Team by team: How the National League's Division 2 sides are shaping up

Newstalk Sport looks at the eight contenders in the second tier

Team by team: How the National League's Division 2 sides are shaping up

Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

While the debate over the GAA fixture calendar rages, 2016 is set in stone and its already time for the National League to throw-in again.

All four Divisions are set to get started and Division 2 sees five Ulster teams, including Tyrone and Derry competing for the crown.

But how are the rest of the Allianz National League Division 2 teams shaping up for the 2016 campaign?

Let's have a team-by-team look at form and changes.


Charlie Vernon battles with Niall McDermott in the McKenna Cup. Image: ©INPHO/Presseye/Matt Mackey

Last year... An impressive run in Division 3, accruing only one defeat, culminated in a league final victory over high flying Fermanagh.

Tough opening draw in the Ulster Championship saw them soundly beaten by Donegal and were then dumped out the backdoor by Galway in the All-Ireland series.  

Pre-season form... Defeats to Cavan and Ulster University in the McKenna Cup were disappointing but a lot to be taken from their one-point victory over Monaghan at Clones.

Changes made... Jamie Clarke is unable to commit to the county team for 2016, he's said that he'll be travelling. The talented forward remains available to his club Crossmaglen, whose players are all currently unavailable to the county panel as they prepare for an All-Ireland senior club semi-final in the coming weeks. 

Ruairí Grugan, Shea Heffron and Ruairí McCaughley are among seven recruits to the panel.


Killian Clarke celebrates after his goal against Derry. Image: ©INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Paton

Last year... Three victories and three defeats reflected an inconsistent year for Cavan, but results against Galway and a draw with league finalists Roscommon showed signs of promise.

Kncoked out by eventual Ulster Champions Monaghan in the quarter-final of the competition was followed by a heavy defeat to Roscommon in the qualifiers.

Pre-season form... Two wins, a draw with Ulster champions Monaghan were the bulk of a positive McKenna Cup, lost out on a place in the final after a seven-point defeat to Derry.

Changes made... Eugene Keating and Seanie Johnston return for the Breaffy County, while David Givney and Enda Henry also come in.


Derry manager Damien Barton speaks to his players. Image: ©INPHO/Presseye/Lorcan Doherty

Last year... Picked up just three points in Division 1 last year, but will expect to get straight back up this year, considering they are one of the strongest Ulster sides in the division. 

Possibly unfortunate to have been beaten by Donegal in the Ulster Championship semi-final, but there was no complaints after Galway cruised to a six-point victory in Round 3 of the qualifiers.

Pre-season form... McKenna Cup finalists, they took the Red Hand to extra time before losing out to Mickey Harte's side.

Changes made... A raft of changes made as Damian Barton welcomes Conor Kearns, Shane Heavron, Ryan Bell and Gareth McKinless among 11 new recruits.

Fergal Doherty, Eoin Bradley and Kevin Johnston all leave the panel.


Sean Quigley was one of Pete McGrath's go-to players last summer. Image: ©INPHO/Presseye/Trevor Lucy

Last year... The success story of 2015. Stunned the country with their run to the All-Ireland quarter-finals last summer and Pete McGrath will be hoping to channel that good feeling and drive the team to a second consecutive league final.

Pre-season form... Made it as far as the semi-final in the McKenna Cup, lost out to eventual winners Tyrone.

Changes made...  Cian McManus, Paddy McGovern and Conor McAuley just a third of the new recruits to the panel, while Lee Cullen departs. 


Joint Galway captains Gary O’Donnell and Adrian Varley savour FBD League success ver Roscommon. Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Last year... A great performance against Mayo in the Connacht championship was followed by two victories in the qualifiers, they came undone against Donegal in Round 4.

Inconsistency in the league cost them last year, unlikely to make the same mistakes this year. 

Pre-season form... Beat defending champions Roscommon to claim the FBD League and announce themselves as real contenders for the Division 2 title.

Changes made...   Micheál Lundy, Johnny Duane and Peadar O Gríofa all depart, while  Derek Coyne and Eoin Kerin are among nine players called up to the panel.


A New Hope: Mick Lillis will look to lead Laois to the promised land of Division 1. Image: ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan  

Last year... Were lucky to avoid the drop in the end last year, racking up four defeats and a draw from their seven games.

Dumped out of the Leinster Championship by Kildare was followed by defeat to Antrim in Round 1.

Pre-season form... Disappointing run in the O'Byrne Cup, all eyes will now be on the league campaign.

Changes made... Peter O'Leary, Padraig McMahon, Billy Sheehan, Conor Meredith and James Finn are the new recruits. Mick Lillis will be sweating over the fitness of Ross Munnelly, Niall Donoher and Gary Walsh, while Colm Begley is yet to return to the panel.


Meath's Donal Keogan lifts the O'Byrne Cup. Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Last year... Meath will be best off forgetting their defeat to neighbours Westmeath in the Leinster Championship semi-final.

After throwing away a first half lead, they headed into the qualifiers, only to be beaten by a resurgent Tyrone outfit.

Pre-season form... An unlikely O'Byrne Cup final saw them face Longford instead of Dublin, whom they beat to secure the Royals' first piece of silverware in six years.

Changes made...  Darragh Smyth, Cathal Finn, James O'Reilly, Cillian O'Sullivan, Alan Douglas and Ruairí Ó Coileain are the new faces this year, while Kevin Reilly, Stephen Bray and Mark O'Sullivan are among the departures.


Mattie Donnelly lifts the McKenna Cup. Image: ©INPHO/Presseye/Andrew Paton

Last year... A good run in the All-Ireland series saw them reach them reach the semi-final through the backdoor, after a rather ugly preliminary round Ulster Championship defeat to Donegal at Ballybofey.

That eased the shock of a poor league campaign which featured three defeats and only one victory against Mayo which saw them relegated to Division 2.

Pre-season form... Winners of the McKenna Cup and already the bookies odds on favourites to win be promoted.

Changes made... Patrick Quinn, Danny McBride and Peter Hughes make way for Padraig Hampsey, Hugh Pat McGeary, Kieran McGeary, Jonathan Monroe, David Mulgrew and Niall Sludden as Mickey Harte looks to bounce straight back up to Division 1.