Holders Dublin will be favourites to keep Sam Maguire in the capital, though much has changed since the five-in-a-row was secured. 

New manager Dessie Farrell has had a disrupted maiden campaign in charge and without any challenge games since the return of inter-county football, club form and the league wins over Meath and Galway have taken on extra importance. 

Diarmuid Connolly, Bernard Brogan and Darren Daly have called it a day in blue, while Jack McCaffrey will be absent having decided to take time out.

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A defeat away to Tyrone prior to the initial lockdown was on the back of a couple of draws, but for all the hope that created for others, Farrell's league record shows just one loss. 

The new manager has given players the opportunity to step into the void left by others, with Ballymun’s Paddy Small catching the eye again at the weekend against Galway with four points. 

"That’s the second solid performance from Paddy so we’re very happy with him on the back of a very strong club campaign as well," the manager noted afterwards. 

Seán Bugler will be looking for more championship game time in 2020

Another man who may see more action in the forward division is Seán Bugler. The St Oliver Plunkett Eoghan Ruadh man found the net against the Tribes in a positive second-half cameo and could provide a similar option over the coming weeks. 

The absence of five-time All-Ireland winner and former Footballer of the Year McCaffrey is undoubtedly a blow, with Robbie McDaid slotting in at wing-back in the last two games. In truth Farrell can reshuffle a number of his key players around the middle third depending on availability. 

Thomas Davis’ Cian Murphy has been afforded his chance at corner-back, while Emmet Ó Conghaile, so often a fringe player under Jim Gavin, partnered Brian Fenton in the engine room against the Royals. 

With a spine of Cluxton, Fitzsimons, Small, McCarthy, Fenton, Kilkenny and O’Callaghan, the champions are likely only to be toppled if an opponent can prove to be clinical on a day when the champions are below-par. Far easier said than done.

It may prove that Dublin in 2020 are not quite the formidable force of other years, but the smart money is on them to be once again the last team standing. 

Given the fact Kerry took the Dubs to a replay in last year’s All-Ireland and have added a league title in the interim, the men from the Kingdom are with good reason many people’s fancy to end Dublin domination. 

Victory over Donegal to secure silverware could be viewed in some quarters as academic given the visitor's focus on Tyrone this weekend, but the 14-point win was characterised by a ravenous work-rate that nearly toppled the Dubs first time out last September.

Peter Keane will be pleased with how his charges have performed in their final two outings before championship, finding ways to crack open defensive systems against Monaghan and Donegal. All-Ireland semi-finalists and especially Dublin would pose different questions should the challenge arise.

Even Dublin could be forgiven for an envious glance at the Kerry artillery, which could pack an even greater punch in 2020. 

Tony Brosnan (pictured above) has brought his Dr Crokes form to the inter-county scene, while Dara Moynihan appears intent on establishing a greater foothold in the starting team. With Tommy Walsh and Stephen O’Brien playing their way back to fitness, plus Paul Geaney ready to return, it is closer to their own goals where the greater critique arises.

Peter Crowley’s return is a huge boon and will solidify Kerry down the middle, while goalkeeper Shane Ryan has a first championship campaign under his belt as he looks to instill more confidence in a rearguard that has had its nervy moments. 

For all their undoubted talent, hopes rest largely on getting Seanie O’Shea and David Clifford on enough ball, with David Moran driving the team from the middle. At a time when the county is struggling to get to grips with the absence of Fungie the dolphin, a championship exit at the hands of their neighbours  - something that hasn't happened since 1999 -  is almost unthinkable next weekend.

Kerry's class should be enough to see them reach another All-Ireland final. It may be sufficient to knock the champions off their perch. 

Two Ulster titles in as many years is a decent return for Declan Bonner in his second stint in charge given the competitive nature of the province, but Donegal's failure to emerge from the quarter-finals series in that time period is a notable blot on the copybook. 

Of course in a knock-out championship, another Ulster title is imperative, but the 2012 All-Ireland champions will be looking to keep themselves busy this year at the business end of the championship. 

Two wins from six in the Super Eights has resulted in quarter-final exits in the last two years, with the four-point defeat to Mayo in Castlebar last July a particularly sobering day at the office given their form up to that point. 

Arguably the hardest side to read from the two league games, given the shadow-boxing feel to their win over Tyrone a fortnight out from their championship joust with the Red Hand, while the academic defeat in Tralee saw a number of big names absent. 

