A new year and another fresh start for all. I'm sure Division 2 will be very interesting this year, with a number of teams sure to be vying for promotion. The full list for 2024 is, Armagh, Cavan, Cork, Donegal, Fermanagh, Kildare, Louth and Meath. (No county with a name beginning with a letter from N - Z, which reminds me of a great scene from Mike Bassett, Football Manager.)
I don't have an awful lot of insight into any of the teams, beyond my own (Armagh), and my sense is that 2023 form might be largely irrelevant here. At a guess, I'd say that the promotion places will be taken by two from ourselves, Donegal, Cork, and Kildare and if I was pushed, I'd go for Cork and Donegal.
For Armagh, although we were relegated from Division 1 thanks to the generosity of Mayo fielding a weakened team at home to Monaghan on the last day, we could have few complaints as our own form meant that we were far from undeserving of the drop.
In the Championship, we were stopped from an All Ireland semi-final appearance by an act of harikari in terms of tactics, so last year ended with many what ifs, and to the neutral, we might be considered favourites for promotion.
The flip side of that is the spine of our team, including many, 'on the pitch leaders', are at the veteran stage, and have few miles left on the clock. The need for fresh blood to be introduced is obvious.
I think Donegal will be reinvigorated by the comeback of Jim McGuinness and I'd expect him to get them motoring again very quickly and get promotion. Louth on the other hand have suffered a major blow with the loss of Mickey Harte, and it will be very interesting to see what impact that has on their fortunes. Again, going out on a limb, I'd expect Louth and Fermanagh to be in the relegation mix.
We have four home games, which is a help, but our three away games include Kildare and Cork, which will be difficult. We are at home to Louth tonight and then Meath next week. If we have any ambitions for promotion, we need four points from those two games. Underlying all of this of course is the possibility of playing Tailteann Cup Football in the Summer, if we have a poor league campaign, which would be seen by many in the county as a major blow for Armagh.
Our team this evening shows a mixture of youth and experience. Peter McGrane (Ballyhegan), Ciaran Higgins (Maghery) and Oisin Conaty (Tir na nOg) all make starts following decent McKenna Cup campaigns, which is definitely a nod to the future. Blaine Hughes also returns in goals after a couple of years away.
A long way from our strongest 15, but hopefully with the backing of a home crowd, enough to get the two points.