NFL Division Two: Dublin and Derry among the contenders in stacked division

Dublin begin their campaign against fellow promotion hopefuls Kildare

Clare

Manager: Colm Collins (10th year)

2022 record: Finished fifth in Division Two. Lost to Limerick in a Munster quarter-final, following a penalty shoot-out. Progressed through the qualifiers to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, where they lost to Derry.

Opening fixture: Sunday v Louth, Cusack Park, 2.0

Colm Collins is the longest serving manager of any one team, but he enters this season without one of Clare’s best ever forwards following the retirement of David Tubridy over the winter.

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Cork

Manager: John Cleary (1st full year, having come in on an interim basis during 2022)

2022 record: Finished sixth in Division Two. Lost a Munster semi-final to Kerry. Advanced through the qualifiers to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, where they lost to Dublin.

Opening fixture: Sunday v Meath, Páirc Úi Chaoimh, 1.30

John Cleary has recalled Brian O’Driscoll, Thomas Clancy and Ruairi Deane to the Cork squad. The Rebels have been hit hard by injuries in recent years, so they will be hoping for a clear run on that front in 2023.

Derry

Manager: Rory Gallagher (4th year)

2022 record: Third in Division Two. Won the Ulster Championship, beating Donegal in the final. Beaten by Galway in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Opening fixture: Saturday v Limerick, Owenbeg, 3.0

The ongoing controversy over the All-Ireland club final might yet have an impact on when Rory Gallagher can call upon his Glen contingent. Still, Derry had a positive January by winning the Dr McKenna Cup.

Dublin

Manager: Dessie Farrell (4th year)

2022 record: Relegated from Division One. Won the Leinster Championship. Beaten by Kerry in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Opening fixture: Saturday v Kildare, Croke Park, 5.0

Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey have rejoined the squad for 2023, though it remains to be seen what Mannion’s availability is going to be in the short-term given the club final controversy. Jonny Cooper has retired.

Kildare

Manager: Glenn Ryan (2nd year)

2022 record: Relegated from Division One. Beaten by Dublin in the Leinster final. Lost to Mayo in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Opening fixture: Saturday v Dublin, Croke Park, 5.0

Kildare will be hoping to make an immediate return to the top-flight, but they are in a stacked Division Two this season. Fergal Conway has retired because of a persistent knee injury.

Limerick

Manager: Ray Dempsey (3rd year)

2022 record: Promoted from Division Three. Beaten by Kerry in the Munster final. Lost to Cork in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Opening fixture: Saturday v Derry, Owenbeg, 3.0

Billy Lee lifted Limerick from Division Four to Two, but he has stepped aside in advance of the 2023 season. The challenge for new manager Ray Dempsey is now to help them retain that Division Two status this year.

Louth

Manager: Mickey Harte (3rd year)

2022 record: Promoted from Division Three as champions. Beaten by Kildare in a Leinster quarter-final. Lost to Cork in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Opening fixture: Sunday v Clare, Cusack Park, 2.0

Louth’s January was certainly not boring. Their decision to not fulfil an O’Byrne Cup fixture against Wexford generated plenty of controversy. Subsequently, Kildare and Offaly pulled out of matches. Louth lost the final to Longford.

Meath

Manager: Colm O’Rourke (1st year)

2022 record: Finished fourth in Division Two. Beaten by Dublin in a Leinster semi-final. Lost to Clare in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Opening fixture: Sunday v Cork, Páirc Úi Chaoimh, 1.30

Donal Lenihan and Darragh Campion were among the players recalled to the Meath squad during their O’Byrne Cup campaign. O’Rourke’s first league game as manager is against Cork, who were Meath’s biggest rivals for much of his playing days.

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times