Thursday 21 November 2019

Colm Keys' team-by-team guide to Division One: Dublin and Tyrone on course for league final clash

2 September 2018; Mattie Donnelly of Tyrone in action against Con O'Callaghan of Dublin during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
2 September 2018; Mattie Donnelly of Tyrone in action against Con O'Callaghan of Dublin during the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The Allianz Football League gets under way tomorrow night and Colm Keys has ranked each team in Division 1 ahead of a fascinating campaign.

Cavan

Manager: Mickey Graham (1st season).

Last year: 2nd Division 2, lost to Roscommon in final; lost to Donegal Ulster SFC; lost to Tyrone qualifiers.

Key man: Dara McVeety will continue to direct a lot of their play.

Prospects: A quick return to Division 2 where the challenge to survive will be no less diminished. Gearóid McKiernan looks set to miss a chunk of games through injury which robs them of their undisputed leader. Managed draws with Monaghan and Kerry and a win over Mayo two years ago but last year’s championship form doesn’t augur well for them.

Prospects: Eighth

Dublin

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Manager: Jim Gavin (7th season).

Last year: 2nd, beat Galway in final; Leinster champions; All-Ireland champions.

Key man: Take your pick. But more and more the influence of Brian Fenton and Ciarán Kilkenny grows. Kilkenny scored 2-18 in last year’s campaign, while still maintaining a playmaking role at times.

Prospects: Have arguably their toughest start for some time with away trips to Monaghan and Kerry but these are conditions they relish. Won’t go unbeaten but will still be top two. Their depth cushions them from any potential blow.

Prediction: First

Galway

Manager: Kevin Walsh (5th season).

Last year: 1st, lost to Dublin in final; Connacht champions; lost to Dublin in All-Ireland semi-final.

Key man: Damien Comer, but he could miss the game against Dublin, who he thrived against last year.

Prospects: Went through last year’s group stage unbeaten while only conceding one goal against Monaghan, when the points were already safe. They won’t want to lose games but the focus may not be as strong and with Comer probably missing the opening games a different path awaits.

Prediction: Fourth

Kerry

Manager: Peter Keane (1st season).

Last year: 5th; Munster champions; All-Ireland quarter-finalists.

Key man: David Clifford (20) has already shown how important he is, but he misses the opening games.

Prospects: Intrigue over team selection, chiefly the inclusion of Clifford, drew 11,000 to Killarney for last year’s opener against Donegal. With new management and new faces should ensure similar interest. No one can say how this campaign will work out but the concession of 10 goals – they kept just one clean sheet against Kildare – is an obvious starting point.

Prediction: Third

Mayo

Manager: James Horan (1st year of second stint).

Last year: 6th; lost to Galway Connacht SFC; lost to Kildare qualifiers.

Key man: Patrick Durcan has

become their most prolific attacking defender.

Prospects: Have required huge scores from Kevin McLoughlin two years running to survive in the division. Mayo need to make their home games count against Roscommon, Cavan, Monaghan and Galway. In the last two years they’ve won just two from seven in Castlebar. For James Horan, the balance between youth and experience must be managed well.

Prospects: Sixth

Monaghan

Manager: Malachy O’Rourke (7th season).

Last year: 3rd; lost to Fermanagh Ulster SFC; lost to Tyrone All-Ireland semi-final.

Key man: Forward star Conor McManus may be used more sparingly but when it’s tight, he’ll generally find a way.

Prospects: There’s a perception that home advantage embellishes Monaghan’s league form but their away record over the last four years since promotion, is actually stronger – eight wins and a draw from 14 games compared to six wins and a draw at home. They’ve won twice in Kerry, beat Dublin in Croke Park and have taken both points home from Tyrone, Donegal and Mayo in that time. No reason to suggest it will be any different in 2019 though Niall Kearns is a loss.

Prediction: Fifth

Roscommon

Manager: Anthony Cunningham (1st year).

Last year: 1st Division 2, beat Cavan in final; lost Connacht final to Galway; All-Ireland quarter-finalists.

Key man: Enda Smith will shoulder much responsibility if Roscommon are to gain a foothold in the top division.

Prospects: Enjoyed a timely pre-season boost with a Connacht League win last weekend but the absence of Ciarán Murtagh, John McManus and Cathal Compton, on top of an injury that will keep Diarmuid Murtagh out for a few games makes this a hard road to travel once more. Making them harder to beat and avoiding those four-goal concessions that featured too often last year is Anthony Cunningham’s priority.

Prediction: Seventh

Tyrone

Manager: Mickey Harte (17th season).

Last year: 4th; lost to Monaghan Ulster SFC; lost to Dublin All-Ireland final.

Key man: Mattie Donnelly remains orchestrator-in-chief for Tyrone.

Prospects: Early indications are that Tyrone will continue to develop new attacking fronts with a quick graduation for Darragh Canavan and restoration for Kyle Coney. It’s hard to believe that Mickey Harte has only guided Tyrone to one league title and that in his first year in charge. Trips to Kerry and Croke Park for Dublin apart, the schedule points to a potential final.

Prediction: Second

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