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Preview: Allianz Football League Division 3

Updated: Thursday, 31 Jan 2013 16:37 | Comments

Meath will be targeted as a valuable scalp by their Division 3 rivals
Meath will be targeted as a valuable scalp by their Division 3 rivals

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Meath and Monaghan’s inclusion in Division 3 provides some extra interest to the third tier of the league but there are plenty of counties that will fancy their chances of causing a shock by gaining promotion.

The Royals find themselves in strange territory and the likes of Fermanagh and Wicklow will be tested against some strong opposition.

ANTRIM:

Frank Dawson takes over at Antrim and already there is a good feeling in the camp that they kick on this year. A first-stage exit in Ulster to Monaghan was slightly appeased with wins over London and Galway before crashing out in a third qualifier against Tipperary. It summed up the Saffrons, and while Liam Bradley took some good scalps in his four years, the time was right for change. The Ulster Championship draw is promising and even a final place is not beyond Antrim if they get things right. The league can be a good starting point and Sean McVeigh is a good addition to the panel after finishing with London. Paddy Cunningham is also back on board and they could be an outsider for promotion with a nice run of fixtures to begin with.

Last season: Fifth in Division 3

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Cavan (h)
10 February v Sligo (a)
2 March v Fermanagh (h)
10 March v Wicklow (a)
16 March v Roscommon (h)
24 March v Meath (h)
7 April v Monaghan (a)

CAVAN:

Cavan maintained their Division 3 status last season despite five defeats out of seven matches and with a stronger line-up this year, they will need a big improvement to avoid the drop.

Eugene Keating, Niall Smith, Kevin Tierney and Ronan Flanagan sit out the first of the county's four away games this weekend as they venture to Casement Park.

The Breffni have not won their opening league match in eight years and given Monaghan and Meath follow, Terry Hyland will see it as a game they need to get a result.

Martin Dunne and Gearoid McKiernan were the standout player from the McKenna Cup, scoring 2-18 between them.

Hyland has the full reigns after Val Andrews departed as co-manager and with the Seanie Johnston saga long over, it is time for the players blooded to start making a mark.

Last season: Sixth in Division 3

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Antrim (a)
9 February v Monaghan (h)
2 March v Meath (a)
10 March v Sligo (a)
16 March v Fermanagh (h)
24 March v Wicklow (a)
7 April v Roscommon (h)

FERMANAGH:

It will be an uphill battle for Fermanagh to stay in Division 3. Peter Canavan’s reign started off in excellent fashion as they secured promotion, despite losing to Wicklow in the final.

That was a shot in the arm for Canavan as he tried to pick up the pieces with the county when taking over but from the joy of promotion came an exit at the earliest stage in the Championship.

Defeat to Down was not a shock. However the loss to Cavan was a setback in the development of the team and remarkably, 47 players formed the training squad throughout this January. What will come from this league season is hard to gauge, but Seamus Quigley absence will hurt them after he decided not to join up this year.

The McKenna Cup showed some promise despite defeat to Tyrone in the semi-final. Staying up would be as good a feat as last year’s promotion, with some two Ulster derbies away from home and a trip to Pairc Tailteann coming in the next couple of months.

Last season: Beaten finalist in Division 4

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Wicklow (a)
9 February v Roscommon (h)
2 March v Antrim (a)
9 March v Monaghan (h)
16 March v Cavan (a)
24 March v Sligo (h)
7 April v Meath (a)

MEATH

It is an unfamiliar start to the season for Meath as they contest Division 3 but as always expectation will remain high and promotion will be seen as a minimum..

The Royals are there to be shot at and regarded as the scalp counties would like most to take, so they should still face some very competitive fixtures.  

Stephen Bray, Shane McAnarney and Kevin Reilly will miss the start of the campaign with injury.

They will return later in the league hoping that their team-mates have comes through some tough trips on the road.

Monaghan, Wicklow and Roscommon host the Royals and it will be a good test of their mettle.

Last season saw Meath show great spirit in the Championship when up against it after the drop to Division 3. Promotion could set up a promising year ahead.

