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Note - this relates to Gaelic Football
The much maligned, and oft changed League campaign kicks off under lights this Saturday with, straight from the marketer’s “how to kick-start a competition 101 handbook’, last year’s League champions, Donegal taking on the All Ireland Champions Kerry
Of course every preview has to be presaged with the asterix about who exactly is taking the League seriously. Previous years saw perennial Championship contenders Kerry (’06 and ’04) and Armagh (‘05) win the League and give it a much needed shot of credulity. This was followed last year with the big launch, under the brand spanking new Croke Park floodlights, which saw Dublin blow a big lead, (again!!), to Tyrone. Unfortunately the competition then inexorably slowed to a limp and all four semi-finalists (Donegal, Galway, Kildare and Mayo) bowed out with a whimper in the white hot heat of the Championship. So the age old question remains – take the League seriously and build up momentum for the Summer or take the foot off the gas, just do enough to survive, knowing that people only remember the Championship results?
This is the second biggest competition on the calendar yet it suffers from chronic apathy and under exposure (the Sunday papers yesterday were full of the Cork “strikers” and the vote on player burnout); but don’t let that fool you. This time of year gives the hardcore fan the greatest hope as they take down the battered jersey and tattered windmac – if last year was a blowout (Kildare, Mayo, Galway) it can be chalked off to a bad year and everything to come is full of hope and eager expectation; if last year was a success (Sligo, Meath, Monaghan) then the bandwagon will be ready to roll with the glimpse of a few victories.
This year’s format has reverted to four Divisions, based on last years results. This should lead to a more competitive edge to both ends of the tables in the majority of Divisions. Semi-finals have also been shorn so anyone with pretences to winning the league will have to hit the ground running.
Kerry are favourites (again!!) and even without the mercurial Gooch Cooper they should be there or thereabouts – if they want to be. Kildare, Derry, Galway and Laois all partook in Division 1B last year, which was deemed to be ‘Division 1 Lite’, and it will be interesting to see how they fare against the big boys of Kerry, Donegal, Mayo & Tyrone. Further interest is provided by Armagh legend Geezer McGeeney dipping his toes in the managerial pond with Kildare and Liam Sammon taking over Galway whilst the soap opera that is Mayo’s psyche will be brought to the Nation again headed by John O’Mahony in his second season