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Honours student, room to improve and must do better: Allianz League mid-term report

Donnchadh Boyle


After three rounds of the National Football League, Donnchadh Boyle gives his mid-term report

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Dublin boss Dessie Farrell will be pleased with the way the players have responded to his initial urgings. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Dublin boss Dessie Farrell will be pleased with the way the players have responded to his initial urgings. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Dublin boss Dessie Farrell will be pleased with the way the players have responded to his initial urgings. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Save for the games that fell victim to the weather over the weekend, three rounds of matches have been played across the four divisions of the Allianz NFL.

With new managers in the top flight and the scrap for positions in Divisions 2 and 3 intensified by the introduction of the 'B' championship, the 2020 league was always set to take on a new edge.

Here, we assess the Grade A pupils and the teams who must do better as we approach the halfway point.


DIVISION 1

The start of Dessie Farrell's reign as Dublin manager was always going to dominate the discussions during the early rounds of the top flight and he's likely to be quietly satisfied that they remain unbeaten after three rounds.

Farrell is without front-liners such as Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey and Con O'Callaghan - while Diarmuid Connolly hasn't been mentioned - and has handed out debuts to the likes of Liam Flatman, Dan O'Brien and Dara Mullin. The performance against Kerry suggested Dublin hadn't missed a beat. That they rescued a draw suggests the Dubs have lost none of their desire.

Kerry's form has been solid, though there were suggestions in the Galway game that the defensive issues remain. The division's new managers, Seamus McEnaney and Pádraic Joyce, have seen solid starts with Joyce particularly pleased as his Galway side recovered from a seven-point deficit to Donegal last weekend but just one point separates the top seven teams in the league so there will be plenty of twists and turns yet.

Honours student: Dublin The division's only unbeaten side, Dublin top the table despite being under new management, without some key players and only having a handful of sessions together before the league. That Dublin rescued a draw on Saturday suggests their desire burns as bright as ever.

Room to improve: Mayo James Horan will be happy with where his side are as he has handed out eight debuts already in this year's league and has yet to see the likes of Seamus O'Shea and Cillian O'Connor. That they scored two late goals to rescue a draw and a win against Donegal and Meath respectively suggests there's plenty of fight in the side.

Must do better: Meath The Royals needed to be pulling from a full deck on their top-flight return but carried a hefty injury list into the league. With games away to Dublin and Kerry still to come, the trapdoor is beckoning.


DIVISION 2

Division 2 will have an extra edge with all eight teams looking to ensure Sam Maguire football for themselves by staying out of the bottom two.

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Galway manager Padraic Joyce. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Galway manager Padraic Joyce. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

That Roscommon propped up the table before last weekend shows the unpredictable nature of the division, while Kildare, favourites for promotion before a ball was kicked, are in the middle of the pack.

Cavan and Laois have a game in hand but just two points separate first and eighth place in the division and there'll be no surprise if it is all to play for going into the final round.

Honours student: Armagh A difficult call given how closely matched the teams are but Armagh have made a strong start and they are developing a potent-looking forward unit with Oisín O'Neill, Conor Turbitt and Jamie Clarke offering a variety of threats. However, it won't be lost on Kieran McGeeney that three of their last four games are away from home.

Room to improve: Roscommon The only team in the division to have spent a couple of seasons in the top flight in recent years and to have won a provincial title. The nature of their results will have stung but they can get better.

Must do better: Kildare With a proven manager in Jack O'Connor and some top talent in their side, the Lilies will have expected a better start.


DIVISION 3

As expected, Cork have set the pace and there's little to suggest they won't pick up enough points over the next four rounds to secure promotion and, more importantly, Sam Maguire football for the summer.

Who will join them is a much more difficult to figure out but unbeaten Longford have carried on the form that saw them win the O'Byrne Cup and have taken five points from a possible six but they have away trips to Down and Derry to come and also welcome Cork.

Honours student: Cork They were standout favourites for promotion and have lived up to that billing so far.

Room to improve: Derry Rory Gallagher's appointment in Derry caught their eye and while they got their first win last weekend they might have expected a little more.

Must do better: Louth They have a game in hand but Wayne Kierans' side are the only team in the division without a point.


DIVISION 4

Limerick are the pacesetters with a 100 per cent record in the league but they'll lose Jamie Lee to Australia this week. Having waited 630 days for a win in league or championship, Sligo picked up two within a week before last weekend's clash with Wicklow was postponed. Davy Burke's Garden men will be an interesting proposition given his record with the teams he has managed, while Paul Galvin's Wexford and Antrim are still very much in the hunt.

Honours student: Limerick Including their pre-season win in the McGrath Cup, Limerick have now won six games on the bounce.

Room to improve: Carlow Carlow might have fancied their chances of going straight back to Division 3 but they have lost two of three.

Must do better: London and Waterford Both have been competitive at times but both are rooted to the foot of the table with zero points.

Irish Independent


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