Colm Cooper expects the big four of Dublin, Tyrone, Kerry and Mayo to remain the teams to beat as this year's Allianz Football League gets set to start, while the former Kingdom star expects Donegal and Galway to make a statement of intent for the year ahead.

The league campaign begins this weekend and all eyes will be on that top tier, where eight teams will look to battle it out ahead of a condensed inter-county campaign in the first half of the year, with the All-Ireland Championship beginning in April and finishing in mid-July.

The big four are all vying for that top-tier title, and according to the Gooch, a league-winning campaign can augur well for a successful championship.

"The top four has been quite settled for the last number of years with Kerry, Dublin, Tyrone and Mayo, so that should continue, but the two teams that are capable of breaking into that are Donegal and Galway," said Cooper, speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

"Donegal have flattered to deceive a bit over the last couple of years, they’ve got into great positions to qualify for semi-finals, and even if you go back to the Super 8s, they’ve let opportunities slip. But I think they’ll be gunning for 2022.

"Galway are in Division 2, they’re a sleeping giant in football and Pádraic Joyce has been there for the last couple of years, the Under-20s won the All-Ireland a couple of years ago, so it is time for them to stand up and make a real statement in 2022."

And now with the half-year inter-county campaign taking in what is essentially back-to-back competitions between league and championship, Cooper feels that county managers will be taking the former extremely seriously to put their sides in prime position to challenge for summer honours.

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"It’s a rapid season this year, they play seven games over the next nine weeks, and it’s a busy time with Sigerson Cup and club semi-finals and finals, so for the county manager it is about getting their house in order, getting off to a positive start and building confidence from there," said the five-time All-Ireland winner.

"If you look at Dublin for the last six years that they won the All-Ireland, more often that not they won the league too, so the league does play a big part, particularly for teams who are looking to build confidence."

Speaking to RTÉ Sport during the week, former Westmeath, Longford and Carlow manager Luke Dempsey said that he believed that the GAA had got the league "down to a tee", and Cooper concurs, stating that the nature of the competition makes it a format that is very enticing to Gaelic football fans.

"The reason that people love the league is because it is so competitive and you have teams who are equally matched playing each other, and that is where the real value is and you don’t have many dead rubbers or runaway victories as they are generally at the same level. That’s the key and I think the league will be excellent as a result of that."

With all the hype around those top six sides, Cooper was asked to pick an outside chance that might be able to make their mark in 2022.

"A team that I have been looking at over the last year or two are Armagh. They are getting more competitive in Ulster," said Cooper.

"They have a tough assignment this week against Dublin at Croke Park so I think if they are able to maintain their Division 1 status that would be a big step for them in terms of their development.

"They have the talent and have a good management structure up there so they are a team that I will keep an eye on."

Follow the weekend Allianz League action with our live blogs and reports on and the RTÉ News app, watch Dublin v Armagh on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player or listen to exclusive national radio commentary on Saturday and Sunday Sport.