GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
As the 2022 National Football League kicks off this weekend, we take a look at the main talking points as the Gaelic football season kicks off. Dublin looks to bounce back from disappointing 2021, Tyrone tries to lay marker, and more
Last update: 29/01/22 11:00
The National Football League returns this weekend.
Weekend opening schedule
|Dublin v Armagh|
|Kildare v Kerry|
|Mayo v Donegal|
|Tyrone vs. Monaghan|
|Derry versus Down|
|Claire vs. Offaly|
|Galway v Meath|
|Roscommon v Cork|
|Limerick v Longford|
|Fermanagh v Antrim|
|Louth vs. Laois|
|Westmeath v Wicklow|
|Carlow v London|
|Leitrim vs. Cavan|
|Waterford v Tipperary|
|Wexford v Sligo|
Dublin looking to bounce back
Dessie Farrell’s officials are looking to put a disappointing 2021 Championship campaign behind them.
Last season was played out against the backdrop of Farrell’s suspension and a host of high-profile absences, including the lingering questions about Stephen Cluxton’s availability.
A new season brings with it the chance to start over.
The Sky Blues have been testing new talent throughout the O’Byrne Cup campaign, and they are hoping new players will step up after the retirements of Philly McMahon, Kevin McManamon, Cian O’Sullivan, Michael Darragh Macauley and Paddy Andrews in 2021. And you can add Cluxton to that list, apparently.
With fewer ties to their decade of dominance, Farrell will need new players to step up and support the backbone of the team, revolving around Brian Fenton, Ciarán Kilkenny and Con O’Callaghan.
They open their campaign against Armagh, ahead of a heavyweight clash with Kerry in Tralee.
The National League takes on more importance than usual for Dublin as they look to make a statement.
Will Tyrone put down a marker?
Kieran McGeary said last month that Tyrone wanted to prove 2021 was no fluke: “You’re trying to save what you’ve done.
“You don’t want anyone to think it’s just one shot, or that we got lucky, or that we missed playing the Dubs. You don’t want people to go out with something thing like that, to be honest. You want to be able to prove that you were honorable for the title we got.”
The Red Hands were a surprise package to win the Sam Maguire Cup last year. And despite this victory, they are the fourth favorites to win this year’s championship.
The charges of Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher will go up against the nation’s elite throughout the spring and look to back up their stunning 2021 triumph.
This team still has significant room for growth as they attempt to become the first Tyrone team to win back-to-back All-Ireland titles.
Kerry was stunned by Tyrone in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final
Jack is back in the Kingdom, but does success follow?
Few will bat an eye if Kerry sweeps away their Division 1 campaign. Given they shared the title with Dublin in 2021, they are now seeking a third successive league title.
But anything less than the Sam Maguire Cup this year would mean 2022 will be a failure in the Kingdom. And it doesn’t matter.
The real intrigue surrounding Kerry this spring is the return of Jack O’Connor, and whether he can mold that side into the finished article. Their firepower up front is no secret. David Clifford, Seán O’Shea and Co will continue to devastate defenses but O’Connor knows they need a stronger backbone built from the back.
The return of Stefan Okunbor is a significant boost in that regard, and the club man Na Gaeil could be one of the National League stories if he manages to return to the round ball after his switch to Australian rules.
Can Kildare survive in Division 1?
Whether O’Connor’s departure after two years in charge has shaken up the Lilywhites remains to be seen.
Under the Kerry-man, Kildare enjoyed a season of progress in 2021, winning promotion to Division One and reaching the Leinster final.
But can they start?
Glenn Ryan brings with him a star-studded behind-the-scenes team. And they apparently have the raw materials at their disposal. Players from the 2018 All-Ireland U20 Championship winning team are starting to integrate, and the league will provide them with significant playing time against top-flight opponents.
Survival in Division 1 will be the goal, as they seek to avoid the fate of their last visit to the top tier – a seven-game losing streak four years ago.
Galway eyes early return to Division 1
Last year’s shock relegation was not part of Pádraic Joyce’s script, and the tribesmen find themselves playing second-tier football in this year’s National League.
They will look to emulate Mayo’s effective rebound last year as neighbors Connacht fought their way to the top flight.
This is a team with big summer ambitions. Armed with a lethal attack spearheaded by Shane Walsh and Damien Comer, Galway will be looking for the All-Ireland U20 winners of 13 months ago to take a step up in the coming weeks.
Galway’s is a results driven campaign. Away from the high profile spotlight, they face Meath in their opener, and Joyce is keen to get his charges to hit the ground.
Getting a promotion is paramount.