Division 2 is a mini Leinster league with 5 teams from the eastern province. They are Westmeath, Longford, Laois, Louth and Wexford. The other 3 teams are Galway, Derry and Armagh.
Laois and Armagh join the division after being relegated from Division 1 last year. Longford and Wexford join after earning promotion from Division 3.
Galway came close to pipping Kildare to promotion, only for a late goal from a penalty in the final game when the two sides met in the last game of the league giving Kildare the point they needed for promotion.
Division 2 opens on Saturday February 2nd when Armagh travel to Portlaoise to take on Laois. There are 3 games on Sunday, Galway host Derry, Westmeath host Louth and Wexford host Longford.
Laois showed plenty of promise in their All Ireland quarter final defeat to Dublin. They are a dark horse for the Leinster title and I expect them to have a good league and take that momentum into the championship.
Galway are a team and county filled with talent but seem to not have adapted to modern football. Their defeat to Antrim was a low point for a proud county. Padraic Joyce is now gone and it is up to Galway’s senior players to make it their team. Galway have won three Under 21 All Ireland’s since the start of the century but have not turned that into success at senior level. They have not won a Connacht title since 2008 and have failed to appear in the last 3 finals. They host Mayo in the Connacht quarter final on May 19 and will be hoping that a good league run will give them momentum heading into that clash.
Armagh fell out of Division 1 last year and made little impact in the championship, exiting at the hands of Roscommon in the Round 1 of the qualifiers. They have fallen a long way from the heights they reached in the early years of the last decade and are unlikely to make too much of an impact on this division, the unavailability of the Crossmaglen players does not help, with a mid table finish the likely outcome.
Derry are another side in this division who are a long way from where they used to be. Derry were well beaten by Donegal in the Ulster championship before exiting the championship against Longford in Round 1 of the qualifiers. They have relied heavily on Paddy Bradley and it is no coincidence that his cruciate ligament injuries have happened at the same time as Derry’s poor performances in recent seasons. Derry will be looking over their shoulder for most of the league but should do enough to survive.
The rest of the division is made up of Leinster teams. Louth have steadily improved in recent years but will they ever come as close to a Leinster title as they did in 2010 when it was cruelly denied, stolen is the common school of thought, to them by Meath. They maintained their place in Division 2 last year and maintaining it for another year will be their aim again.
Wexford have lost manager Jason Ryan to Kildare’s management team. They have put up some notable challenges to Dublin in championship action in recent seasons but have failed to turn these efforts into results against lesser teams. Wexford earned promotion from Division 3 so 2012 was a year of progression for them that they will hope to build on. Division 2 will be a good test for them to measure where they are at but the may find that they come up just short.
Westmeath almost knocked Kerry out of last years championship in Round 2 of the qualifiers but fell agonizingly close as Kerry managed to fight back for the win. They too will be looking over their shoulder in the league and will be happy to maintain status for another season.
Longford earned promotion from Division 3 last season and have been making steady progress in recent season. Division 2 will be a big test for them but one they will be looking forward to. They will be hoping that playing at a higher level will bring them forward and have them in good shape for championship football. Like a number of teams in the division they will be looking over their shoulder as the end of the league nears and would be satisfied by maintaining their status.
Promotion: Laois and Galway
Relegated: Wexford and Louth