Last season: Relegated from Division 2

2013 League Fixtures
2 February v Monaghan (a)
10 February v Wicklow (a)
2 March v Cavan (h)
10 March v Roscommon (a)
16 March v Sligo (h)
24 March v Antrim (a)
7 April v Fermanagh (a)

MONAGHAN:

Slumping to Division 3 gives Malachy O’Rourke and his players the chance to put together some morale-boosting wins on the boards but it will not be easy against some local opposition and the biggest test of all in their opening fixture against Meath.

For once the Monaghan injury list has abated and the new boss would have been pleased by some early-season fight from his players in the McKenna Cup.

Monaghan’s failure to produce recently has been linked to the inability to send out what would be considered their best team.

Tommy Freeman, Christopher McManus, Owen Lennon, Conor McManus and a few more talented players give O’Rourke a lot to work with and they do not lack firepower. The worry for O’Rourke is vulnerability in defence and they were punished against Tyrone last week in the McKenna Cup final, albeit with 14 men for over a half. The prospect of four games on the road should not faze the Farney men but a lot with depend on the clash with the Royals.

Last season: Relegated from Division 2

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Meath (h)
9 February v Cavan (a)
3 March v Sligo (h)
9 March v Fermanagh (a)
16 March v Wicklow (h)
24 March v Roscommon (a)
7 April v Antrim (h)

ROSCOMMON

Roscommon made a shrewd appointment when securing John Evans and they will be hopeful of turning around the hurt of a poor 2012 Championship. Des Newton put faith in several young players last season from the promising underage ranks.

Cathal Shine, Conor Daly, Donie Smith and Niall Kilroy are likely to feature in this side for years to come - they learnt a harsh lesson against Galway but showed their potential in the qualifiers.

Evans is the perfect man to progress the Rossies - he has said consolidation in his target in the league but a promotion challenge cannot be ruled out.

He will he grateful of the game time with his players ahead of a tough Championship draw and they should produce at home at least.

Last season: Fourth in Division 3

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Sligo (h)
9 February v Fermanagh (a)
3 March v Wicklow (h)
9 March v Meath (h)
16 March v Antrim (a)
24 March v Monaghan(h)
7 April v Cavan (a)

SLIGO

Sligo suffered a blow last weekend with defeat to Leitrim in the FBD League. It was exactly what the Yeats County didn't want, a confidence-sapper in a panel that is lacking in many areas already and little in the way of promising players coming through their ranks.

This could be a tough league for Sligo but they welcome some players back like Stephen Coen, Ross Donovan and Tony Taylor after they featured for IT Sligo in the Connacht competition.

Kevin Walsh has said Sligo can sink or swim after the shock defeat in Markievicz Park, a second in recent times at home to Leitrim. It may be the former.

Last season: Third in Division 3

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Roscommon (A)
10 February v Antrim (h)
3 March v Monaghan (a)
10 March v Cavan (h)
16 March v Meath (a)
24 March v Fermanagh (a)
7 April v Wicklow (h)

WICKLOW

Wicklow go into the league without two key men in Seanie Furlong and Leighton Glynn. Furlong has opted out of the panel while Glynn will target featuring in some of the final matches as he recovers from injury. Harry Murphy experimented in the O’Byrne Cup and used almost two different sides in the match with DCU and Carlow.

A win over Dublin brought a good boost in morale, albeit with unfamiliar players in both ranks - with Patrick McWalter (above) a particulary fine performer.

Replacing the quality of their absent forwards will prove very difficult and they will target points in home games with Fermanagh, Antrim and Cavan to try to stay in Division 3.

Last season: Winners of Division 4

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Fermanagh (h)
10 February v Meath (h)
3 March v Roscommon (a)
10 March v Antrim (h)
16 March v Monaghan (a)
24 March v Cavan (h)
7 April v Sligo (a)

*Highlights of all the weekend’s action on League Sunday at 7pm on Sunday 3 February on RTÉ Two. (Live streaming Ireland only).

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