Kildare and Westmeath to rise again: county by county guide to Div 3 of the Allianz NFL

Eoghan Cormican says Cian O'Neill will deliver promotion for the Lilywhites.

CLARE

Manager: Colm Collins (3rd season).

Captain: Gary Brennan (4th season).

Second successive year in Division 3 having secured promotion from the bottom tier in 2014.

What they want: Some continuity. Last year’s championship was massively disrupted by injuries to several key players. Also, a seamless integration for new coach Mick Bohan.

What they fear: Relegation. It is likely that at least one Munster team will make the drop.

On the rise: Keelan Sexton and the O’Dea’s from Kilfenora, Jack and Cian.

On the mend: Podge Collins (cruciate), Damien Burke (toe).

2015 AFL in one word: Ordinary.

2015 top scorer: David Tubridy (0-22), Pat Burke (4-10).

Fixtures: Jan 31: v Sligo (h); Feb 7: v Tipperary (a); Feb 28: v Limerick (a); Mar 6: v Westmeath (h); Mar 13: v Offaly (a); Mar 28: v Longford (h); Apr 3: v Kildare (a).

Prediction: Trips to Tipperary and Limerick in rounds two and three are their make-or-break fixtures. Difficult assignments in late March and early April means they’ll need to get points on the board early – 5th.

KILDARE

Manager: Cian O’Neill (1st season).

Captain: Eoin Doyle (1st season).

Not since 2004 when they played in the old Division 2 have Kildare been among the bottom 16 counties.

What they want: Promotion, obviously, but also to unearth a defender or two to bolster a unit that took a fair hammering last summer.

What they fear: Slipping up in either of the midland derbies will cost them promotion.

On the rise: Fionn Dowling, Kevin Feely.

On the mend: Keith Cribbin, Daniel Flynn, Eoin Doyle, Alan Smith, Hugh McGrillen, Paul Cribbin.

2015 AFL in one word: Shocking.

2015 top scorer: Eoghan O’Flaherty (1-21).

Fixtures: Jan 31: v Westmeath (a); Feb 7: v Offaly (h); Feb 28: v Longford (a); Mar 6: v Limerick (h); Mar 13: v Sligo (h); Mar 28: v Tipperary (a); Apr 3: v Clare (h).

Prediction: Injuries may trip them up this weekend, but O’Neill has sufficient quality at his disposal to steer Kildare to a league final - promotion.

LIMERICK

Manager: John Brudair (3rd season).

Captain: Iain Corbett (1st season).

Third season in Division 3.

What they want: Leaders. Life after John Galvin wasn’t plain sailing and Stephen Lucey’s decision to retire leaves another sizeable hole in the squad.

What they fear: The three weekends where Gearoid Hegarty’s dual ambitions could rob them of their improving midfielder.

On the rise: Brian Fanning, Sean O’Dea, Stephen Cahill.

On the mend: Clean bill of health.

2015 AFL in one word: Resilient.

2015 top scorer: Seanie Buckley (2-9).

Fixtures: Jan 31: v Tipperary (h); Feb 7: v Longford (a); Feb 28: v Clare (h); Mar 6: v Kildare (a); Mar 12: v Westmeath (h); Mar 27: v Sligo (a); Apr 3: v Offaly (h).

Prediction: Hard to see where they can pick up the necessary three victories required for survival – relegated.

LONGFORD

Manager: Denis Connerton (1st season of second spell, was in charge between 2004-07).

Captain: Michael Quinn (1st season).

Swift return to the third tier having been relegated from the division in 2013.

What they want: Consistency – league and championship results over the past number of years paint a frustrating picture. Also, to bed in leading players from promising U21 teams of recent years.

What they fear: Tame O’Byrne Cup final showing, rather than semi-final heroics, is real indicator of where they stand.

On the rise: Rory Connor, Liam Connerton (son of Denis), Dessie Reynolds.

On the mend: Dermot Brady, Darren Gallagher.

2015 AFL in one word: Advancing.

2015 top scorer: Brian Kavanagh (0-26).

Fixtures: Jan 31: v Offaly (a); Feb 7: v Limerick (h); Feb 28: v Kildare (h); Mar 6: v Sligo (a); Mar 13: v Tipperary (h); Mar 27: v Clare (a); Apr 3: v Westmeath (h).

