NFL Division Three: Malachy Clerkin’s team-by-team guide

Looming Tier Two Championship means Cork will be banking on strong campaign

Ronan McCarthy’s Cork will be pushing for a Division Two return. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Ronan McCarthy’s Cork will be pushing for a Division Two return. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Division Three

The existential concern of the Tier Two All-Ireland looms over Division Three, which is probably bad news for at least half the teams in it. In times past, you could find a sizeable gun failing to get out of Division Three through a general lack of interest. In 2020, that’s not a luxury they can afford.

This applies to Cork in particular. Drawn to meet Kerry in the Munster semi-final, there is an obvious danger that they won’t make the Munster final. What happens to them in that instance depends entirely on what they do over the coming weeks. Win promotion to Division Two for next year and they’ll stay in the hunt for Sam Maguire.

Fail to, and they’ll head for the Tier Two competition.

Given that context, it’s hard to see them sleepwalking through the league like they have for the past few years. It’s equally difficult to see the likes of Leitrim, Offaly and Longford nicking a result against them out of the blue. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine Leitrim nicking a result against anyone.

Cork

Manager: Ronan McCarthy (3rd season)
Selectors: Ger O’Halloran, Sean Hayes, Cian O’Neill
Last good league: 2015 Division One runners-up

Cork have no business being in Division Three and will want to show it. Ciaran Sheehan is due a little leeway upon his return from the AFL but if he can get up to speed, he’ll be some weapon. An ankle injury kept Damien Gore out of last year’s championship but allowed him to star for the under-20s. Attacking potential abounds.

Derry

Manager: Rory Gallagher (1st season)
Selectors: Enda Muldoon, Ciarán Meenagh
Last good league: 2019 Division Four champions

Say what you like about Rory Gallagher’s style of football, his teams tend to outstay most others in winter football. Derry are slowly clawing their way back up the divisions and when Gallagher has the Slaughtneil cohort back on board, they will be formidable. Likely to be scrapping for the other promotion spot with Down and Tipp.

Down

Manager: Paddy Tally (2nd season)
Selectors: Mark Doran, Michael Walsh
Last good league: 2015 Division Two runners-up

The advanced notices about Liam Kerr have been promising and Conor Clarke was a beast at under-20 so there is young talent. Problem is, they’re without Caolan Mooney, Connaire Harrison and presumably a chunk of the Kilcoo players for the early games and they have Tipp, Derry and Cork first up. Probably need to beat two of them to stay in the promotion race.

Leitrim

Manager: Terry Hyland (2nd season)
Selectors: Gary Donohoe, Pádraig McGourty
Last good league: 2019 Division Four runners-up

There might be a little careful-what-you-wish-for in Leitrim’s future. Promotion from Division Four was a jailbreak of a thing but reality is likely to hit hard here. Hyland has jettisoned Emlyn Mulligan since last year and Cathal McCann and Michael McWeeney have moved on as well. Survival would be a greater achievement than anything they did last year.

Longford

Manager: Padraic Davis (2nd season)
Selectors: Paul Barden, Donal Ledwith, John Donnellan
Last good league: 2018 3rd Division Three

Pre-season is pre-season but it’s fair to say Longford took genuine enjoyment from the O’Byrne Cup win. That said, it may prove to be the high point of the spring, considering the loss of a raft of players. Stalwarts like Barry McKeon, Robbie Smyth, Aidan McElligott and David McGiveney have walked away, leaving Davis with a thin squad.

Longford celebrate their O’Byrne Cup success. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Longford celebrate their O’Byrne Cup success. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Louth

Manager: Wayne Kierans (2nd season)
Selectors: Liam Kelleher, Cathal Murray
Last good league: 2017 Division Three runners-up

Another panel that has been diluted since last they met, with the loss of Andy McDonnell, Jim McEneaney and Derek Maguire stripping them of significant experience and ability. Finished only a point short of promotion last year and will be boosted by the return of Ciarán Byrne after AFL and injury. Don’t rule them out of bucking expectations again.

Offaly

Manager: John Maughan (2nd season)
Selectors: Gerry O’Malley, Kevin Guing, Mark Fee
Last good league: 2016 3rd Division Three

Maughan looks to have steadied the ship and pointed it in the right direction. Unlike a lot of Division Three teams, the squad looks to have actually improved, with no major defections and Cian Johnson now a fully-fledged senior after all the unpleasantness a couple of seasons back. Should avoid the drop with a bit to spare.

Tipperary

Manager: David Power (1st season)
Selectors: Charlie McGeever, Michael McGeehin, Paddy Christie
Last good league: 2018 4th Division Two

You’d forgive Power for cursing his luck. He finally gets a go at the Tipperary job having done so much for the county’s underage talent and his first business is to wave goodbye to the likes of Michael Quinlivan, Liam Casey and Liam McGrath. That said, Conor Sweeney is still as good as there is in the division and promotion is a definite possibility.

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