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Preview: Allianz Football League Division 4

Updated: Thursday, 31 Jan 2013 16:27 | Comments

Offaly and Tipperary will both look to bounce back up to Division 3
Offaly and Tipperary will both look to bounce back up to Division 3

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By Micil Glennon

Division 4 looks set to be as competitive as any this season with half a dozen sides aiming for promotion.

CARLOW

The 2012 Allianz League campaign was one for Carlow to forget, London and Kilkenny were the only sides beneath them in the table.

However, manager Anthony Rainbow will bring a new lease of life to the county and told GAA.ie that he wants to build a team around Ireland international Brendan Murphy, returning from a lacerated kidney, with the likes of Martin Doyle and Jack Kennedy from the U-21s.

But the ex-Kildare player will have to plan without Tony Bolger and Pádraig Murphy who are away on Army duty and will miss the League games.

Despite two defeats from three in the O’Byrne Cup, Rainbow will have been encouraged by a hard-fought away win against Wicklow, a difficult place to go.

Carlow brought Leinster finalists Meath to a replay in the Championship last summer and then lost out to eventual All-Ireland quarter-finalists Laois in the Qualifiers.

Division 4 has a number of teams with promotion in their sights and Carlow, opening with an away trip to Tipp, may struggle against the favourites.

Last season: Seventh in Division 4.

2013 League fixtures
3 February v Tipperary (a)
16 February v London (h)
3 March v Leitrim (h)
10 March v Limerick (a)
16 March v Offaly (a)
24 March v Clare (h)
7 April v Waterford (h)

CLARE

The Banner have been languishing in the bottom tier for a few seasons now and a successful promotion push would surely have long-term benefits.

Last season’s appearance in the Munster final was their first in 13 years and a couple of seasons playing at a higher standard would likely improve that record.

But under the guidance of the indomitable Mick O’Dwyer, one can imagine that the League may not top the list of priorities for Clare.

The Kerry legend has always seen it as a means to an end and Micko will have a mid-June date with Cork, provided they beat Limerick, in his thoughts throughout the spring.

Clare were beaten by Limerick, after extra-time, in the McGrath Cup and were left to rue eight wides and the concession of two “soft” goals in the second half, something O’Dwyer put down to the “time of the year”.

Mark McCarthy returns from injury but Michael O’Shea will miss the campaign as he recovers from shoulder surgery, and Kevin Hartnett has emigrated.

Last season: Third in Division 4

2013 League fixtures
3 February v Waterford (h)
10 February v Leitrim (a)
3 March v Offaly (a)
9 March v Tipperary (h)
24 March v Carlow (a)
30 March v London (h)
7 April v Limerick (h)

LEITRIM

Leitrim’s FBD Connacht League success over Mayo was only the county’s fourth ever trophy.

So while that win would have meant little to the Galways or Mayos of that province, it was simply huge for Leitrim.

Added to their qualifying run last year, where they saw off London and Wicklow, the early season success means that they will approach the League with a renewed sense of possibilities.

Management duo Barney Breen and George Dugdale have forged a tidy outfit with captain and star-man Emlyn Mulligan, due to move to the capital to play his club football with St Brigid’s, one of the proudest inter-county players around, they shouldn't be fodder for anyone.

Breen himself said that the FBD win reminded him of their All-Ireland B success in 1990, the first step along the way to their Connacht Championship win four years later – something to build upon, at least.

Last season: Fifth in Division 4

2013 League fixtures
3 February v Limerick (a)
10 February v Clare (h)
3 March v Carlow (a)
10 March v Offaly (h)
16 March v Waterford (h)
24 March v Tipperary (a)
7 April v London (h)

LIMERICK

Relegated from Division 3 in 2011, Limerick had high hopes of promotion last year but, after a positive start, fell away to finish fourth.

They also came within seconds of knocking Kildare out of the Championship (a professional foul would have done it).

That match showed that, on their day, they are not a million miles away from competing with more established sides.

Manager Maurice Horan can also look forward to the return of John Galvin, who has missed 18 months with a knee injury, although the gifted Croom midfielder won’t make the opening games.

Captain Seanie Buckley, Jim O’Donovan and Stephen Lucey will also miss the early stages but Ian Ryan showed good form in the McGrath Cup and can be relied upon to trouble opposition defenders.

However, with those injury problems the Treaty would have preferred a slightly easier opening fortnight.

As it is, they face FBD Connacht League winners Leitrim on Sunday and an improving Offaly side a week later.

Last season: Fourth in Division 4

2013 League fixtures
3 February v Leitrim (h)
16 February v Offaly (a)
2 March v Waterford (a)
10 March v Carlow (h)
16 March v Tipperary (h)
24 March v London (a)
7 April v Clare (a)

LONDON

The exiles endured a tough spring campaign in 2012, managing just a solitary victory over Kilkenny.

