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controversial Here's my predictions for winners and losers of Allianz Football League - it may surprise you

Full-strength Kerry to shine but Donegal set for drop

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Kerry are close to full strength, flying fit and all trying to impress Jack O’Connor

Kerry are close to full strength, flying fit and all trying to impress Jack O’Connor

Kerry are close to full strength, flying fit and all trying to impress Jack O’Connor

I’VE been on tenterhooks all week anticipating the start of the Allianz Football League.

Two months of top-class football; it’s manna from heaven. Better still, the crowds are back.

Long gone are the days when managers fielded weakened teams and fellas used the league to blow off winter cobwebs.

But here’s a plea to the GAA.

There were three unplayed League finals (Divisions 1, 2 and 4) last year due to Covid-19.

Co-incidentally, the teams involved all play each other in the coming weeks: Kerry v Dublin; Kildare v Mayo and Louth v Antrim.

Why not designate these games as the 2021 finals and present the trophy to the winners?

Next July’s All-Ireland finalists will almost certainly be from Division 1, which underlines its significance. Every one of the 29 games here is important.

Yet from a purely competitive viewpoint there is nothing to match Division 2. It will be a pure dogfight for two reasons.

All the teams want to play in the top-flight. But the bogey prize for the two relegated counties is probable demotion to the Tailteann Cup later this summer.

Division 3 is not as competitive as in previous seasons.

What is striking about Division 4 is the plethora of aspiring young managers such as Wexford’s Shane Roche, Sligo’s Tony McEntee and Andy Moran, the new Leitrim boss, learning their trade here.

Here is my one-sentence guide to all 32 teams plus predictions:

Division 1:

Armagh: Seriously talented up front but have a porous defence.

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Donegal: Need to unearth a young ‘Michael Murphy.’

Dublin: Write them off at your peril, they will be hungrier than ever.

Kerry: Near full strength, flying fit and all trying to impress Jack O’Connor.

Kildare: ‘Dream’ management team headed by Glenn Ryan – now boosted by ex-Kerry ace Paul Galvin.

Mayo: No home league games for the Green and Red as a new pitch is laid in MacHale Park.

Monaghan: I won’t fall into the trap of writing them off again.

Tyrone: They could struggle early on as they are behind in terms of preparation due to their All-Ireland team holiday.

Prediction: Winners: Kerry. Relegated: Donegal and Kildare.

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Shane Walsh and Galway will bid to get back to Divsion 1

Shane Walsh and Galway will bid to get back to Divsion 1

Shane Walsh and Galway will bid to get back to Divsion 1


Division 2

Clare: Another season of endeavouring to punch above their weight.

Cork: Keith Ricken is rebuilding the squad, so time and patience is of the essence.

Derry: This is Rory Gallagher’s (inset) third season at the helm and there are definite signs of improvement.

Down: The return of James McCartan as manager will surely give them a much-needed bounce.

Galway: The addition of Cian O’Neill to the back-room team will improve their defensive structure.

Meath: Cannot afford to miss out on promotion again this season.

Offaly: Plenty of young talent coming through and they have Tomás Ó Sé on board as

defensive coach.

Roscommon: Always consistent performers in this division, winning promotion on three occasions since 2015.

Prediction: Promoted: Galway and Meath. Relegated: Clare and Down

Division 3

Antrim: Enda McGinley is assembling a talented squad, they could be a team to watch in 2022.

Fermanagh: Struggling due to a small pick, yet they are always difficult to beat at home.

Limerick: I think they have plateaued and could struggle this season.

Longford: A fresh start under new boss Billy O’Loughlin, but the same problem remains – the shortage of players.

Laois: Rebuilding under new manager Billy Sheehan, but they need to find forward talent.

Louth: Can Mickey Harte avoid second-season syndrome and keep the team in Division 3?

Westmeath: Unlucky to be relegated last year – they are the best team in this division.

Wicklow: Survived in Division 3 last year by winning one game.

Prediction: Promotion: Westmeath and Antrim. Relegation: Wicklow and Limerick

Division 4

Carlow: No real sign of a renaissance under Niall Carew.

Cavan: Comfortably the best team in the division.

Leitrim: It was a smart move recruiting Andy Moran, but he faces a massive task.

London: Back in football for the first time since March 2020, they will surely be off the pace.

Sligo: In his second season at the helm, Tony McEntee will be seeking big improvement.

Tipperary: Complacency cost them last season, they need to get serious again.

Waterford: Ephie Fitzgerald faces a struggle in his new role as the Deise boss.

Wexford: Will be aiming to reproduce the spirit they showed against Dublin in last year’s championship.

Prediction: Promoted: Cavan and Tipperary.

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