With Shaun Patton between the sticks, Bonner has at his disposal one of the best goalkeepers in the game, the outstanding Eoghán Bán Gallagher at corner-back, the best pound-for-pound footballer in Michael Murphy and the most versatile in the rampaging Ryan McHugh. 

Throw in the cutting thrust of Jamie Brennan and Paddy McBrearty, the guile of Michael Langan, plus the defensive nous of Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath and Stephen McMenamin, and all the ingredients are there for a tilt at Sam Maguire 

Can they mix it all together in 2020? 

From Clifden to Corofin, Galway supporters must be wondering just what to expect from their team. Manager Padraic Joyce should see his charges get past Sligo in Salthill next weekend, but after that, the picture is a little less clear.

Mayo could await in the provincial decider and it's less than a fortnight since that chastening defeat at the hands of their Connacht rivals that has changed the complexion of the Tribesmen's championship outlook.

They hit the ground running at the start of the year, with three wins from four and a narrow one-pont defeat in a thrilling encounter in Tralee. 

However the 15-point mauling at the hands of Mayo and those solid foundations appear a little shaky. The Tribesmen closed out the league with a home defeat to Dublin. 

"Our aim is to win another All-Ireland - simple as that," Joyce said last November upon his appointment. "Anything less will be seen as an underachievement." 

Joyce has laid his cards on the table at what he wants to achieve, an almost refreshing soundbite in the usual "say nothing" culture that permeates the association, but there is a significant body of work to be undertaken to realise such lofty ambitions.

Shane Walsh lifts the FBD League in January. Will he get his hands on more silverware in 2020?

There was huge intrigue when it emerged Jim McGuinness took charge of a recent training session, though the former Donegal boss is back on punditry duties with Sky Sports for the championship and has confirmed he is not involved in the backroom team. 

So much relies on team captain Shane Walsh. The Kilkerrin-Cloberne will be very much the focus of opposition for good reason, while the Corofin pair Liam Silke and Ian Burke could be the difference between winning and losing. Joyce will be looking to Moycullen's Dessie Conneely to replicate his scintillating club form to share the scoring burden in the full-forward line.

The potential is there, but in Joyce's first year in charge, one big win might be as good as it gets.

Only in Mayo could there be such optimism given their proud 23-year stay in Division One has come to an end a week out from their championship opener. 

Manager James Horan won’t be happy to drop down to the second tier, though the damage was inflicted before the extended break. Even with that, a draw in Ballybofey and a one-point defeat to Kerry highlights the small margins. 

The dismantling of Galway however earlier this month was a statement of intent, and indeed has also led to a greater scrutiny of the Tribesmen ahead of a potential provincial showdown on 15 November. 

Tommy Conroy was offered another dimension to the Mayo forward line

There is a freshness about this group. Westport’s Mark Moran, man of the match in the rout of Galway, has held the 11 jersey for the past two weeks, though it is Belmullett's Ryan O’Donoghue who is set to make his championship debut on the 40 this weekend. 

The electric Tommy Conroy has plundered 1-06 from corner-forward since the resumption and with Aidan O’Shea stationed on the edge of the area, there are more strings to their attacking bow than ever before. 

Eoin McLaughlin has sparkled at wing-back, where on the other side, Paddy Durcan continues to show why he is arguably the best in the business in that position. Lee Keegan has been used closer to goal while corner-back Oisin Mullin for some time has been touted within the county as a player of real quality. 

The league campaign did show some areas to work on, not least last time out against Tyrone. RTÉ Sport analyst Aidan O'Rourke highlighted Mayo’s naivety on the sideline, or negligence, to put cover in defence when playing into the wind.

With the weather only likely to deteriorate, it is something they can ill-afford to get wrong, though better now than a knockout championship tie. 

Aidan O'Shea flying high for Mayo

Leitrim should be taken care of this weekend before a sterner challenge against Roscommon awaits in the Connacht semi-final. Revenge for defeat to the Rossies at the same stage last will be a motivating factor won't be far from anyone's mind.

With the scheduling dictating that the Connacht champions take on their Munster counterparts, any possible reunion with Dublin could only take place in the decider, but even in a condensed championship, that is a long-term view. 

Once again Mayo supporters, and indeed the general public, are expecting more thrills and spills for Mayo’s 2020 journey. 


Tyrone manager Mickey Harte will feel the Red Hand are more of a genuine contender than a side with an outside chance of lifting Sam Maguire, but the last three campaigns have shown a consistent failure to sufficiently open up quality defences.

