NFL Division Four: Malachy Clerkin’s team-by-team guide
Paul Galvin and Davy Burke are two interesting appointments in the bottom tier
Paul Galvin takes charge of Wexford in Division Four. Photograph: Tom O’Hanlon/Inpho
In Division Four, the progress of the various different managers ought to be enough to keep the pot boiling. Paul Galvin’s first managerial job has already caught the odd headline in Wexford and Wicklow have the youngest sideline man in the country in 31-year-old Davy Burke.
Unlike some other years, there’s no obvious stand-out team in the basement division that clearly doesn’t belong. Hence the likes of Carlow, Antrim, Limerick, Wexford and Sligo will all fancy their chances of bounding clear. Turlough O’Brien is in his sixth year with Carlow and they look to be best set to start putting results on the board.
Beyond London and Waterford though, it’s hard to exclude anyone from contention at this stage.
Manager: Lenny Harbinson (3rd season)
Selectors: Brendan Trainor, Fionntan Devlin, Oliver Lennon
Last good league: 2016 Division Four runners-up
Have finished third a couple of years in a row without ever threatening to go up. Getting Paddy Cunningham and Tomás McCann back on board was a step in the right direction, albeit Harbinson could have done without losing Matthew Fitzpatrick and Ryan Murray. Meathman Mark Gardner could improve the defence.
Manager: Turlough O’Brien (6th season)
Selectors: Darren Leonard, Stephen O’Meara, Simon Rea
Last good league: 2018 Division Four runners-up
Gravity got them in the end last year, losing their last two games to come straight back down. Stephen Poacher has departed in the off-season, replaced by DIT coach Stephen O’Meara as part of a full refresh of the backroom. Josh Moore and Conor Doyle have been terrific for Carlow IT so O’Brien has fresh talent to pick from. Ought to go up.
Manager: Billy Lee (4th season)
Selectors: Brian Begley, Sean Kiely, Seamus O’Donnell
Last good league: 2017 4th Division Four
Even allowing for the stripped back nature of the opposition, Limerick will take a nice bounce into the league after winning the McGrath Cup with wins over Clare, Waterford and Cork. Bob Childs and Darren O’Doherty look like promising finds and if Danny Neville can carry his form, Limerick won’t want for scores. Should be in the promotion hunt.
Manager: Michael Maher (1st season)
Selectors: Martin McGrath, Lorcan Mulvey
Last good league: 2018 4th in Division Four
Having removed Ciaran Deely – to his fairly vocal chagrin – at the end of last year, they’ve appointed 32-year-old Londoner Michael Maher to lead the team this year. With a London-born captain as well in Liam Gavaghan and a good stock of locals, they have a base for the future. The league always comes too quick for them, however. Hard to see where a point will come from.
Manager: Paul Taylor (2nd season)
Selectors: Joe Keane, Nigel Dineen, John McPartland
Last good league: 2016 5th Division Three
Last year they were relegated for the first time in nine seasons, landing in Division Four without winning a game. Niall Murphy (captain last year) and Adrian McIntyre will be missed and it will be interesting to see if Taylor drafts in Red Óg Murphy who is back from Australia but also back at school. Antrim at home in Round Two will tell a lot.
Manager: Benji Whelan (2nd season)
Selectors: Joe Hagan, Ger Walsh, Kieran Hallihan
Last good league: 2019 4th Division Four
Rolling the rock up the hill doesn’t get any easier. Benji Whelan’s side beat Wexford, Antrim and London last year to eventually finish fourth and yet he still lost eight players over the winter, five of them first-teamers. Dessie Hutchinson has gone to the hurlers, leaving them without a focal point in attack. Might beat London but that’s about it.
Manager: Paul Galvin (1st season)
Selectors: Shane Roche, Tadhg O’Donoghue, Eamon Sayers
Last good league: 2017 Runners-up Division Four
Will attract more than their share of attention purely on the strength of the man whose name is above the door. Some defections over the off-season got more national play than they would have elsewhere, mainly because Galvin is involved. What is certain is that he will improve the players he has at his disposal. Interesting times.
Manager: Davy Burke (1st season)
Last good league: 2014 3rd Division Four
The youngest manager in the country, Burke guided Kildare to an under-20 All-Ireland a couple of years back and is clearly tipped for greater things down the line. He needs to find a bit of scoring power from somewhere - Mark Jackson is a deadly ball-striker but there’s a limited future in your goalkeeper being your most reliable scorer.