Allianz Football League Division 4: The only way is up for eight basement dwellers 3 years ago

Allianz Football League Division 4: The only way is up for eight basement dwellers

The only way is up, baby.

It may be the least sexy of the Allianz Football League divisions, but things could be about to get a whole lot more interesting for all sides in Division 4 over the coming months.

The lowest level of league football in the GAA is often savagely competitive, perhaps even more so than some of the perceived 'elite' tiers above it.

With no relegation to worry about, every side goes out knowing that a crucial two points can give them a massive advantage over their promotion-chasing rivals.

Of course things have taken an unexpected and dramatic turn with notions, and motions, from the GAA central council, which could see Division 4 sides axed from the All-Ireland championships and banished to play in the Tommy Murphy Cup, Mark II.

The Banquo's ghost of that proposed competition should be enough to drive any team on in their January training sessions.

McKenna Cup Round 2, The Dub, Belfast 6/1/2016 Antrim vs Queens QUB's Che Cullen with Antrim's Sean Burke Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Presseye/Matt Mackey

Antrim

Manager: Frank Fitzsimmons and Gearoid Adams.

Captain: TBC

Who's new: Kevin Niblock, Brian Neeson, Michael and Thomas McCann, Kevin O'Boyle, Sean Burke

Who's gone: Tony Scullion.

Fixtures: Carlow (a), Wexford (h), Leitrim (h), London (a), Carlow (h), Wicklow (a), Louth (h).

Prospects: Four home games in the less impressive, but still fortress-like Corrigan Park, means Antrim have a decent chance of promotion. Early momentum could be vital.

Odds on promotion: 5/6.

Preferred Championship structure: Their prospects are no worse than most in the Ulster SFC bloodbath, so they would like to see provincial football championships retained, but with seeding system linked to the Ulster hurling championship, naturally.

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Round 1A, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, Longford 20/6/2015 Longford vs Carlow The Carlow team stand for The National Anthem Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Carlow

Manager: Turlough O'Brien.

Captain: Darragh Foley.

Who's new: Henry Hegarty, Paul O'Halloran, Brian Cawley, Gary Dunne, Mark Pennick.

Who's gone: No retirements from 2015.

Fixtures: Antrim (h), London (a), Waterford (h), Wicklow (a), Louth (h), Leitrim (a), Wexford (a).

Prospects: With Wicklow and Wexford both away from home it looks like a very tough league campaign for the Barrowsiders. An opening day win could be vital if they are to make any impression.

Odds on promotion: 8/1.

Preferred Championship structure: Given they have not won a Leinster Championship match in five years, the abolition of Provincial systems would be welcomed. All-Ireland Championship also to be suspended until cloning of Brendan Murphy is perfected.

Emlyn Mulligan 18/5/2014

Leitrim

Manager: Shane Ward.

Captain: Gary Reynolds.

Who's new: Neville O'Donnell, Emlyn Mulligan, Paddy Maguire, Adrian Crowe.

Who's gone: Cathal McCrane and Danny Beck.

Fixtures: Wexford (a), Wicklow (h), Antrim (a), Louth (h), London (a), Carlow (h), Waterford (a)

Prospects: The return of Mulligan will add hugely to their firepower but in a savagely competitive division they may lack the hard edge to earn points on the road.

Odds on promotion: 5/2.

Preferred Championship structure: Failure to see July in the All-Ireland series over the last number of years at least means club championships are run off quickly. Any chance of kidnapping a few hens and stags from Kerry and Dublin, breeding them, and making an All-Ireland charge in 2036?

A London fan before the game 21/7/2013

London

Manager:  Ciarán Deely.

Captain: David McGreevey.

Who's new: Senan O Grady (Roscommon) PP O'Hara (Cavan) Colin Dunne (Galway) Adrian Hanlon- (Donegal).

Who's gone: Brian Collins, Declan Traynor, Donnacha McCarthy, Stephen Curran, Martin McCoy, Niall Boyle, Cathal McGee.

Fixtures: Louth (a), Carlow (h), Wexford (a), Antrim (h), Leitrim (h), Waterford (a), Wicklow (h)

Prospects: The annual turnover of players means management face a nigh-on impossible task to get promotion. Always tough on their home patch, expect them to pick up four points at best.