All-Ireland final (2018) and semi-final (2017) defeats to Dublin, plus last year’s semi-final loss to Kerry when the game was in the melting pot, showed that for all their ability to stifle opponents, Tyrone have looked at times bereft of ideas in the final third.

With that in mind, Conor McKenna’s addition to the panel after his return from Australia is timely one. It’s early days for the powerful 24-year-old, but 3-04 in two games has served notice that the Eglishman could be a serious weapon at Harte’s disposal. 

Added to that, Darragh Canavan's 1-01 on his league debut last week heaps further expectation on what the son of Tyrone great Peter can achieve in his own right.

Harte's men fell short against Donegal in Ulster last year, but have won the three previous encounters between the sides, including their last championship visit to Ballybofey in 2018 in the 'Super 8s’. 

Colm Cavanagh's retirement removes a defensive lynchpin, but in Niall Morgan, Ronan McNamee, Tiernan McCann, Darren McCurry and Peter Harte, there is still ample big-game experience within their ranks.

Harte's biggest challenge once again is finding the elusive balance between defence and attack.

Monaghan, despite the booby prize of an Ulster preliminary match, will be looking to build momentum on what appears to be, on paper at least, the weaker side of the Ulster draw. 

Not that a clash against Cavan would be underestimated by anyone within the Farney County. Last year the Breffni men came out on top in this fixture and while Monaghan won the three previous championhip outings dating back to 2013, it was by a combined aggregate of five points.

Cavan though have suffered back-to-back relegations in the league, and with Division 4 Antrim awaiting in the next round and a potential semi-final date with Fermanagh or Down, sides that swapped Division 2 and 3 in the league respectively, it is as inviting a path to an provincial final as they could hope for. 

Manager Séamus McEnaney was somewhat relieved to retain their Division 1 status, with Conor McManus, a substitute against Kerry and a scorer of 1-08 against Meath last time out, looking in fine form.

The 32-year-old will need more assistance up front from the likes of Dermot Malone, Conor McCarthy and even the newly-introduced Stephen O’Hanlon, while the Hughes brothers Kieran and Darren continue to exert a huge influence on how the team performs. 

Elsewhere, all the remaining teams will feel they can cause an upset even if ambitions of Sam Maguire seem more remote.

Aside from Dublin, an upset or two could be on the cards in Leinster. Meath for example, relegated from the top-flight after a winless league, will face Division 4 opposition in Wicklow (who were promoted) or Wexford after a more uplifting 2020. 

Carlow, were they to get the better of Offaly would be facing Kildare with the memorable 2018 upset of the Lilywhites still fresh in the memory. With a Kerryman at the helm in Jack O'Connor, Kildare themselves will be looking to gear up to a provincial final against Dublin and a giant-killing act at Croke Park.

In Munster, Cork are primed for a tilt at neighbours Kerry despite a turbulent few seasons.    

Mark Collins will be expected to pull the strings in the Cork attack

Straight knock-out heightens the provincial semi-final date with Kingdom and while it would raise a few eyebrows to take down the green and gold, there were glimpses in 2019 that the Rebels are beginning to find their feet again after seasons of turmoil. 

Promotion to Division 2 was achieved in a straight forward manner and there was enough to suggest against Kerry last year, and against Dublin for 50 minutes, that have the potential cause discomfort to any team once. The loss of Ciarán Sheehan is however a significant blow for a side greater than the sum of its parts. 

In Ulster, there is a growing sense that Rory Gallagher is quickly making an impression in Derry and former Armagh forward Oisin McConville has voiced his concerns for the Orchard County ahead of the clash at Celtic Park.

Derry will have their hands full to contain the likes of Stefan Campbell, Rory Grugan, Rian O'Neill and Jamie Clarke, who would relish the underdog tag against Donegal or Tyrone for a place in a provincial final, 12 years since their last time featuring in the decider.

Jamie Clarke will lead the attack for Armagh

An upset in Connacht would appear to be beyond Leitrim and Sligo respectively as they take on Mayo and Galway, but Roscommon will fancy their chances once again of lowering Mayo colours in a Connacht semi-final.

Anthony Cunningham's men are the current holders of the Nestor Cup and their impressive display against Armagh recently, less than 24 hours before Mayo's demolition of Galway, indicates that whoever emerges from Connacht should be well road-tested before an All-Ireland semi-final.

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