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10 happy managers after the group stages of the Allianz Football League

It’s been a good campaign for the leading four in the top flight and the promoted teams in the other Divisions

Croke Park beckons for ten top bosses
Croke Park beckons for ten top bosses
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

PROMOTION AND RELEGATION issues have been sorted out following the group phase of the Allianz Football League. But ten of the game’s top managers still have their sights set on silverware before the serious business of the summer.

Here, we focus on ten happy managers ahead of the concluding stages of the League season:

1. Brian Cuthbert (Cork)

Top of Division 1 after five wins from seven, Cork boss Brian Cuthbert will be more than pleased with his team’s campaign to date. A semi-final showdown with Donegal awaits the Rebels now, as they go in search of a first League title since 2012.

In a highly-competitive grouping, transitional Cork emerged as arguably the surprise packets with a string of consistent displays. Based on their form to date, the summer omens look good for the Leesiders and Colm O’Neill’s enduring fitness after that horrific run of cruciate knee ligament injuries is good news.

Brian Cuthbert Cork boss Brian Cuthbert guided his side to the top of Division 1 Source: Presseye/Russell Pritchard/INPHO

2. Jim Gavin (Dublin)

Dublin boss Gavin will have learned a lot from his team’s season to date, particularly in those dour battles with Ulster sides Tyrone and Derry. The Sky Blues still have work to do as they aim to come up with a summer plan to beat the blanket but against Derry, it shouldn’t be forgotten that they still managed to win the game.

The League champions opened up with a power-packed display against Monaghan on Sunday and will fancy their chances of a repeat performance against the Farney men in the semi-finals as they chase three-in-a-row.

Jim Gavin Jim Gavin is targeting a third successive League title with Dublin Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

3. Malachy O’Rourke (Monaghan)

It’s been an impressive campaign for Monaghan, who were promoted last year after lifting the Division 2 crown against Donegal at Croke Park. And while their group run ended with a heavy defeat to Dublin on Sunday, boss Malachy O’Rourke has the chance to exact swift revenge against the Metropolitans in the Division 1 semi-final.

Consolidation in the top flight would have been more than acceptable for Monaghan this year after making the jump from the second tier but a run of four wins from seven League outings saw them finish third in Division 1.

Malachy OÕRourke After winning Division 2 last year, Malachy O'Rourke has Monaghan in sight of Division 1 glory Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

4. Rory Gallagher (Donegal)

Following in the footsteps of Jim McGuinness was always going to be an onerous task for Rory Gallagher. But the former number two, who surprisingly departed the Donegal set-up in 2013, learned enough from McGuinness to implement a philosophy that isn’t too far removed from that of his predecessor.

A gritty draw against Mayo on Sunday was good enough for Donegal to squeeze into the last four and they’ll face Cork for the right to play Dublin or Monaghan. Having contested last year’s Division 2 final against Monaghan, reaching another national showpiece would represent a successful spring for last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists.

Rory Gallagher Source: Mike Shaughnessy/INPHO

5. Jim McCorry (Down)

Having finished fourth in Division 2 last year, boss Jim McCorry has taken the Mourne men back to the top flight in his first season in charge. The former Armagh player replaced James McCartan as manager last September and has guided his charges to five victories from seven games as they finished top of the table.

National silverware is within touching distance now too as Down prepare to do battle with Roscommon at Croke Park for the Division 2 title outright. This group was arguably the most competitive of all four Divisions and yet Down still managed to collect ten points from a possible 14 on offer.

Jim McCorry Jim McCorry has taken Down back into Division 1 Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

6. John Evans (Roscommon)

Promotion specialist John Evans is at it again. The Kerry native took Tipperary from Division 4 to 2 in as many seasons during his time in the Premier County and he’s worked the oracle again West of the Shannon. In his first season in charge, 2013, Roscommon finished third in Division 3.

And yet in two seasons since then, Evans has taken the Rossies to Division 1, a remarkable achievement but with a team very much on the rise. It was some weekend for Roscommon all told as their U21s also claimed the provincial title with a thrilling final victory over Galway.

John Evans John Evans has worked his promotion magic with Roscommon Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

7. Pete McGrath (Fermanagh)

Having finished third in Division 3 in 2014, Fermanagh went two steps better by topping the table this year to claim promotion and a place in Division 2 for next season. Fermanagh lost just one game from seven, against Clare in their final outing when promotion was already assured.

A draw with Armagh was the key result in the Division as it left chasers Tipperary in a position where either Armagh or Fermanagh had to lose twice down the home stretch to allow the Premier County back in. And with wily former Down All-Ireland winning boss McGrath in charge, that was never going to happen to Fermanagh.

Pete McGrath Pete McGrath's experience has been crucial in Fermanagh's rise to Division 2 Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

8. Kieran McGeeney (Armagh)

As a player, Kieran McGeeney prided himself on mixing it with the big boys in the colours of Armagh. And following last year’s relegation from Division 2, McGeeney was hellbent on getting the Orchard County back up at the first attempt. He’s managed that and now has the chance to target national silverware when Armagh face-off against Ulster rivals Fermanagh in the Division 3 decider.

Armagh will face the winners of Tyrone and Donegal in the provincial championship and will be glad of another competitive game before thoughts turn to the summer. They lost last Sunday against Sligo but that result won’t have bothered McGeeney unduly as the hard work was already done.

Kieran McGeeney Anything other than promotion would have been unacceptable for Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney Source: Presseye/Russell Pritchard/INPHO

9. Jack Sheedy (Longford)

Division 4 is desperately hard to gain promotion from so credit to Dubliner Jack Sheedy for working the oracle with Longford. The Midlanders were relegated along with Offaly from Division 3 last year but both teams have bounced back at the first attempt. It might not be ideal championship preparation for both teams, contesting a Division 4 decider before facing off again in Leinster, but Sheedy would have taken this if offered it in February.

Longford bagged promotion with a game to spare, having beaten Offaly in their penultimate game, and will now target a repeat performance against the Faithful County.

Jack Sheedy Jack Sheedy has ensured a quick return to Division 3 for Longford

10. Pat Flanagan (Offaly)

Former Westmeath and Sligo supremo Pat Flanagan took over Offaly when they were at a low ebb last year. But in his first season at the helm, he’s taken the Faithful County back to Division 3 after they dropped to the bottom tier last year. A comfortable victory over Antrim on Sunday was good enough for Flanagan’s men to bounce back immediately and they’ll look to consolidate next year and avoid another relegation to football’s wastelands.

From Clara in Offaly, and a former county footballer, Flanagan has an obvious love for his native county and his players have responded accordingly. The big target is a Leinster championship victory over Longford but Offaly would gladly take a Division 4 final victory over those same opponents.

Pat Flanagan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

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About the author:

Jackie Cahill

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