitch in recent years. The lack of engagement of Kilcoo players with the inter county team has been a notable feature. Conor Laverty exudes passion for football. If he cannot get his Kilcoo teammates invested in the Down project then there is something very wrong. Retired Kevin McKernan’s service was seismic but the margins for improvement are large. McKenna Cup form suggests a corner has been turned.


Manager: Kieran Donnelly (second season).

New additions: Former Tyrone attacker Ronan O’Neill has replaced Ryan McCluskey in the coaching backroom.

Skipper: Declan McCusker continues in the role.

Unavailable: Some of the best attacking talent in the county are instead playing soccer. Miceál Glynn is with Larne FC and Dungannon have the loyalties of Darragh McBrien. Richie O’Callaghan has retired.

Schedule: January 28, Longford (h); February 5, Offaly (a); February 19, Down (h); February 25, Antrim (a); March 5, Tipperary (h); March 18, Westmeath (h); March 26, Cavan (a).

Making an impression: 2018 All-Star nominee Che Cullen has returned from a few years working abroad, while a fully-fit Ultan Kelm will look to revive his form and possibly the move to Freemantle in the AFL. Elsewhere, there will be hopes that 2019 Hogan Cup winning captain Brandon Horan can have a big year.

Neil Ewing's verdict: Extracting a read on preseason form that could be applied to Division 3 is difficult in the case of Fermanagh. Two McKenna Cup defeats were against powerful Derry and Tyrone outfits. Given their playing population a strong argument can be made that they are overachieving - probably built on defensive solidity. The addition of mercurial former Tyrone forward Ronan O’Neill hints at efforts to enhance their creativity. Ex Aussie Rules man Ultan Kelm has a year back in GAA under his belt and his athleticism will be needed to implement a quicker transition game. From a place of admiration and not condescension - inclement weather has been their friend in recent league campaigns. Watch out for the unexpected W’s their defiance secures.


Manager: Paddy Christie (First season).

New additions: Christie, a Dublin great, has former inter-county players from Sligo (Dessie Sloyan), Leitrim (James Glancy) and Longford (Michael Kenny) in his backroom team.

Skipper: Michael Quinn captained Longford in 2022 though no announcement regarding this season has been made yet.

Unavailable: Making space for all the returning players has been the bigger issue for the new management. Michael Quinn, who made his 100th county appearance last season, is giving it another year.

Schedule: January 28, Fermanagh (a); February 5, Westmeath (h); February 19, Cavan (a); February 26, Tipperary (h); March 5, Offaly (h); March 18, Down (a); March 26, Antrim (h).

Making an impression: Daniel Mimnagh is among a number of experienced players back in the panel. He struck 1-2 in their opening game of the season, a big O'Byrne Cup win over Laois. The McGivney brothers, James and David, Gary Rogers, Robbie Smyth, Rian Brady and Peter Foy are also back. County final goalscorer Ruairi Harkin from Colmcille and Tadhg McNevin are among the promising rookies.

Neil Ewing's verdict: Dessie Reynolds 3-3 last weekend should see him heading into the league as one of the country's most confident forwards. Picking up silverware after a 10 point win will have his Longford team in similarly buoyant mood. Paddy Christie comes in with an excellent reputation for his coaching work with Ballymun, DCU and Tipperary, This may be one of the reasons why Longford appear to have all their best players involved this season. Mickey Quinn will ensure they are organised at the back, Darren Gallagher is an underrated midfielder while Reynolds and David McGiveny are a test for any corner back. Can the early season energy see them surprise some, relatively, more illustrious opponents?


Manager: Liam Kearns (first season).

New additions: Martin Murphy led Portarlington to a Laois three-in-a-row last season and is one of Offaly's new selectors, along with John Rouse. Alan Flynn is the coach. Ex-Sligo and St Vincent's wing-back Brendan Egan is involved too.

Skipper: Declan Hogan.

Unavailable: Last year's captain Johnny Moloney has opted out while goalkeeper Paddy Dunican is travelling. Still no word on whether veteran attacker Niall McNamee will be available. Jordan Hayes will miss the league due to Defence Forces duty.

