NFL Division Three: Four Ulster teams feature in competitive league

Westmeath already guaranteed of All-Ireland football later in the year after Tailteann Cup victory

Bord na Mona O'Byrne Cup Final, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, Longford 21/1/2023 Longford vs Louth Longford's Dessie Reynolds scores a goal Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan


Manager: Dessie Dolan (1st year)

2022 record: Finished 3rd in Division 3; Beaten by Kildare in Leinster semi-final; Won the Tailteann Cup

Opening fixture: Home to Cavan

Dessie Dolan replaces Jack Cooney, who left after a successful spell to take up a role in Croke Park. Ger Egan has retired but all the other experienced heads are going again. An interesting new face is Stephen Smith, brother of Jack and former Dublin panellist.



Manager: Paddy Christie (1st year)

2022 record: Finished 6th in Division 3; Beaten by Westmeath in Leinster quarter-final; Beaten by Fermanagh in Tailteann Cup R1

Opening fixture: Away to Fermanagh

Winning the O’Byrne Cup is no bad way to start the year, clearly. Especially since Paddy Christie was able to go without the likes of James Moran, PJ Masterson and Keelin McGann, who have been on Sigerson duty. Four home games means they shouldn’t be underestimated.

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Manager: Andy McEntee (1st year)

2022 record: 4th in Division; Beaten by Cavan in Ulster QF; Beaten by Leitrim in Tailteann Cup R1

Opening fixture: Home to Offaly

After back-to-back decent league seasons, it’s possible that mid-table of Division Three is their ceiling. Andy McEntee has brought Patrick Finnegan back into the panel and he has played a raft of new players in pre-season, including the likes of Ryan O’Neill and Colm McClarnon.


Manager: Kieran Donnelly (2nd year)

2022 record: 5th in Division Three; Beaten by Tyrone in Ulster preliminary round; Beaten by Cavan in Tailteann Cup SF

Opening fixture: Home to Longford

Pre-season games against Derry and Tyrone finished with two defeats but that was always going to happen. Having Che Cullen back after a couple of seasons away is massive, although with Sean Quigley working his way through some injury trouble, they may struggle for scores early on.


Manager: Conor Laverty (1st season)

2022 record: Relegated from Division Two; Beaten by Donegal in Ulster QF; Beaten by Cavan in Tailteann Cup

Opening fixture: Away to Tipperary

Plenty of optimism around the place after a strong pre-season showing under new management. It will be a young squad, with a good sprinkling of the successful under-20 teams. Caolán Mooney will miss the year with a cruciate injury and Kevin McKernan and Darren O’Hagan have both hung up their boots.

Down's Kevin McKernan with Dónal Kingston of Laois. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho


Manager: David Power

2022 record: Division 4 Runners-up; Beaten by Limerick in Munster SF; Beaten by Carlow in Tailteann Cup R1

Opening fixture: Home to Down

Robbie Kiely retired just this week, Michael Quinlivan isn’t on the panel due to work commitments and Colin O’Riordan has gone back to Australia. Paudie Feehan and Steven O’Brien both got injured in the McGrath Cup so it could be a slow enough start for David Power’s side.


Manager: Mickey Graham (5th season)

2022 record: Division Four Champions; Beaten by Donegal in Ulster SF; Beaten by Westmeath in Tailteann Cup final

Opening fixture: Away to Westmeath

Mickey Graham has one of the most experienced squads in the country at his disposal. Dara McVeety is a classy addition after a couple of years on his travels and Brandon Boylan look impressive. Could do with injuries to the likes Gearoid McKiernan, James Smith and Paddy Lynch clearing up sooner rather than later.


Manager: Liam Kearns (1st season)

2022 record: Relegated from Division Two; Beaten by Wexford in Leinster R1; Beaten by Westmeath in Tailteann Cup semi-final

Opening fixture: Away to Antrim

The O’Byrne Cup got messy but Liam Kearns earned goodwill in taking a stand for his players so it might work out in the long run. Cormac Egan’s bad luck with injuries continues and Niall McNamee will most likely retire. But Cian Farrell’s return adds a cutting edge and the under-20 heroes from a few years back are filtering through now.

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times