GAA: National Football League Preview – Dublin in unfamiliar territory

The GAA inter-county season will launch on Saturday, January 28 as the Allianz Football Leagues commence - and for Dublin it will be the beginning of a strange season.

The men from the capital were surprisingly relegated from Division 1 last season after losing five of their seven games.

It was a sign of things to come, with their All-Ireland hopes dashed by Kerry in a pulsating semi-final at Croke Park in July when Seán O'Shea delivered an ice-cool free-kick in the final moments of a gripping encounter between the age-old rivals.

After winning six in a row from 2015, many felt the golden generation of Dublin football would be around possibly for nine or 10 Sam Maguire trophies on the trot but, amazingly, they've fallen back into the pack after All-Ireland glory for Tyrone in 2021 and Kerry last summer.

With the likes of seven-time All-Ireland winner Jonny Cooper having recently announced his retirement from inter-county football at the age of 33, there is a real sense of a changing of the guard for the boys in blue now.

They'll want to make a statement this spring perhaps more than in recent times. Their NFL campaign begin at home against Kildare and they also have reigning Ulster Championship winners Derry as well as a resurgent Cork to compete with.

With some extra focus on them, Dublin should cruise their seven league games and they'll take some halting, while Rory Gallagher's determined Derry outfit may be the ones closest to them.

In Division 1, Kerry are favourites to claim more silverware on the back of their first All-Ireland title in eight years. The Kingdom topped this section a year ago with one defeat in seven games before obliterating Mayo with a 15-point win in the final.

Kerry will have designs for a period of their own domination now and it could be a distinct possibility. The Dubs have their issues, while perennial nearly-men Mayo have lost a warrior to retirement in Lee Keegan and Donegal, too, have bid farewell to talisman and captain Michael Murphy in the off-season.

That's two of the perceived top-tier teams severely weakened and forced to rebuild, ensuring it may fall to the likes of beaten All-Ireland finalists Galway and a developing Armagh side to try and thwart Kerry in the league.

Galway will be eager for Kingdom revenge

Galway marched through Division 2 last time, before losing to Roscommon in their round seven tie and then going down to the same opposition in the final. 

The Tribesmen kicked on over the summer, gaining revenge on The Rossies in the Connacht decider and impressing in their run to that All-Ireland final.

The emergence of All-Star midfielder Cillian McDaid was one of the highlights for boss Padraic Joyce and his power-packed game is going to be crucial this season. 

Now 25, McDaid has plenty of experience behind him already and he briefly threatened in the All-Ireland final to take down Kerry with a stirring second-half performance.

Silverware at national level will be important to this developing Galway outfit and they can already mark down March 26 in their diaries. That's the final round of league games and they'll welcome Kerry to Pearse Stadium.

The Westerners have a good set of fixtures in front of them and should go into that encounter with a chance of topping the Division 1 standings. 

A win over Kerry would be vital for their mindset this season and Joyce's side look useful enough to go and get it when the time comes. It may propel them into the Division 1 final as table-toppers.

At the other end, Donegal in the post-Murphy era could hit their share of speed bumps this season and the Tir Conaill men might well find that after several recent flirtations with relegation from the elite, this is the season the trap door catches them.

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