Odds on promotion: 12/1

Preferred Championship structure: London GAA need just one thing to win an All-Ireland: have every single game played in Ruislip. The Irish Sea continues to be their kryptonite despite the odd shock result.

Colin Kelly addresses his Louth team ahead of his first game in charge.

Louth

Manager: Colin Kelly.

Captain: Adrian Reid.

Who's new: Darren McMahon, Conal McKeever, Cathal Bellew, Kurt Murphy.

Who's gone: Dessie Finnegan.

Fixtures: London (h), Waterford (a), Wicklow (h), Leitrim (a), Carlow (a), Wexford (h), Antrim (a).

Prospects: Demoted in 2015, the Wee County shipped 9-104 in their league campaign. Anything close to that again, and they can get used to life in the basement.

Odds on promotion: 5/4.

Preferred Championship structure: Much like Guy Fawkes day, there should be 'Joe Sheridan' festival held in Drogheda every summer until the county get back to a Leinster final to try and exorcise that ghost. A move out of Leinster may help them avoid the almost annual thrashing from Kildare. Connacht maybe? Think of that mileage?

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Round 1A, Fraher Field, Dungarvan, Waterford 20/6/2015 Waterford vs Offaly Waterford's Paul Whyte under pressure from Offaly's Graham Guilfoyle Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

Waterford

Manager: Tom McGlinchey.

Captain: Tommy Prendergast.

Who's new: Conor Prunty, Shaun Corcoran, Gavin Crotty, Donie Breathnach, Brian Looby.

Who's gone: Tommy Connors, Shane and Robert Ahearne, and David and Tony Grey, Shane Briggs.

Fixtures: Wicklow (a), Louth (h), Carlow (a), Wexford (h), Antrim (a), London (h), Leitrim (h).

Prospects: Losing the Stradbally players hampers any chance of promotion from the off. Lost a number of games in 2015 by a score but their promotion chances look slim.

Odds on promotion: 9/2.

Preferred Championship structure: Urinating in the wind in relation to the Munster seeded draw, Waterford's hopes of causing an upset are limited. Maybe it's time to introduce a dirty word called 'dual' down in the southeast and get some of those hurlers playing the big ball.

A general view ahead of the game 11/1/2015

Wexford

Manager: David Power

Captain: Brian Malone

Who's new: TBC

Who's gone: Graeme Molloy, James Breen.

Fixtures: Leitrim (h), Antrim (a), London (h), Waterford (a), Wicklow (h), Louth (a), Carlow (h).

Prospects: Demoted in 2015, the Yellowbellies will need to show some more backbone to get out of the mire this season.

Odds on promotion: 10/11.

Preferred Championship structure: Will always fancy their chances in Leinster, but where is the value in a 15-point beating in Croker? Less strawberries and more protein shakes may prolong their season in revamped series that would see them play everyone but Dublin.

Bord na Mona O'Byrne Cup Round 3, Gorey, Co. Wexford 11/1/2015 Wexford vs Wicklow Wicklow manager Johnny Magee talks to his players before the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Wicklow

Manager: Johnny Magee.

Captain: Rory Finn.

Who's new: Eoin Murtagh, Gary Allen, Patrick and Mikey O'Connor, Mark Lennon.   

Who's gone: James Stafford, Patrick 'Podge' McWalter, Alan Byrne, Paddy Dalton, Paul Cronin.

Fixtures: Waterford (h), Leitrim (a), Louth (a), Carlow (h), Wexford (a), Antrim (h), London (a).

Prospects: Johnny Magee is minus 13 players from last year's championship panel and with a huge amount of new faces, getting a new team together may prove tough. Still a hard team to beat but promotion may be beyond them.

Odds on promotion: 4/1.

Preferred Championship structure: "No one ever wins in Aughrim" they used to say. But sadly they do, and often these days. Previous winners of the Tommy Murphy Cup, the county would benefit from a new structure, or Champions League style, to get those 'welcome to hell's garden' posters out of the attic.

Opening round fixtures: Louth v London; Carlow v Antrim; Wexford v Leitrim; Wicklow v Waterford