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Dubs chase three-peat, new blood in Kerry: 5 things to look out for in the 2017 football year

Plus, what effect will the ‘mark’ have on the sport?
Jan 1st 2017, 7:00 AM 3,429 2

1. Dubs chase a three-peat

Diarmuid Connolly celebrates with the Sam Maguire Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WERE YOU SICK of all the two-in-a-row talk surrounding Dublin last year? Well, it won’t be long before the three-peat hype train takes off. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Kerry in 1986 were the last team to put three straight titles back-to-back, while the Dubs haven’t done it since 1924 (which was actually the 1923 final).

With a group of players edging slowly towards their 30s, these Dublin players want to leave their mark on history. “We just want to make hay while the sun shines,” was how Diarmuid Connolly described the group’s ambition in early December.

Connolly, Stephen Cluxton, Bernard Brogan, Paul Flynn, Cian O’Sullivan, Paddy Andrews, Michael Darragh MacAuley, Philly McMahon and Eoghan O’Gara all know that the end is looming to varying degrees.

They’ll probably never get another chance to win three-in-a-row.

2. New blood in Kerry

Eamonn Fitzmaurice Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Eamonn Fitzmaurice is back in the saddle for another two years with legendary figure Maurice Fitzgerald joining his backroom set-up. The brief is straightforward on paper: find a way past the Dubs.

Unfortunately, Dublin have owned their Munster rivals since Fitzmaurice and Jim Gavin took their respective hot seats in 2013. It’s hard to feel too sorry for the Kingdom, even if they did lose Mark O’Connor to Geelong in the AFL.

They’ve got three All-Ireland winning minor teams emerging in the horizon, and it’s a no-brainer for Fitzmaurice to start blooding some youngsters in the National League as he opens his season without his Dr Crokes contingent.

3. The 2016 bolters 

Sean Armstrong Sean Armstrong will be back in maroon next year. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Galway, Tipperary and Clare all enjoyed very positive campaigns in 2016. The difficult thing now is to back those up next year. Galway might be the side best placed to do so.

It could be a tricky year for the Banner as they compete in Division 2 with Gary Brennan’s priority likely to lie with Ballyea in the All-Ireland club hurling championship. They’ve also lost Mick Bohan from the backroom team and Podge Collins to the hurling squad.

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With the expected return of Michael Lundy, Johnny Duane and Sean Armstrong to the senior set-up gives Tribe boss Kevin Walsh a stronger hand to play with.

The loss of the Dubai-based Peter Acheson is a blow to Liam Kearns and Tipperary, but they’ve lost players before and come out the stronger. Robbie Kiely, Bill Maher, Jimmy Feehan, Josh Keane and Michael Quinlivan are all exciting stars still in their early 20s who’ll feel they’ve another level to reach in 2017.

4. The ‘mark’

Bernard Brogan catches a ball over the head of Meath's Mickey Burke Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Another year, another rule change for Gaelic football. This time it’s the ‘mark’ that will officially become part of the game from January 1.

If a player catches a kickout cleanly on or outside the 45, they can play on or immediately call a mark to take a free-kick.

The aim of the initiative is to reward the art of high fielding, although it may result in teams trying to prevent the opposition from catching the ball clean.

What exactly this new ruling will add to the game remains to be seen. It’s possible in 12 months’ time we’ll have forgotten all about it.

5. Cavanagh’s last stand?

Sean Cavanagh takes to the field Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Sean Cavanagh recently confirmed his intention to throw his lot into Tyrone for one final year, tweeting: “One For The Road.”

The three-time All-Ireland winner and former Footballer of the Year has been a fine servant to the Red Hand over his illustrious career, and his trademark sidestep will be sorely missed if he hangs up his boots at the end of next season.

Providing they don’t retire in the short-term, 2017 could also be the year we bid farewell to household names Colm Cooper, Andy Moran, Stephen Cluxton, Denis Bastick, Kieran Donaghy, Alan Dillon and Aidan O’Mahony.

Enjoy them while you can.

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Kevin O'Brien

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