Schedule: January 29, Antrim (a); February 5, Fermanagh (h); February 19, Westmeath (a); February 26, Cavan (h); March 5, Longford (a); March 18, Tipperary (a); March 26, Down (h).

Making an impression: Former attacker Nigel Dunne, who pulled out of John Maughan's squad in controversy in 2019, is back and played in the O'Byrne Cup win over Dublin. Peter Cunningham and Cian Farrell are back after army duty and injury respectively. Goalie Corey White, Kevin Nugent and Shane O'Toole Greene are among the newcomers.

Neil Ewing's verdict: John Maughan addressed the low hanging fruit to allow Offaly bounce from Division 4 to 2. Momentum stalled last year. Relegation and underwhelming summer form combined with murmurings around player availability. Indications were Tomas O Se, very popular among the players, was set to step up from selector to manager but this never materialised. A Kerry influence has been secured though, Liam Kearns stepping into the hotseat. Michael Duignan’s reign as chairman has created a much-needed unity of purpose, underage success has lifted supporters. Blending a wider group of U20 All Ireland winners into the squad while avoiding relegation will be a flag planted for what needs to be a brighter summer campaign than 2022.


Manager: David Power (fourth season).

New additions: Former Meath underage coach Sean Barry has replaced Paddy Christie, the latter having left to take up the top job in Longford.

Skipper: Conor Sweeney.

Unavailable: Bill Maher has moved to America. Colin O’Riordan, despite training with the panel before Christmas, has since returned to Australia. Michael Quinlivan is again absent. Robbie Kiely announced his retirement on Monday. The injured Mark Russell is expected to miss the majority of the league.

Schedule: January 28, Down (h); February 5, Cavan (a); February 19, Antrim (h); February 26, Longford (a); March 5, Fermanagh (a); March 18, Offaly (h); March 26, Westmeath (a).

Making an impression: 2020 Munster winner Emmet Moloney has rejoined the panel. Keep an eye on newcomer Conor Cadell. He was a member of the Tipp U20 team that lost the 2021 Munster final.

Neil Ewing's verdict: Any county in Ireland would feel the loss of Michael Quinlivan. A county looking to readjust to a higher level of league football in the shadow of more exalted hurling contemporaries even more so. 2022 season summed up the last decade of Tipperary football. Inconsistent. Promotion achieved after a below par start to the league. Followed by defeat to a struggling Carlow. UCC’s Sean O’Connor is a scoring threat. He will need to fill the void left by his aforementioned club-mate to help see his side consolidate their status.


Manager: Dessie Dolan (first season).

New additions: Local legend Dolan was confirmed as Jack Cooney's replacement in September, with former colleague John Keane as his selector/defensive coach. Dublin great Jason Sherlock has since joined the group as a performance coach.

Skipper: Kevin Maguire looks set to retain the captaincy after steering Westmeath to the Tailteann Cup title.

Unavailable: Former captain Ger Egan retired last month after 12 years in maroon.

Schedule: January 29, Cavan (h); February 5, Longford (a); February 19, Offaly (h); February 25, Down (a); March 5, Antrim (h); March 18, Fermanagh (a); March 26, Tipperary (h).

Making an impression: Stephen Smith, an All-Ireland U-21 winner with Dublin in 2017, and brother of Westmeath defender Jack, has joined the panel, scoring 0-2 on his debut against Louth. Senan Baker, son of Clare hurling great Ollie, and Brian Cooney, son of former Westmeath football manager Jack, featured in the O'Byrne Cup too. Dessie Dolan namechecked newcomer Danny Scahill after the clash with Louth while Shane Dempsey and Boidu Sayeh have returned to the panel.

