Galway and Laois have plenty of motivation to cross great divide
DIVISION TWO:The very idea last year’s race for promotion came down to the last kick of the ball – at least in deciding whether Kildare or Galway crossed the great divide – shows how competitive Division Two can be, and the 2013 edition won’t be any different.
Galway needed to beat Kildare in their last league game to secure promotion, along with Tyrone, and were poised to do so, until Kildare were awarded a late, late penalty.
Galway manager Alan Mulholland didn’t disguise his disappointment, despite it being his first season in charge, and even if their championship form suggested they aren’t yet Division One material, he’s adamant about the importance of gaining promotion this time.
They are the bookies’ favourites for promotion, although for the first time in 15 years, Galway start into a league without Pádraic Joyce and with Joe Bergin also retired. The flip side is Michael Meehan is ready to start his first campaign in four years. Sunday’s opening game against Derry should tell a lot.
Laois are rated next best, their main motivation being to make amends for last year’s relegation. With Justin McNulty settled into his role, and some good championship performances last summer, Laois will be among the front-runners.
Armagh could press hard, but being without the Crossmaglen players, possibly until the end of March, may prove a difficult handicap to overcome.
Derry, likewise, will consider themselves capable of beating any team on any given day, although under a new manager in Brian McIvor, there may be pain before the gain.
Likewise with Louth, who are rebuilding again under new manager Aidan O’Rourke.
Longford and Wexford, both newly promoted, may feel apprehensive but Longford’s league form last year suggests they have little to fear, and Wexford have an experienced panel.
So that leaves Westmeath, perhaps the most unpredictable of the lot, although again there’s strength and experience in the panel, with Dessie Dolan also back on board, to ensure they’ll be competitive but so too will everyone else.
Manager: Glenn Ryan (5th year).
2012 league placing:1st, Division 3 (promoted).
First game: v Wexford, Wexford Park, Sunday, 2.30pm.
Prospects: The only way was up, for the last two years, as they rose from Division Three but this level looks more competitive, and the priority will be consolidation, perhaps, before promotion.
Manager: Alan Mulholland (2nd year).
2012 league placing:3rd, Division 2
First game: v Derry, Salthill, Sunday, 2pm .
Prospects: Given how close they came last year, nothing less than promotion can be considered real progress, and the intent to do exactly that is there.
Manager: Justin McNulty (3rd year).
2012 league placing: 8th, Division 1 (relegated).
First game: v Armagh, Portlaoise, Saturday, 7pm.
Prospects: Presuming league form of last year was a blip, and some championship displays suggested it was, there may well be an immediate promotion.
Manager: Paul Grimley (1st year)
2012 league placing: 7th, Division 1 (relegated).
First game: v Laois, Portlaoise, Saturday, 7pm.
Prospects: Absence of the Crossmaglen players for the opening rounds may come back to haunt them but Armagh won’t fear anyone, and will be feared, particularly at home
Manager: Pat Flanagan (4th year).
2012 league placing: 5th, Division 2.
First game: v Louth, Mullingar, Sunday, 2pm.
Prospects: There appears to be a new willingness within the Westmeath panel, and Dessie Dolan’s return can only help, but promotion still looks out of reach.
Manager: Aidan O’Brien (1st year).
2012 league placing: 2nd, Division 3 (promoted).
First game: v Longford, Wexford Park, Sunday, 2.30pm.
Prospects: Consistency lacking, although the strength of the panel is there, and if Aidan O’Brian can pick up where Jason Ryan left off they should survive in the division.
Manager: Aidan O’Rourke (1st year).
2012 league placing: 4th, Division 2.
First game: v Westmeath, Mullingar, Sunday, 2pm
Prospects: It’s not going to be easy for Aidan O’Rourke to stop the slide down the slippery slope, and lucky to avoid relegation last year, that luck may run out this time.
Manager: Brian McIvor (1st year)
2012 league placing: 6th, Division 2.
First game: v Galway, Salthill, Sunday, 2pm.
Prospects: With Brian McIvor injecting so much-needed youth in to the mix there will be more rough before the smooth, and Sunday’s opener against Galway looks tricky.