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Preview: Allianz Football League Division 2

Updated: Sunday, 03 Feb 2013 11:16 | Comments

Derry start their campaign away to Galway
Derry start their campaign away to Galway

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An open Allianz Football League Division 2 gets under way this weekend with the majority of sides feeling they will have a chance of promotion to the top tier.

ARMAGH

Armagh come into the new year under the radar and hopeful of restoring some pride after a disastrous 2012 season.

Relegation to Division 2 and back-to-back defeats in the Championship meant they have had a long time to assess their future since Paul Grimley’s appointment in late July.

Grimley has made his mark already with plenty of new faces in the panel and Billy Joe Padden and Malachy Mackin are some of the servants replaced.

It is a building process for Armagh but they will fancy their chances should they start well against Laois. For Grimley, he will hope to gel the group ahead of the Championship and the only way is up after last year.

Last season: Relegated from Division 1

2013 League fixtures
2 February v Laois (a)
10 February v Wexford (h)
2 March v Longford (h)
9 March v Derry (a)
16 March v Louth (h)
24 March v Westmeath (a)
7 April v Galway (h)

DERRY

Derry’s preparation for the Allianz Football League this year mirrors many sides of trying and testing their best options for the year ahead.

Manager Brian McIver has yet to even choose his captain for the opening match away to Galway and with over 40 players training with the Oak Leafers up to choosing his panel this week, it is not hard to see why.

The introduction of new faces is overdue and in the McKenna Cup, McIver blooded six new players in the defeat to Tyrone to start with, before more experimentation in beating UUJ and a draw with Antrim.

It is a tough job for the Derry boss to find the right formula - the league will be a big help and they should have enough to avoid the trap door.

Last season: Sixth in Division 2

2013 League Fixtures
2 February v Galway (a)
10 February v Laois (h)
3 March v Wexford (a)
9 March v Armagh (h)
16 March v Longford (h)
24 March v Louth (a)
7 April v Westmeath (h)

GALWAY

Galway were cruelly denied promotion to Division 1 last season after a last-minute penalty by Kildare - a position not many expected them to be in at the start of 2012.

It was a disappointment but in hammering Roscommon in Dr Hyde Park in the Connacht Championship, the future of the county shone brighter than it had done in quite a while.

It quickly faded as defeat to Sligo and Antrim ended their interest and that frustrating end of their entire year must still linger. Alan Mulholland has lost some experience faces but Michael Meehan, Michael Martin and Sean Armstrong remain to form the spine of their attack.

New boys Conor Costello, Davin Finnegan and Sean Denvir all featured prominently in the FBD League. Games will be important for Galway and even missing out on the final of that competition was an opportunity missed. Muholland’s side will be one of the favouritres but four tricky away trips could prove their undoing.

Last season: Third in Division 2

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Derry (h)
10 February v Louth (a)
3 March v Westmeath (h)
10 March v Longford (a)
16 March v Laois (a)
24 March v Wexford (h)
7 April v Armagh (a)

LAOIS

Reaching Division 1 was a great feat for Laois and while they have immediately dropped down to Division 2, a solid run in the qualifiers topped off a year of more progression for the O‘Moore men.

They start this year without some of the key men who helped them to some notable win in the last couple of years, Paul Cahillane, Stephen O’Leary and Colm Munnelly are out of the panel.

Donie Kingston returns and they also welcome Conor Meredith, but he may miss the opening game with Armagh.

The fixtures are not easy for Justin McNulty’s men but there are plenty of rivalries to renew and they will hope to have plenty to play for against Longford, the side that knocked them out of the Leinster Championship, in the penultimate game.

Last season: Relegated from Division 1

2013 League Fixtures
2 February v Armagh (h)
10 February v Derry (a)
2 March v Louth (h)
10 March v Westmeath (a)
16 March v Galway (h)
24 March v Longford (a)
7 April v Wexford (a)

LONGFORD

Back-to-back promotions sees Longford in Division 2 this season and a quality of opposition that will be more than welcome ahead of the Championship.

They start 2012 fantastically, winning Division 3 and dumping Laois out of Leinster. But a narrow defeat to Wexford and an exit from the qualifiers at the hands of Limerick brought their year to abrupt end.

Glenn Ryan’s players will learn a lot from this league and what is needed to make the next step. Unfortunately for Ryan, key players Paul and David Barden and Paul Kelly will miss some matches due to injury and they could suffer if without a number of the leading men.

The home games with Westmeath, Galway and Laois will be key to their survival.

Last season: Promoted as Division 3 winners

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Wexford (a)
10 February v Westmeath (h)
2 March v Armagh (a)
10 March v Galway (h)
16 March v Derry (a)
24 March v Laois (h)
7 April v Louth (a)

LOUTH

A new era for Louth under Aidan O’Rourke and he has taken an optimistic approach in the early part of his tenure. Like most managers O’Rourke used the O’Byrne Cup to cast his eye over the pool available to him and with 35 players in the group at the start of the year, he knows a lot more about the job at hand now.

The return of Brian White, a cultured and influential player for the Wee County, is a big boost to Louth. Colm Judge and John O’Brien are also in the panel and O’Rourke can call on several quality footballers this year.

They begin this league campaign amongst the favourites for relegation - Division 2 football is not easy but they will take plenty from each game and the new manager will hope to see some fight to keep the county in the second tier.

Last season: Fourth in Division 2

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Westmeath (a)
10 February v Galway (h)
2 March v Laois (a)
10 March v Wexford (h)
16 March v Armagh (a)
24 March v Derry (h)
7 April v Longford (h)

WESTMEATH

Westmeath’s Division 2 campaign will depend a lot on their opening two fixtures. For the third year in succession they meet Louth on the opening day of the league.

Westmeath have Dessie Dolan in their panel but he will miss the first match with the Wee County due to injury. Ronan Foley and Dolan’s cousin James from Garrycastle get a chance to impress in attack and were prominent .

Pat Flanagan will target at least two points in the first matches and survival again would rank as a positive venture in the division.

Last season: Fifth in Division 2

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Louth (h)
10 February v Longford (a)
3 March v Galway (a)
10 March v Laois (h)
18 March v Wexford (a)
23 March v Armagh (h)
7 April v Derry (a)

WEXFORD

New Wexford manager Aidan O’Brien faces a tough start to life with the Model men with Division 2 football and tough matches in Armagh, Galway, Westmeath and Louth to come in the next few months.

O’Brien used 29 players during the O’Byrne Cup to see the talent in his ranks and rebuilding following the departutre of Jason Ryan will be difficult.

The opening game with Longford is a must-win match - Ciaran Lyng's unavailability through injury is a miss while Lee Chin, PJ Banville and Kevin Gore may not be fit. It could be a hard campaign ahead.

Last season: Promoted from Division 2. 

2013 League Fixtures
3 February v Longford (h)
10 February v Armagh (a)
3 March v Derry (h)
10 March v Louth (a)
18 March v Westmeath (h)
24 March v Galway (a)
7 April v Laois (h)

*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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