Neil Ewing's verdict: Based on championship form they can make legitimate claims to have been the second-best team in Leinster over the last 10 years. If they hadn’t been faced with a generational Dublin team would they have added to the Leinster title Paidí steered them too? On league form, Kildare and Meath have been able to retain higher standings. Tailteann Cup win shows they are capable of top 16 ranking but their struggle has been consistency. What better way for their new management team to address this than by adding Jason Sherlock. Dessie Dolan will look to the powerful Sam McCartan and Ray Connellan to supply Ronan O’Toole and John Heslin enough ball to ensure they win shootouts. They love shootouts.



Manager: Niall Carew (fourth season).

New addition: Former Kildare captain Eamonn Callaghan has come in as a performance coach.

Skipper: Darragh Foley is to captain the Barrow County.

Unavailable: Carlow lost a wealth of experience prior to the 2022 season and there hasn’t been as many personnel changes for this year.

Schedule: January 28, Wicklow (h); February 5, Waterford (a); February 19, Laois (h); February 26, Leitrim (a); March 5, London (a); March 18, Sligo (h); March 26 Wexford (a).

Making an impression: Carlow lost their two O’Byrne Cup games but there will be interest in Carew’s recruitment of former League of Ireland footballer Eric Molloy and ex-Carlow hurler Aaron Amond, brother of Woking striker Pádraig.

Neil Ewing's verdict: A pre-arranged training camp prevented the rescheduling of their final O’Bryne Cup game. This highlights the focus they are putting on the early stages of the league. Former pro soccer player, Eric Molly, is an exciting addition to the forward line on his return from Wellington. County champs Palatine easily disposed of their Wicklow counterparts last October, a replication of this result at inter-county level in this weekend’s opener would be a necessary boost.


Manager: Billy Sheehan (second season).

New additions: Tommy Mulligan, from the Portlaoise club, is a fresh coaching voice for 2023, replacing Brian 'Beano' McDonald.

Skipper: Joint captains Trevor Collins and Evan O'Carroll.

Unavailable: John O'Loughlin and Colm Begley announced their retirements last summer while Ross Munnelly finally brought the curtain down after 20 seasons in December.

Schedule: January 29, Sligo (a); February 5, Wexford (h); February 19, Carlow (a); February 25, Wicklow (h); March 4, Waterford (h); March 19, Leitrim (a); March 26, London (a).

Making an impression: No wins in the O'Byrne Cup but a host of debutants in the Round 1 tie against Longford. Boss Billy Sheehan namechecked rookie Sean Greene after the Round 2 draw with Meath, as well as Padraig Kirwan. Former Carlow player Lee Walker is an interesting acquisition in attack after a club transfer last year.

Neil Ewing's verdict: “Shouldn’t be in Division 4” is a sentence that will have been used quite a few times about Laois since last March. The fact they have made this same drop as recently as 2017 probably insulated them from overly harsh introspection. Their biggest mistake would be to think a repeat of instant promotion is, again, inevitable. With three championship wins on the trot a young Portarlington team have very definitely ended the Portloaise dominance internally. Billy Sheehan and his backroom team will have been putting a huge effort into conditioning this younger crew for the rigours of inter county football. The fruits of this labour should see them prove too strong for at least six D4 rivals.


WORDS OF WISDOM: Leitrim manager Andy Moran speaks to Donal Casey. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie
WORDS OF WISDOM: Leitrim manager Andy Moran speaks to Donal Casey. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Manager: Andy Moran (second season).

New additions: Former Sligo footballer and St Vincent’s All-Ireland club winner Luke Bree has joined the coaching team. Last year Bree was involved with the Roscommon management team, working with Anthony Cunningham.

Skipper: Donal Wrynn.

Unavailable: Along with Wrynn, David Bruen was the only other game to log 12 games in 2022. He has taken a year out for 2023.

Schedule: January 29, Waterford (h); February 5, London (a); February 19, Wexford (a); February 26, Carlow (h); March 5, Wicklow (a); March 19, Laois (h); March 26, Sligo (h).

Making an impression: After making the Leitrim Observer club team of the year, St Mary’s Kiltoghert cornerback Adam Reynolds was thrown in at the deep end his first day out marking Ian Burke in Bekan. The Corofin forward scored 1-1, but the green flag came after a goalmouth scramble and Reynolds held his own despite Leitrim’s 14-point loss.

