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Monday 22 September 2014

This is where the battle for promotion will be won or lost

Published 28/01/2014 | 05:40

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Sligo manager, Pat Flanagan, will be hoping to kickstart Sligo's promotion bid with a win against Limerick in the opening game of Divsion Three of the Allianz League at Markievicz Park on Sunday

After sampling the full range of results in the FBD league with a win, draw and defeat, the real business starts next Sunday in Markievicz Park for Sligo senior footballers against Limerick.

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At this level every game is crucial but the first three games in this year's league could shape Sligo's season, so getting two points on the board early on is vital to get the confidence going as I feel Sligo's first three opponents Limerick, Fermanagh and Offaly will be relegation contenders along with Longford. How Sligo fares in these games will determine if we join them as relegation contenders or promotion hopefuls. I will now look at all our opponents in Division Three and give my verdict on where they will finish.

LIMERICK: After promotion last year Limerick's season ended with a comprehensive defeat in the all-Ireland qualifier against Longford. Things have not improved since with the Limerick footballers up in arms over what they consider as a surrender by their county board to Munster council over the seeding of Cork and Kerry, showing their dissatisfaction by pulling out of the McGrath Cup which hasn't helped their preparation. With doubt hanging over the availability of their two best players John Galvin and Stephen Kelly this is the ideal start for Sligo. Prediction 8th

FERMANAGH: Unlucky not to get promoted to Division Two last year. New manager, Peter McGrath put out experimental sides in the McKenna cup, losing all three games and conceding an average of 19 points per game. If McGrath can't get a handle on matters quickly Fermanagh will struggle even though big full forward Seamie Quigley is back after being dropped for missing training during the Canavan era. Prediction 7th

OFFALY: Two seasons ago Sligo put the relegation nail in the coffin against Offaly in Tullamore in one of Sligo's best performances of that year. However Offaly have bounced back well with immediate promotion back up to Division Three but then had a poor championship campaign against Kildare and were trounced by Tyrone in the qualifiers. In this year's Byrne cup they had a win against UCD but lost to both Wexford and Laois even though they averaged 15 points a game. With Niall McNamee in their side will always be a threat but I expect they may struggle. Prediction 5th

CAVAN: After reaching the All-Ireland quarter final last season and looking at their impressive McKenna cup form together with winning the last three ulster under21's, the Cavan graph is on an upward curve and are rightly the bookmaker's favourites to win Division Three. With players of the calibre of Cian Mackey, Eugene Keating and David Givney in their side they will be difficult opposition when we play them in Kingspan Breffni Park in March. Prediction 1st

WEXFORD: After suffering relegation last season Wexford are back in Division Three. With a number of talented forwards in their team such as PJ Banville, CiaranLyng and Ben Brosnan they are always difficult to beat. Having said that they have lost one of their better players from 2013 Lee Chin who has opted for the hurlers in 2014. Prediction 4th

LONGFORD: They will be glad to see the back of 2013 after losing all their league games and also suffered Leinster championship defeat to Wicklow. With a new manager in place they will be hopeful that they can consolidate their Division Three status but with their star performer Sean McCormack not available it could be a struggle. Prediction 6th

ROSCOMMON: They will benefit this year by St Brigid's exit from the club competition and will be one of the promotion favourites. With the best underage setup in Connacht it is time for Roscommon to start delivering at senior level. After losing to a controversial penalty last year Sligo surprisingly has to travel to the Hyde again this year in the final division three game where hopefully it could be a winner take all promotion game. Prediction 3rd

SLIGO: While Pat Flanagan (pictured) will not have had as much time as he would have wanted to prepare for the national league, he nonetheless will have to sit down this week to pick his first meaningful Sligo team. After bringing Westmeath from Division Three to Division One he knows all about what it takes to get league results at this time of year. As previously mentioned the first three games could define Sligo's season with 6 points a possibility as two games are at home. If this is achieved it will leave the side full of confidence heading for Cavan. Having said all that it can only be one game at a time and hopefully we can get off the mark with a win on Sunday. Prediction 2nd

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