The Championship wasn’t any better and they succumbed to Leitrim and Antrim.

As usual, manager Paul Coggins must oversee a much-changed panel for this year.

Between injuries and losing players for a variety to reasons, it looks like London will start a month behind most of their Division 4 rivals.

The missing list includes Séan McVeigh, Niall Egan and Michael Mullins, although the arrival of Peter Atkinson (Wexford), Danny Ryan (Mayo), Stephen Curran (Kerry), Kevin Lynam (Offaly), Jared Monaghan (Derry) and Ed Finnegan (Carlow), provides a boost.

Leitrim, Tipperary and Offaly all had decent preliminary competition runs and this fact, along with the loss of players, will probably mean that the Allianz League will be more of a feet-finding exercise for London than the rest.

Last season: Eighth in Division 4

2013 League fixtures
3 February v Offaly (h)
16 February v Carlow (a)
3 March v Tipperary (a)
9 March v Waterford (h)
24 March v Limerick (h)
30 March v Clare (a)
7 April v Leitrim (a)

OFFALY

After a few seasons on the slide, Offaly find themselves at the bottom of the barrel.

As the saying goes, at least it can’t get any worse. But there is always the danger that it could remain the same for a few seasons.

Last summer Offaly’s Championship consisted of meek performances in defeats to Kildare and Tipperary.

However, under new manager Emmet McDonnell, there are signs of improvement.

The young Westmeath man has instilled a sense of pride back in the jersey and a newly formed supporters club, Club Faithful, is active in encouraging Offaly people to come and support the team.

Newcomers Paul McPadden and Eoin Carroll impressed in early season and captain Niall McNamee, a sharpshooter who would make most county teams, is back to full fitness and will be key to Offaly’s fortunes.

Three wins from four in the O’Byrne Cup means that the Faithful start their league campaign against London on Sunday with something to build on, and if the panel continue to buy what McDonnell is selling, then promotion is a real possibility.

Last season: Relegated from Division 3 

2013 League fixtures
3 February v London (a)
10 February v Limerick (h)
3 March v Clare (h)
10 March v Leitrim (a)
16 March v Carlow (h)
24 March v Waterford (a)
7 April v Tipperary (h)

TIPPERARY

The Premier County came down, along with Offaly, from Division 3 last season.

A desperate start, five losses from five, cost them their place but they could have stayed up with another win.

Peter Creedon now finds his young team in a very tough group with Limerick, Leitrim, Clare and Offaly all targeting a top-two spot.

However, their early-season form was encouraging, eventually losing to Kerry in the McGrath Cup final.

Last season’s run in the Qualifiers, where they won three games, also provides reason for optimism.

Cork native Creedon will have to plan without the injured Ross McGrath, Robbie Costigan, Philip Austin and Brian Mulvihill for some or all of the League campaign but Barry Grogan, Philip Quirke and Brian Enright come in.

Much will come down to Tipp’s form on the road. All of last year’s Qualifier wins came in Thurles and they face away trips to Offaly, Waterford, Clare and Limerick.

Tipperary start against Carlow in Thurles on Sunday and any slip-up will cost them dearly.

Last season: Relegated from Division 3

2013 League fixtures
3 February v Carlow (h)
9 February v Waterford (a)
3 March v London (a)
9 March v Clare (a)
16 March v Limerick (a)
24 March v Leitrim(h)
7 April v Offaly (a)

WATERFORD

Last season was one to forget for the footballers of Waterford.

In the league they managed just two wins, while the Championship brought a heavy defeat to Limerick and an extra-time loss away to Wicklow.

Under new manager Niall Carew, Waterford performed admirably in the McGrath Cup, beating UL and losing to Tipperary in the semi-final after extra-time.

Carew’s first real test comes against his old mentor as ex-Kildare boss Mick O’Dwyer is now in charge of Sunday’s opponents, Clare.

However, Carew is likely to be without captain Gary Hurney (two-game suspension) and the injured Tommy Prendergast for the early stages.

Injuries to more experienced defenders also means that they are likely to field an entirely new full-back line in Ennis on Sunday.

Up front, midfielder Shane Ahearne may deputise for Hurney.

They might find themselves out of the promotion battle early enough and set their sights on an upset against Kerry or Tipperary in early June.

Last season: Sixth in Division 4

2013 League fixtures
3 February v Clare (a)
9 February v Tipperary (h)
2 March v Limerick (h)
9 March v London (a)
16 March v Leitrim (a)
24 March v Offaly (h)
7 April v Carlow (a)

Twitter: @micilglennon

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