NFL Division Four: Longford look to bring O’Byrne Cup form into the league

Wexford and Tipperary among the teams eyeing promotion and escape football’s basement division

The Allianz Football Leagues throw-in this weekend and given the links to the championship there is a significant amount at stake for all 32 teams across the four divisions. The Irish Times will examine all divisions over the course of the week, starting today with Division Four.


Manager: Niall Carew (5th season)

Opening fixture: v Tipperary, Saturday, Semple Stadium, 6.0

How did 2023 go: Carlow picked up only two wins in Division Four last year – beating Waterford and London – and slipped out of the promotion race early in the campaign. They finished sixth in the table. They lost their Leinster SFC opener to Wicklow, but did pick up wins over Longford, Wicklow and New York in the Tailteann Cup before eventually losing to Antrim at the quarter-final stages.


So far in 2024: Lost their O’Byrne Cup opener to Kildare and followed that up with a defeat to Wicklow in the O’Byrne Shield.


Manager: Justin McNulty (1st season, 2nd term)

Opening fixture: v Longford, Saturday, O’Moore Park, 6.0

How did 2023 go: Laois were bitterly disappointed to miss out on promotion from Division Four, losing to Wicklow on the head-to-head tiebreaker. They did beat Wexford in the Leinster SFC but then suffered a heavy loss to Dublin. Laois advanced to the semi-finals of the Tailteann Cup but lost to Down and soon after Billy Sheehan stepped down as manager.

So far in 2024: Justin McNulty is still waiting for a first competitive win of his second term, following losses to Offaly and Wicklow in the O’Byrne Cup and O’Byrne Shield respectively.


Manager: Andy Moran (3rd season)

Opening fixture: v Waterford, Sunday, Fraher Field, 2.0

How did 2023 go: Leitrim came up short in their promotion push last season, finishing with four wins and three losses in Division Four. However, it was their subsequent Connacht SFC loss in New York which cut the deepest. They then lost all three Tailteann Cup group games and exited the competition early.

So far in 2024: They lost to Galway by four points in a semi-final of the FBD League. Moran has added former Cavan manager Mickey Graham to his management team for the season ahead.


Manager: Michael Maher (5th season)

Opening fixture: v Wexford, Sunday, Ruislip, 1.0

How did 2023 go: Only managed to pick up one point in last year’s league – a draw against Wexford – as the Exiles finished bottom of the Division Four table. They were beaten by Sligo in the Connacht SFC and did not advance to the knock-out stages of the Tailteann Cup, finishing bottom of their group below Cavan, Offaly and Laois.

So far in 2024: London’s 0-12 to 1-8 FBD League quarter-final victory over Mayo in the Dome was one of the more eye-catching results in January. And while it won’t count for much as the year progresses, it can be no harm for London’s early season confidence.


Manager: Paddy Christie (2nd season)

Opening fixture: v Laois on Saturday, O’Moore Park, 6.0

How did 2023 go: Longford endured a very disappointing league campaign last year, picking up just one win in Division Three and were relegated to Division Four for 2024. Offaly beat Paddy Christie’s side in the Leinster SFC, while Down ended their interests in the Tailteann Cup at the preliminary quarter-final stages.

So far in 2024: Longford once again proved to be January specialists, taking the scalps of Westmeath, Meath and Dublin on their way to retaining the O’Byrne Cup, the third time since 2020 they have won the competition.


Manager: Paul Kelly (1st season)

Opening fixture: v Carlow, Saturday, Semple Stadium, 6.0

How did 2023 go: Not well. Tipperary were relegated from Division Three after failing to pick up a single victory, their only point attained was from a draw with Longford. The 2020 Munster champions did beat Waterford in the provincial championship but subsequently lost to Kerry in a semi-final. Tipp failed to make it out of the group stages in the Tailteann Cup, finishing third behind Meath and Down.

So far in 2024: Tipp lost to Kerry but beat Limerick in the McGrath Cup, but it wasn’t enough for them to make the knock-out stages. Paul Kelly has taken over as manager from David Power.


Manager: Paul Shankey (1st season)

Opening fixture: v Leitrim, Sunday, Fraher Field, 2.0

How did 2023 go: Waterford’s only league win last year came against London, which also marked the county’s first competitive victory in 665 days. It would also be their only win of the season – they lost to Tipp in Munster and then suffered three losses in the Tailteann Cup, to Down, Meath and Tipperary.

So far in 2024: Former Meath player Paul Shankey has succeeded Ephie Fitzgerald as manager. Waterford lost their two McGrath Cup games this month – against Clare and Cork.


Manager: John Hegarty (2nd season)

Opening fixture: v London, Sunday, Ruislip, 1.0

How did 2023 go: The Model County finished joint fourth alongside Leitrim in the league’s bottom division last season, winning three games, drawing twice and suffering two losses. They fell to Laois in a Leinster opener while Wexford’s Tailteann Cup run ended at the hands of Meath in a quarter-final.

So far in 2024: They chalked up notable wins over Wicklow and Kildare in the O’Byrne Cup before losing to Dublin in a semi-final.

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Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times