Prediction: Recent history of yo-yoing between Divisions 2 and 4 is not beyond realm of possibility this spring – 3rd.

OFFALY

Manager: Pat Flanagan (2nd season).

Captain: TBC.

Similar to Longford, they were relegated to Division 4 at the end of the 2014 league, but didn’t allow themselves get comfortable in the basement tier.

What they want: Two or three victories to raise morale – their sole championship win in the past three years was at the expense of Waterford.

What they fear: Stopping the rot if midland derbies go against them over the next fortnight.

On the rise: The McNamee brothers from Rhode, Conor and Rory, and Jamie Evans.

On the mend: Paraic Sullivan (cruciate), Paul McConway (cruciate).

2015 AFL in one word: Uplifting.

2015 top scorer: Willie Mulhall (4-23).

Fixtures: Jan 31: v Longford (h); Feb 7: v Kildare (a); Feb 28: v Sligo (h); Mar 6: v Tipperary (a); Mar 13: v Clare (h); Mar 27: v Westmeath (a); Apr 3: v Limerick (a).

Prediction: Will be targeting Sligo and Clare at home in rounds three and five to avoid the drop – relegated.

SLIGO

Manager: Niall Carew (2nd season).

Captain: Mark Breheny (2nd season).

Fifth consecutive season in Division 3.

What they want: Not to be left playing catch-up; Sligo lost their opening three league fixtures last spring.

What they fear: Length of David Kelly’s absence. The Tubbercurry forward has made himself unavailable for the start of the new campaign.

On the rise: Kyle Cawley, Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch.

On the mend: Johnny Martyn, Charlie Harrison, Brian Curran, Adrian Marren.

2015 AFL in one word: Average.

2015 top scorer: Adrian Marren (3-32).

Fixtures: Jan 31: v Clare (a); Feb 7: v Westmeath (h); Feb 28: v Offaly (a); Mar 6: v Longford (h); Mar 13: v Kildare (h); Mar 27: v Limerick (h); Apr 3: v Tipperary (h).

Prediction: With Ross O’Donovan and David Kelly unavailable, coupled with Stephen Gilmartin’s retirement, it is doubtful that the Yeats County will be able to take advantage of their four home games – 4th.

TIPPERARY

Manager: Liam Kearns (1st season).

Captain: TBC.

Second consecutive season in Division 3.

What they want: To fill the gaps left by the departed Steven O’Brien, Seamus Kennedy and Colin O’Riordan.

What they fear: The repercussions of the panel’s depleted nature; 13 members of last year’s squad are presently unavailable. Liam Casey is suspended, Steven O’Brien and Seamus Kennedy have gone hurling, Colin O’Riordan to Australia and they are without the Clonmel Commercials contingent for at least the opening two rounds.

On the rise: Josh Keane, Jimmy Feehan, Colm O’Shaughnessy.

On the mend: George Hannigan (groin), Ger Mulhaire (shoulder).

2015 AFL in one word: Two; David Coldrick.

2015 top scorer: Conor Sweeney (2-29).

Fixtures: Jan 31: v Limerick (a); Feb 7: v Clare (h); Feb 28: v Westmeath (a); Mar 6: v Offaly (h); Mar 13: v Longford (a); Mar 27: v Kildare (h); Apr 3: v Sligo (a).

Prediction: Minus so many of their regular starters, Liam Kearns’ outfit will struggle this spring. Munster derbies in rounds one and two are crucial – 6th.

WESTMEATH

Manager: Tom Cribbin (2nd season).

Captain: Ger Egan (2nd season).

First appearance in Division 3 since 2011.

What they want: Convincing Ray Connellan not to join the AFL in 2017. Promotion and a league crown would represent a decent start.

What they fear: Needing to win in Pearse Park on the final Sunday of action in order to gain promotion.

On the rise: Shane Flanagan, Jarlath Boyce, Shane Dempsey.

On the mend: David Duffy, Paul Greville, Kieran Gavin.

2015 AFL in one word: Deceptive.

2015 top scorer: John Heslin (0-32).

Fixtures: Jan 31: v Kildare (h); Feb 7: v Sligo (a); Feb 28: v Tipperary (h); Mar 6: v Clare (a); Mar 12: v Limerick (a); Mar 27: v Offaly (h); Apr 3: v Longford (a).

Prediction: Opening two rounds will hold significant sway in determining whether or not they make a swift return to Division 2 – promotion.


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