Neil Ewing's verdict: The passion for football in Leitrim is underestimated nationally. The club scene is more competitive than many counties with significantly higher playing numbers. Player turnover had been a problem. With the importance of S&C in the current game players need the compound efforts of 3-4 years to ensure they are physically relevant versus their opponents. Andy Moran will know the importance of this and will look to build an established, familiar core group. Midfielder Donal Wrynn takes over as captain and has an aerial presence which will disrupt a lot of opposition kickouts. The experiment of using former attacker, Nevin O’Donnell, in goals is a new page added to the playbook. Patience of players with incremental and off pitch improvements will be key as managements plan is probably one or two years away from peaking.


Manager: Michael Maher (fourth season).

New additions: Michael Boyle, part of the Gweedore backroom when they won the 2018 Ulster club SFC title, replaces Joe Coulter as a coach. Dominic Mulligan is new on the S&C front.

Skipper: Liam Gavaghan.

Unavailable: Boss Maher has retained 20 of last year's squad, a major improvement on previous seasons. Goalkeeper Noel Maher and attacker Fearghal McMahon are among those who have left.

Schedule: January 28, Wexford (a); February 5, Leitrim (h); February 18, Wicklow (a); February 26, Sligo (h); March 5, Carlow (h); March 18, Waterford (a); March 26, Laois (h).

Making an impression: Kilcummin's Kevin McCarthy, who lined out for Kerry in the 2019 National League final, has joined London. So has former Derry captain Enda Lynn and Niall O'Leary, who started the 2019 All-Ireland U-20 final for Dublin. Boss Maher recently said London born rookie Aidan McLoughlin is 'absolutely ripping up the script in training'.

Neil Ewing's verdict: It may not seem notable to many this side of the Irish Sea but long-standing efforts to reduce the transient nature of the London squad are bearing fruit. 20 of last year's 29 man panel are retained. January is a month associated with the FA Cup, manager Michael Maher masterminded successes in this competition while over Redhill. He will be looking to leverage that underdog spirit in the coming weeks. He has recruited shrewdly over the winter. Highly rated coach, Michael Boyle, was an All-Ireland winner with Donegal. On the playing front, Derry’s Enda Lynn and Kerry’s Kevin McCarthy are Division 1 standard forwards. Early season logistic and eligibility hurdles are a challenge others don’t face, but expect incremental improvements as the weeks progress.


Manager: Tony McEntee (third season).

New additions: McEntee heads into the last season of a three-year term with the same management team. There is also an option of a further year to be triggered on review at the end of next season.

Skipper: Niall Murphy.

Unavailable: There are some notable absentees from the 38-strong squad named for the league including Liam Gaughan and Conan Marren. After 12 years of stellar service, Pat Hughes has also retired.

Schedule: January 29, Laois (h); February 5, Wicklow (a); February 19, Waterford (h); February 26, London (a); March 5, Wexford (h); March 18, Carlow (a), March 26, Leitrim (a).

Making an impression: Six members of Sligo’s Connacht U20 winning side join the squad including captain Jack Lavin. Dual star Gerard O’Kelly Lynch has opted for football over hurling this year.

Neil Ewing's verdict: Where are Sligo? Needed dramatic equalisers and penalty saves before finally securing a home Tailteann Cup win over London. Season ended in Croke Park in July with a very encouraging semi-final showing versus Cavan. A prolonged famine at underage level ended with a Connacht minor title in 2021 and a maiden U20 success in 2022. Some of those prospects are now being sprinkled into the senior squad. A squad further energised by the return of Luke Nicholson, Gerard O’Kelly Lynch and Cian Lally. Season 3 for Tony McEntee is likely to be era-defining. One defeat in each of the last two seasons has scuppered promotion. This group needs Division 3 football to keep developing.


Manager: Ephie Fitzgerald (second season).

New additions: Backroom team unchanged.

Skipper: Dermot Ryan.

Unavailable: 2022 first-team regulars David Hallihan and Jason Curry. The latter, who is currently abroad, could yet be home for a section of the season.

