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swift comeback Mickey Harte places demands on Louth as opportunity knocks in Division 4

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New Louth boss Mickey Harte

New Louth boss Mickey Harte

New Louth boss Mickey Harte

As surprises go, it didn’t get much bigger than Mickey Harte being announced as the new Louth football manager just 10 days after his 18-year term as Tyrone boss came to an end last November.

Few saw it coming as Harte, a three-time All-Ireland-winning manager, made a swift comeback to the inter-county game with his presence on the Louth sideline sending optimism to an all-time high in the Wee County.

Louth captain Sam Mulroy has spoken of the “honour” to play under Harte and the 69-year-old brings a buzz to the league’s bottom tier that has rarely been witnessed in recent memory.

Harte is used to operating at Division 1 level and he is challenging his troops to step up.

“It’s demanding,” Mulroy told LMFM radio of life under the new Harte regime. “And that’s what we want and that’s what we need to get up to the standards that we should be at.

“We haven’t spoken about promotion but everyone in Division 4 has the same goal, no one wants to be there, no one wants to be at the bottom of the pile so everyone’s going to be pushing for promotion but it’s not going to come easy.”

Harte will see a familiar face in his first competitive game this weekend with former Tyrone star Enda McGinley in charge of Antrim and that’s one of many subplots to an intriguing division.

The Ulster pair are joined in a group of four by Connacht sides Sligo and Leitrim with the latter keen to get promoted straight back up to Division 3 and continue the upward curve which has seen them grow into a consistent force under Terry Hyland in recent years.

Sligo had a disastrous 2020 when finishing third from bottom in Division 4 before seeing no championship action as a result of Covid-19, but hopes are high that Armagh All-Ireland winner Tony McEntee can lift the tide.

London’s absence leaves three counties battling for two semi-final places with Carlow, Waterford and Wexford licking their lips at the thoughts of promotion – something which would be achieved through three victories.

Shane Roche (Wexford) and Niall Carew (Carlow) were in a similar boat last year, having been handed the reins mid-season, but both have had more time to bed in their philosophies and they can call on most of their elder statesmen.

Roche is delighted to have veterans Brian Malone, Daithí Waters and Ben Brosnan back for more while Carew still has the ace in his pack with Paul Broderick capable of shooting the lights out, if given half a chance.

Shane Roynane also dips his toes at inter-county level with Waterford having enjoyed huge success in ladies football with Tipperary and Mourneabbey in a Division 4 like no other with all eyes squarely focused on Harte.

Your county-by-county guide to the Allianz NFL Division 4

Div 4 – NORTH

ANTRIM

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Manager: Enda McGinley (1st season)

Captain: TBC

Last year: Third in Div 4, lost to Cavan in Ulster SFC quarter-final.

Main man: Mick McCann is Mick McCann is a wily veteran who makes the Saffrons tick.

One to watch: Conor Murray

Critical question: After a decent 2020, can McGinley change the tide further for the Saffrons?

League fixtures ahead: Away to Louth, Saturday, May 15 (3.0); home to Sligo, Sunday, May 23 (3.0); home to Leitrim, Sunday, May 30 (3.0).


LEITRIM


Manager: Terry Hyland (3rd year)

Captain: Paddy Maguire

Last year: Seventh in Division 3 - Relegated to Division 4, Lost to Mayo in Connacht quarter-final.

Main man: Donal Wrynn is the heartbeat of this Leitrim side.

One to watch: Ryan O’Rourke

Critical question: Can Terry Hyland regain Leitrim’s upward curve and bounce back to Division 3?

League fixtures ahead: Away to Sligo, Sunday, May 16 (3.0); home to Louth, Sunday, May 23 (3.0); away to Antrim, Sunday, May 30 (3.0).

LOUTH

Manager: Mickey Harte (1st year)

Captain: Sam Mulroy

Last year: Eighth in Division 3 - Relegated to Division 4, Lost Leinster first round to Longford.

Main man: Sam Mulroy will be expected to spearhead the Wee attack once again.

One to watch: Conor Whelan

Critical question: Can the high-profile arrival of Mickey Harte work the oracle and change Louth’s ailing fortunes?

League fixtures ahead: Home to Antrim, Saturday, May 15 (3.0); away to Leitrim, Sunday, May 23 (3.0); home to Sligo, Sunday, May 30 (3.0).


SLIGO


Manager: Tony McEntee (1st year)

Captain: TBC

Last year: Sixth in Division 4, Handed walkover to Galway in Connacht semi-final due to Covid.

Main man: The return of former captain Niall Muphy is a huge boost, especially following the retirement of Neil Ewing.

One to watch: Red Óg Murphy

Critical question: After a disastrous 2020, can Sligo steady the ship and avoid falling further behind?

League fixtures ahead: Home to Leitrim, Sunday, May 16 (3.0); away to Antrim, Sunday, May 23 (3.0); away to Louth, Sunday, May 30 (3.0).


DIV 4 – SOUTH

CARLOW

Manager: Niall Carew (2nd year)

Captain: Seán Gannon

Last year: Fifth in Division 4, Lost Leinster first round to Offaly.

Main man: Paul Broderick is a lethal forward which the Barrowsiders need to be on song.

One to watch: Ross Dunphy

Critical question: After changing manager mid-season last year, can Niall Carew oversee another Carlow rising?

League fixtures ahead: Away to Waterford, Saturday, May 15 (7.0); home to Wexford, Saturday, May 29 (5.0).

WATERFORD

Manager: Shane Ronayne (1st year)

Captain: Conor Murray

Last year: Seventh in Division 4, Lost Munster quarter-final to Limerick.

Main man: Conor Murray can do damage in front of the posts and leads the Déise attack.

One to watch: Jason Curry

Critical question: Shane Ronayne has enjoyed huge success in the ladies’ game, can he translate that to the men’s game?

League fixtures ahead: Home to Carlow, Saturday, May 15 (7.0); away to Wexford, Saturday May 22 (3.0).

WEXFORD

Manager: Shane Roche (2nd year)

Captain: Ben Brosnan TBC

Last year: Fourth in Division 4, Lost Leinster first round to Wicklow.

Main man: Brian Malone has been a Model servant and heads into his 16th inter-county season.

One to watch: Liam Coleman

Critical question: Can Wexford quickly progress their rebuilding phase and make a mark this summer?

League fixtures ahead: Home to Waterford, Saturday May 22 (3.0); away to Carlow, Saturday, May 29 (5.0).



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