Clarke return will boost Armagh

ARMAGH

Manager: Paul Grimley (2nd season).

Captain: Ciarán McKeever (3rd season).

Where they are: 2nd consecutive season in Division 2.

What they want: To be vying for promotion, while picking up a few players along the way.

What they fear: Dicing with the drop as they did last year. In this division, anything is possible.

On the rise: Kyle Carragher, Niall McConville, Ethan Rafferty.

On the mend: Brendan Donaghy, Aaron Kernan, Kieran Toner.

Super stat: Armagh’s 24-point McKenna Cup defeat to Tyrone earlier this month was their biggest loss to their neighbours.

Prospects: Having Jamie Clarke available for entirety of league is a plus, but this campaign will be cut-throat.

Fixtures: Feb 2 — v Louth (a); Feb 7 — v Down (h); Mar 1 — v Meath (a); Mar 8 — v Laois (h); Mar 15 — v Monaghan (h); Mar 30 — v Galway (a); Apr 6 — v Donegal (h).

Prediction: Division 3 looms.

DONEGAL

Manager: Jim McGuinness (4th season).

Captain: Michael Murphy (4th season).

Where they are: 1st season in Division 2 since 2011.

What they want: To up the standard outside of their 18 or 19 regulars.

What they fear: A dependency on the old reliables. Some will have to be protected for Championship.

On the rise: Odhrán MacNiallais, Antoin McFadden, Darach O’Connor.

On the mend: Paddy McGrath, Mark McHugh.

Super stat: Donegal may have been relegated from Division 1 last year but they had the best defensive record, conceding just 4-75.

Prospects: McGuinness’s attitude to the league looks a lot better going by the amount of first team players he’s been fielding in the McKenna Cup.

Fixtures: Feb 2 — v Laois (a); Feb 9 — v Galway (a); Mar 2 — v Monaghan (h); Mar 9 — v Meath (h); Mar 16 — v Down (a); Mar 30 — v Louth (h); Apr 6 — v Armagh (a).

Prediction: A return to Division 1.

DOWN

Manager: James McCartan (5th season).

Captain: TBC.

Where they are: 1st season in Division 2 since 2010.

What they want: An indication the work they began on their defence last year has progressed.

What they fear: With so many players available again, that they can’t make an impact.

On the rise: Niall Madine, Darragh O’Hanlon.

On the mend: Dan Gordon, Mark Poland, Ambrose Rogers.

Super stat: Benny Coulter enters his 15th season as a senior inter-county footballer this season. He’s yet to win any silverware at inter-county level.

Prospects: Just the three home games and being on the road for their last two games could prove costly.

Fixtures: Feb 1 — v Monaghan (h); Feb 7 — v Armagh (a); Mar 1 — v Louth (h); Mar 9 — v Galway (a); Mar 16 — v Donegal (h); Mar 30 — v Meath (a); Apr 6 — v Laois (a).

Prediction: Will be in the shake-up but won’t go up. 5th.

GALWAY

Manager: Alan Mulholland (3rd season).

Captain: Paul Conroy (1st season).

Where they are: Third consecutive season in Division 2.

What they want: In his third season, Mulholland has to make a major play for promotion.

What they fear: Another middling spring punctuated by inconsistent displays.

On the rise: Ian Burke, James Kavanagh, James Shaughnessy, Shane Walsh.

On the mend: Conor Doherty.

Super stat: Michael Meehan was the seventh top scorer in the 2013 Championship, totalling 2-22 and averaging almost five points a game.

Prospects: Kavanagh is a big plus for an attack that needed another finisher. He also provides much-needed experience in a relatively inexperienced panel.

Fixtures: Feb 2 — v Meath (a); Feb 9 — v Donegal (h); Mar 1 — v Laois (a); Mar 9 — v Down (h); Mar 16 — v Louth (a); Mar 30 — v Armagh (h); Apr 6 — v Monaghan (a).

Prediction: In a league where all teams will take points off one another, will be competitive. 4th.

LAOIS

Manager: Tomás Ó Flatharta (1st season).

Captain: Ross Munnelly (1st season).

Where they are: 2nd consecutive season in Division 2.

What they want: To win their four home games and get themselves in the shake-up for promotion.

What they fear: Relegation for a second successive season as the new manager tries to make the team’s style less negative.

On the rise: Stephen Attride, Martin Scully.

On the mend: Colm Begley, Kevin Meaney, Ross Munnelly.

Super stat: Munnelly is the only survivor in the panel from the side that started their victorious 2003 Leinster final.

Prospects: Have plenty of big men up front but could be missing some seasoned players in early league games.

Fixtures: Feb 2 — v Donegal (h); Feb 9 — v Louth (a); Mar 1 — v Galway (h); Mar 8 — v Armagh (a); Mar 15 — v Meath (h); Mar 30 — v Monaghan (a); Apr 6 — v Down (h).

Prediction: Some players will need to be reprogrammed. 6th.

LOUTH

Manager: Aidan O’Rourke (2nd season).

Captain: Paddy Keenan (5th season).

Where they are: Third consecutive season in Division 2.

What they want: With four games in Drogheda, they’ll half fancy being a surprise package in the division.

What they fear: That more ambitious teams put them to the sword.

On the rise: Stephen Campbell, John Kermode, Keith McLaughlin.

On the mend: Darren Clarke, Adrian Reid, Brian White.

Super stat: Louth have been taking jujitsu classes since last year to boost fitness and agility.

Prospects: In a division where old dogs for the hard road are so badly needed, Louth are likely to feel the absence of their tried and trusted.

Fixtures: Feb 2 — v Armagh (h); Feb 9 — v Laois (h); Mar 1 — v Down (a); Mar 9 — v Monaghan (a); Mar 16 — v Galway (h); Mar 30 — v Donegal (a); Apr 6 — v Meath (h).

Prediction: Relegated.


Lifestyle

Munster offers so many hidden gems with bargains, ideas and must-have products for the interiors enthusiast who is always on the lookout for something new, writes Carol O’Callaghan.Made in Munster: So many treasure troves for the interiors enthusiast

Aileen Lee in conversation with ceramist Hedi O'Neill.Made in Munster: 'My advice? Be free in your style’ - Ceramist Hedi O'Neill

Red lips are hot for autumn but can you make them part of your everyday makeup? Rachel Marie Walsh thinks so.Code red: Making a statement with red lipstick for the everyday look

Welcome to the Autumn/Winter edition of ieStyle.Don't miss the Irish Examiner's free glossy 'ieStyle' magazine

More From The Irish Examiner