Schedule: January 29, Leitrim (a); February 4, Carlow (h); February 19, Sligo (a); February 25, Wexford (h); March 4, Laois (a); March 18, London (h); March 26, Wicklow (h).

Making an impression: Forward John Devine, younger brother of former Waterford hurler Tom.

Neil Ewing's verdict: If most recent results were to be extrapolated as a definite predictor of future performance then the signs for the Deise would be ominous. Winless in 2022 and a recent heavy defeat in the McGrath Cup. Three one-point defeats suggests this was not a fair reflection of their level. Ephie Fitzgerald is a winner, there have been intimations of a need to transplant some Corkness to a side that lack belief. Their collection of cards in 2022 could be a nod to this this but, concurrently, a reason why they were unable to see out some promising starts to games. Hitting the sweet spot of matching an increase in training ground intensity with game day discipline will be key. Connor Murray and talented youngster Tom O’Connell are game changing forwards.


Manager: John Hegarty (first season). 

New additions: Former Wexford footballer and London manager Ciaran Deely will assist in the areas of performance, science and coaching. Diarmuid O'Hanlon and Mick Casey are coaches while Joey O'Brien is the fitness expert.

Skipper: Liam Coleman. 

Unavailable: New boss Hegarty has got a strong commitment from veteran performers, including 35-year-old Ben Brosnan.

Schedule: January 28, London (h); February 5, Laois (a); February 19, Leitrim (h); February 25, Waterford (a); March 5, Sligo (a); March 18, Wicklow (h); March 26, Carlow (h).

Making an impression: Brian Cushe, Liam Doyle, Conor Kinsella and Cathal Stokes all debuted in the season opener against Kildare. In their only other pre-season game, a heavy loss to Westmeath, four more players made debuts; Ryan Furlong, Brian Molloy, Daire Bolger and Conor Kelly.

Neil Ewing's verdict: Lights, cameras, action for Wexford last weekend. The Wexford hurlers that is. Their January pre-season encounter with Kilkenny was Wexford Park’s first floodlit encounter. Lights and action is a more appropriate estimation for the footballers as they face London Saturday in a less hyped affair. Esteemed former forward John Hegarty has taken over from Shane Roche and has publicly put a huge emphasis on the league. Former London manager and current QPR Academy coach, Ciaran Deely, is a notable inclusion on his backroom team. Wexford have went all in on the split season trend by completing their hurling championship before the football action commenced. One would expect having more of their players in focused football action later into the year should help them hit the ground running. Hegarty will need to impart all his scoring nous to a side which needs to hit bigger tallies.


Manager: Oisín McConville (first season).

New additions: The former Armagh star has support from previous joint interim Wicklow boss Gary Duffy, former Naas and Thomas Davis manager Paul Kelly, coach Joe Cowley, Des Jennings (performance coach) and Eimear Kelly (strength and conditioning).

Skipper: McConville is to name a captain ahead of the trip to Carlow for the Division 4 opener.

Unavailable: Veteran forward Conor McGraynor, 29, has transferred to Westport.

Schedule: January 28, Carlow (a); February 5, Sligo (h); February 18, London (h); February 25, Laois (a); March 5, Leitrim (h); March 18 Wexford (a); March 26, Waterford (a).

Making an impression: Baltinglass’ defender Karl Furlong and forward Jack Kirwan are a couple of players McConville is keeping tabs on at present.

Neil Ewing's verdict: Alan Costello and Gary Duffy completed a very unheralded job when steadying the ship last season in a rare case of mid season managerial change. Recent commercial partnerships suggest a county that is showing foresight off the pitch. Bringing in Mick O’Dwyer previously gave football in the county a big lift and they are now hoping to repeat that trick with Oisin McConville. McConville has shown his appetite for a clean slate by holding open trials and starts with a fresh-faced panel. Imposing midfielder Padraig O’Toole and his colleagues will be eager to ensure the curious locals retain their early season interest. Year 1 of a project but will disappointed if not in the promotion mix.

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