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Kildare and Meath aiming for 'Leinster Lite' delight

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Kildare boss Jason Ryan

Kildare boss Jason Ryan

Kildare boss Jason Ryan

THE cynics might call it 'Leinster SFC Lite', given the abundance of eastern province wannabes and absence of a certain Sky Blue Goliath, but it means we should be guaranteed several juicy derby clashes over the coming months of Division Two fare.

For different reasons, this is a big spring for Kildare, Meath, Laois and Westmeath. For the first two, you could argue, the need to be playing top-flight league football is a pressing requirement if they're to harbour serious ambitions of (one day) facing Dublin on a level summer playing field. For the latter two, you suspect, spring consolidation in the second tier would suffice for now.

Two of our Leinster quartet were relegated last season, yet perceptions of each would appear poles apart: Kildare are fancied by the bookies to make an instant return to Division One whereas Westmeath are favourites for relegation.

As ever, winning your home fixtures will be half the battle and a flying February start could make your campaign - or a floundering one break it. Take Westmeath: their first two games are at home to Laois and Galway, both potentially winnable ... but if last year's losing league streak were to continue, you'd then have to fear the worst facing back-to-back trips to Kildare and Meath in early March.

The O'Byrne Cup displays of the latter duo - pushing Dublin to the brink before losing with honour - will have given Jason Ryan (pictured) and Mick O'Dowd scope for cautious optimism; but that was shadow boxing. The real business starts on Sunday.

DIVISION 2 CONTENDERS

Cavan

Manager: Terry Hyland (4th season but 3rd league)

2014 NFL: 1st Division 3, promoted, lost final to Roscommon

2015: Home (3): Down, Kildare, Westmeath. Away (4): Roscommon, Laois, Galway, Meath

First game: Next Sunday v Roscommon, Kiltoom.

Odds: Title 8/1, Relegation 7/4

Down

Manager: Jim McCorry (1st season)

2014 NFL: 4th in Division 2

2015: Home (4): Roscommon, Galway, Meath, Laois. Away (3): Kildare, Cavan, Westmeath.

First game: Next Sunday v Kildare, Newbridge

Odds: Title 4/1, Relegation 6/1

Galway

Manager: Kevin Walsh (1st season)

2014 NFL: 6th in Division 2

2015: Home (4): Meath, Laois, Cavan, Kildare. Away (3): Westmeath, Down, Roscommon.

First game: Next Sunday v Meath, Pearse Stadium

Odds: Title 4/1, Relegation 6/1

Kildare

Manager: Jason Ryan (2nd season)

2014 NFL: 7th in Division 1, relegated

2015: Home (3): Down, Westmeath, Roscommon. Away (4): Meath, Cavan, Laois, Galway.

First game: Next Sunday v Down, Newbridge

Odds: Title 10/3f, Relegation 13/2

Laois

Manager: Tomás Ó Flatharta (2nd season)

2014 NFL: 5th in Division 2

2015: Home (3): Cavan, Roscommon, Kildare. Away (4): Westmeath, Galway, Meath, Down.

First game: Next Sunday v Westmeath, Mullingar

Odds: Title 11/1, Relegation 5/4

Meath

Manager: Mick O'Dowd (3rd season)

2014 NFL: 3rd in Division 2

2015: Home (4): Kildare, Westmeath, Laois, Cavan. Away (3): Galway, Roscommon, Down.

First game: Next Sunday v Galway, Pearse Stadium

Odds: Title 4/1, Relegation 5/1

Roscommon

Manager: John Evans (3rd season)

2014 NFL: 2nd in Division 3, promoted, beat Cavan in final

2015: Home (3): Cavan, Meath, Galway. Away (4): Down, Laois, Kildare, Westmeath.

First game: Next Sunday v Cavan, Kiltoom

Odds: Title 7/1, Relegation 9/4

Westmeath

Manager: Tom Cribbin (1st season)

2014 NFL: 8th in Division 1, relegated

2015: Home (4): Laois, Galway, Down, Roscommon. Away (3): Kildare, Meath, Cavan.

First game: Next Sunday v Laois, Mullingar

Odds: Title 14/1, Relegation 8/11f


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