Friday, January 27, 2023

IT looks a competitive division this year in the basement of the Allianz Football League. Plenty of teams will be eyeing one of the promotion spots and Carlow will need a good start if they are to be up there. GER MCNALLY has a look through who might be there or thereabouts.


MANAGER: Niall Carew (3rd year)

Carlow manager Niall Carew
Photo: ©INPHO/Evan Treacy


2022 – 7th in Division 4

2021 – Division 4 semi-final

2020 – 5th in Division 4

2019 – 7th in Division 3

2018 – 2nd in Division 4

2023 PROSPECTS: Now into his third year in charge of Carlow, Niall Carew will look to improve on the building blocks that were put in place in 2022. A Tailteann Cup win over Tipperary hinted at the progress that was made during last year by a very young squad and that has been added to by the introduction of some more physically mature players in Mark Furey, Ciaran Moran and Eric Molloy. The first three games, home derbies against Wicklow and Laois either side of a trip to Waterford, look key and if Carlow can get a good start then a promotion challenge is not out of the question.



MANAGER: Billy Sheehan (2nd year)


2022 – 7th in Division 3

2021 – Lost Division 2 relegation play-off

2020 – 5th in Division 2

2019 – 2nd in Division 3

2018 – 1st in Division 4

2023 PROSPECTS: One of the real yo-yo teams in the National League. Finished first in Division 4 in 2017, a year in which they beat Carlow in the League final. They then progressed up to Division 2, where they were ranked 13th in the country in terms of finishing league position as recently as 2019, but have dropped like a stone since and find themselves back in the basement division. Kerry native and former Laois player Billy Sheehan is going into the second year of his first intercounty job and experimented during the O’Byrne Cup, including using former Carlow man Lee Walker, and the expectation will be for them to be top of the division. However, whether they have the panel to back up those aspirations remains to be seen.



MANAGER: Andy Moran (2nd year)


2022 – 4th in Division 4

2021 – Bottom of Division 4 North

2020 – 7th in Division 3

2019 – 2nd in Division 4

2018 – 5th in Division 4

2023 PROSPECTS: Andy Moran has had year to get his feet under the table in Leitrim and get accustomed to life in Division 4 having spent his playing career at the very top level. Leitrim were no slouches during Moran’s first year in charge, after a solid showing in Division 4 they had a Connacht Championship win over London before bowing out to eventual All-Ireland runners-up Galway and it was a penalty shoot-out defeat to Sligo that ended their Championship hopes. After such a progressive year, anything close to backward step would be a real disappointment for Leitrim and Moran will be pushing his charges to compete for one of the promotion places.



MANAGER: Michael Maher (4th year)


2022 – 5th in Division 4

2021 – Did not compete due to Covid

2020 – 8th in Division 4 (Did not play the last two rounds due to Covid)

2019 – 8nd in Division 4

2018 – 4th in Division 4

2023 PROSPECTS: After a couple of seasons hit by Covid, London bounced back with a hugely encouraging league campaign last season. Carlow were one of the victims as London won their first three games but that early season optimism faded away as they lost their final four games, but apart from heavy defeat to Sligo they were competitive in all their games. They almost got revenge on Sligo when they took them all the way to extra time in the Tailteann Cup Markievicz Park before losing by just two points. They have continuity in their management team with Michael Maher heading into his fourth season in charge and, more importantly for a team who routinely have huge turnover in their playing squad, have the vast majority of last year’s panel available again. Michael Boyle, back up goalkeeper during Donegal’s 2012 All-Ireland win and a coach with Gaoth Dobhair when they won an Ulster senior club title in 2018, has been added to the management. Carlow’s trip across the Irish sea in March certainly won’t be easy.



