IN the opening game tomorrow evening, Kildare meet Offaly in a rematch of last year's Leinster Championship fixture which the Lilywhites won comprehensively by 13 points.
Offaly are a different side this year and having won promotion from Division 4, confidence will be high again with a new manager at the helm in Emmet McDonnell.
Kieran McGeeney has given a good bit of game time to some of the county's U-21s including Niall Kelly, Daniel Flynn and Paul Cribbin. They all performed well in the league and looked to fit comfortably into McGeeney's team. Whilst there will tougher tests ahead for these young players, Kildare will have too much quality and the benefit of Division 1 football to see them through this Croker test (5.0).
Up North, I have been really impressed with the job Brian McIver has done since he came in as Derry manager last autumn.
For a county where the football scene has been dominated by infighting for the best part of a decade, he has adapted to the role well and brought some stability to a county who have endured a lot of managerial changes over the last ten years.
Derry performed well in their Division Two league final win over Westmeath and it is usually the case that with a new manager such as ex-Donegal boss McIver, there is a bounce in a team in the first year and I think that will be enough to see the Oak Leaf progress over a Down side who have looked like they are beginning to struggle with their system of play in recent times, as well as the loss of key players.