Kerry & Mayo
As new incoming managers, I don’t think even Peter Keane and James Horan would have imagined how well their inaugural national league campaigns back in the dugout would have gone. To finish first and second respectively, ahead of the 2018 All-Ireland and league finalists, is a fine achievement and lays an extremely strong platform for them to grow as the championship year barrels on and suggests that more success is very much achievable.
The upcoming final will be the first time since 2012 that Dublin haven’t graced. It’s been a terrifyingly dominant run, but the turbulence likely wouldn’t have shuddered their plane too much. But with Mayo and Kerry rising strongly this spring, are we in line for one of the most competitive championship summers in years? Let’s hope so.
Limerick & Waterford
Over to the hurling, and Waterford and Limerick’s progression to the Division 1 final is a good indicator of where each of these counties are at. For Limerick, I think it’s safe to assume that the monumental 2018 success wasn’t a one-season wonder and they are very much here to say. In fact, they’ve strengthened their panel from last year. We’ve mentioned it before in this column and in other features on the website – winning is a thirst which once quenched, is very difficult to stop. This era for Limerick could be a very fruitful one.
As for Waterford, to go from a diabolical 2018 campaign – where they suffered relegation from 1A, to a league final exactly a year later, shows
Promotion to the lofty heights of Division 1 for the first time since 2006 has that feel-good factor back around Navan right now. Their reemergence this spring could pave way for a very competitive Leinster championship, or at the very least give Dublin something to think about.
Two consecutive promotions for the Laois footballers is a fine achievement. They’ll enter Division 2 next year and should have no qualms about competing at that level, as they are very much capable.
We were just about to hit publish on this piece when news emerged that Joe Canning’s injury sustained against Waterford wasn’t as bad a first feared. Regardless, there’s a ton of mileage on his clock and that didn’t let up in this year’s league campaign. Is something going to give eventually? Let’s hope not, because he’s on his way to greatest-of-all-time status, but some may need another All-Ireland or two before they adorn him of that mantle.
Cavan & Roscommon
The proverbial yo-yo teams of Division 1 have suffered yet another relegation to Division 2. Roscommon looked the more likely to make a fist of life in the top flight, and acquitted themselves extremely well, including in this year’s campaign. Relegation is damaging for every county however, and with the likes of Kildare, Armagh and Fermanagh all hungry for their stint in Division 1, 2020 is going to be a difficult year for both of these counties.
Injuries, ageing and immigration has taken its toll on Tipperary’s football charges, who sink back into Division 3 after an enjoyable foray into Division 2. It will be a tough regroup to climb back up from a very competitive division, and you’d wonder if they can build on their current panel and if Liam Kearns will fancy a fifth year in charge.
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