Division 1 of the National Football League kicks off on Saturday night with Dublin hosting Kerry and Tyrone travelling to Derry. Kildare host Mayo and Cork and Westmeath clash in Pairc Ui Rinn to round out the action on Sunday.
Dublin won Division 1 last year on their way to clinching Leinster and All Ireland honours. Six of the last eleven league winners have gone on to win the All Ireland so the importance of a good league campaign cannot be understated.
Dublin have a big panel to choose from which is very beneficial in the league as every game provides competition for places. Tyrone reached the final last season and have been undergoing some transition years. This will be a big year for Tyrone to build on all they achieved last year. Mickey Harte will know that winning a national title would be a huge boost to his side’s development and they will be close to doing so.
Mayo got to the semi finals last year and used the league to build a squad which came up just short of All Ireland honours. Mayo will again look to bring in new players to freshen up their side and provide more competition. Like Tyrone, Mayo would benefit immensely by winning a national title and will be in the reckoning after 7 games. Kildare also reached the semi finals last year, mainly off the back of a fast start to the league as they faded as the league progressed. That continued into the championship as Kildare disappointed again. They are under new management in Jason Ryan who was involved last year so the players are familiar to him.
Cork and Kerry missed out on last years semi finals but maintained their Division 1 status. Both exited the championship to Dublin in the Summer. Kerry used the league to introduce new players to their panel but relied on the old players to dig them out of the relegation hole. Cork have had a lot of retirement his Winter and will use this year’s league to introduce players to the senior set up.
Promoted sides Derry and Westmeath will hope to maintain status. An excellent league start last year backboned their promotion but their form dipped considerably thereafter. Westmeath are likely to struggle in the division. Derry will battle in the division but will be looking over their shoulder as the weeks go on.
Semi Finalists: Mayo, Dublin, Tyrone, Cork
Relegated: Westmeath & Kildare