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Bernard Flynn: Roscommon can hold their own in Division 1

By James McMahon | Updated: Thursday, 28 Jan 2016 10:54 | Comments

Roscommon are back in the top flight for the first time since 2003
Roscommon are back in the top flight for the first time since 2003

In casting his eye over the four divisions in this season’s Allianz Football League, former Meath star Bernard Flynn fancies newly-promoted Roscommon to cut a dash and maintain their place in the top flight.

The race for divisional honours gets under way this weekend,

ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE FIXTURES

DIVISION 1

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Flynn, a three-time league winner, singles out a side that have reached Division 1 on the back of successive promotions.

"The team that I think will go a hundred miles an hour, all guns blazing to do well in the league, is Roscommon," he said.

"The management team of Kevin McStay, Fergal O’Donnell and Liam McHale are now in place. Collectively they will feel that the side has to start well if they are to stay in the Division. That’s their priority for this year – their championship! 

“For a start I fancy Roscommon to beat Monaghan this weekend.”

Thereafter the Rossies have difficult away assignments against Cork and Kerry. And while Flynn has doubts about the westerners’ mental strength, he ultimately feels that the fear of failure will drive them on in the weeks ahead. 

"If they were to lose a few games on the trot I would question whether they have the mindset within the squad to stay up. But then I look at it and think that this team had their confidence dented last year after a poor championship.

"They will not want another setback. Ultimately I think they will survive in Division 1 and achieving that will be an important stepping stone in where Roscommon want to go."

So who is likely to be in the shake up at the head of the table?

Flynn goes for Dublin, Cork and Kerry.

Jim Gavin’s Dubs are aiming for a fourth consecutive top-tier title.

“If Dublin get to the last four with the squad they have, they will more than likely win it,” was how Flynn summed up their prospects.

That said, the two-time All-Ireland winner feels that Gavin will use the spring campaign to run the rule over his extended squad.

“I think Dublin will use the league to rest senior players and give youth a chance right through the competition. Jim Gavin is lucky in that he has a panel of 30 to 40 guys, one as good as the other to pick from. Even in experimental mode, the Dubs can get to a semi-final and then you have the big boys to come back."

Cork’s league record in recent times is the envy of many and Flynn expects them to show well again under new manager Peadar Healy.

"I think Cork could do very well in this league. There is a new management in place, the slate is wiped clean and a few new players are on board. The players will want to step it up again after the way things finished up last season."

In contrast Kerry haven’t exactly been pulling up many trees in latter times when it comes to the spring campaign. Our analyst expects a different tune from the Kingdom in the weeks ahead.

“If Kerry want it, they will make the semi-final. Despite a few absentees, I expect them to show real intent against Dublin on Saturday evening. To their cost I think Kerry have found that you can't switch it on and off at the top level and I think they lost a couple of All-Ir‏elands because of that.”

So who then will make the dreaded drop?

"It’s a case of two from Down, Mayo and Monaghan," says Flynn.

“Down will find it hard right from the off. Mayo have up to ten players out so they could struggle and it may take time for Stephen Rochford to get the right blend. That said, I don’t think it would be a disaster for them if they were relegated.

“Monaghan also have key players missing and may find the going tough. 

"I think they have punched above their weight a little in spite of winning two Ulster titles and staying in Division 1 last season. Maintaining that level, given the depth of the squad they have, is difficult." 

DIVISION 2

The second tier contains five teams from Ulster and Flynn is confidently predicting that Tyrone will lead the way here, with Derry and Galway fighting for the other promotion spot. 

“Mickey Harte has brought in a lot of new blood, maybe he should have done it earlier, to aid the Tyrone cause. It seems to have energised things and they will definitely get promoted.

"I think Derry under Damien Barton can have a good year and they showed a real desire in the recent McKenna Cup final. As for Galway, they have the potential to do an awful lot."

As for a dark horse in the section, Flynn has an eye on Armagh.

"They have prepared well and are going well in challenge games and other teams will need to be wary," he added.

As for his native county, our tipster feels Meath will finish up in mid-table, while Cavan and Laois are his picks for the dreaded drop.

DIVISION 3

No arguments here. "Kildare and Westmeath to definitely go up," says Flynn.

“I think there is a gap between those two teams and the rest and I'm expecting a great match between the sides on Sunday. It's a match neither side will want to lose.

“Elsewhere Longford should be safe. I think Tipperary might struggle after the loss of key players like Stephen O'Brien, Seamus Kennedy and Colin O'Riordan, but they should have enough to survive.

"As for relegation, I think Limerick and Sligo could be the ones to drop out."

DIVISION 4
Wexford will top the Division,” is the confident prediction here.

“If Antrim get a good start they’ll have a great chance. They are not short of decent players. However, I have a feeling that Colin Kelly and Louth can turn things around from last year and bounce straight back."   

Listen to Dublin v Kerry live on RTÉ Radio 1 from 6.55pm on Saturday and watch highlights from the first round of Allianz Football League action on 'League Sunday' at 7.30pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.

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