MANAGER: Tony McEntee (3rd year)


2022 – 3rd in Division 4

2021 – Lost Division 4 Shield Final

2020 – 6th in Division 4

2019 – 8nd in Division 3

2018 – 5th in Division 3

2023 PROSPECTS: Sligo finished last season with a higher scoring difference than any team across the four divisions apart from Galway in Division 4. That was thanks mainly to a 23 point mauling of Carlow on a forgettable afternoon for Niall Carew’s team. However, they missed out on promotion after losing to the two teams who eventually finished above them, Cavan and Tipperary. That league form continued into the Championship and they were highly unfortunate to lose to Cavan in the Tailteann Cup semi-final. Attempts to add Dublin’s 2017 All-Ireland winner Cormac Howley, due the parentage rule, to their panel haven’t worked out due to work commitment but they do still have Pat Spillane and a number of very capable score getters to call upon. Anything close to last year’s form will see Tony McEntee’s team as one of the favourites to make the top two in the division.



MANAGER: Ephie Fitzgerald (2nd year)


2022 – 8th in Division 4

2021 – Division 4 semi-final

2020 – 7th in Division 4

2019 – 4th in Division 4

2018 – 7th in Division 4

2023 PROSPECTS: The highly decorated Ephie Fitzgerald takes charge of Waterford for a second season. A four time All-Ireland Senior Club winner with Nemo Rangers, he also guided his club to two Munster titles as a manager and then won a senior All-Ireland title with the Cork ladies team in 2016. He has his hands full trying to replicate that kind of success in Waterford. After an excellent draw against Tipperary in the opening round of last year’s league, The Deise went on to lose the next six games and then in the opening round of the Munster Championship and Tailteann Cup as well. Waterford will again be relying on a youthful squad and a difficult season may lay ahead once again.




MANAGER: John Hegarty (1st year)


2022 – 6th in Division 4

2021 – Won Division 4 Shield

2020 – 4th in Division 4

2019 – 5th in Division 4

2018 – 8th in Division 3

2023 PROSPECTS: Wexford have turned to former player John Hegarty to replace Shane Roche as manager in his first intercounty job. Hegarty pulled on his county’s jersey over 100 times in a playing career than spanned over a decade and since turning to management has proved to be no slouch when winning Wexford titles with his own club Kilanerin and Shelmaliers. As you would expect from a new manager, he used the O’Byrne Cup to blood a number of new faces and he was particularly vocal about the fact that Louth gave a walkover in the third game, thus denying him the chance of getting more game time into those players. There wasn’t anything in defeats to Kildare and Westmeath to suggest a huge upturn in fortunes from last year’s league. They only won two of their seven games in last year’s Division 4 and although they went on to beat Offaly in the Leinster Championship, the Faithful County reversed that result in the Tailteann Cup. Hegarty will have them well prepared, and Mark Rossiter looked very sharp when scoring nine points against Kildare in the first game of this year, but they are unlikely to feature in the promotion shake up.



MANAGER: Oisin McConville (1st year)


2022 – 8th in Division 3

2021 – Won Division 3 Relegation play-off

2020 – 2nd in Division 4

2019 – 6th in Division 4

2018 – 8th in Division 4

2023 PROSPECTS: There will be plenty of intrigue in Wicklow this year after they appointed Oisin McConville as manager. McConville was an outstanding player in his day and won All-Irelands with his club, Crossmaglen, and county, Armagh. However, like Andy Moran at Leitrim, he will have to get used to football at a totally different level as he prepares for his first intercounty job. As one of the sides relegated from Division 3 last year, they will be fancied to bounce back immediately and have some talented young players in Kevin Quinn and Eoin Darcy, as well as Eoin Murtagh who has been playing well for SETU Carlow in the Sigerson Cup. Had a bit of a mixed bag in the Championship last summer, a good win over Laois in the Leinster Championship but well beaten by Offaly in the Tailteann Cup, but anything short of being in the mix for promotion going into the final couple of rounds would be seen as a disappointment.

Comments are closed.

Contact Newsdesk: +353 59 9170100

More Carlow Sport

Smyth named in Irish U19 replacements

Similar Articles

Carlow U20s push Laois all the way