Ben Brady/INPHO Monaghan will compete in Division 1 for a 10th consecutive season in 2024.
Cluxton's shock return, Monaghan's remarkable run: Allianz Football League talking points
The action came to a close on the final weekend.

1. Stephen Cluxton’s shock return

Who could have predicted this? On a Sunday in March, with Louth awaiting them on the other side of the line for a crunch Division 2 game of the Allianz Football League in Croke Park, Dublin stunned us all with an incredible announcement. 

The great Stephen Cluxton — who everyone generally accepted had retired — was back in the squad. There wasn’t a sniff about such news leading up to this game. The hunt for promotion to the top tier dominating the chat around this tie, until Cluxton’s familiar face appeared. Dessie Farrell’s charges drained the information to us slowly. Having been omitted from the match-day programme, he jogged out onto the pitch donning the number 28. And then he was promoted to the 16 shirt.

He didn’t feature but his presence was enough to capture everyone’s attention, and perhaps distract from Dublin’s win which sees them make a return to Division 1 in 2024. They will also contest the Allianz Football League final against Derry next weekend. Could Cluxton be in line for another promotion?

2. A fully fortified Galway march into Allianz Football League Final

In the early stages of the Allianz Football Leagues, Galway’s list of attacking options was down to threads. Shane Walsh was holidaying in Australia after the All-Ireland final with Kilmacud Crokes, while Damien Comer and Rob Finnerty were both sidelined through injury. That’s Galway’s first-choice full-forward line wiped out at a vital time for accumulating points to provide a cushion for the advanced stages of the campaign.

Galway got by in their absence, as all three gradually made their return. Comer’s appearance this weekend was his first outing in maroon since his side’s second match of the campaign. His leg was heavily strapped but Comer appeared to shrug off those injury worries with an encouraging display, helping himself to a point as Galway held off the challenge of Kerry to join Mayo in the Division 1 final.

tom-osullivan-and-shane-walsh James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

3. Monaghan’s remarkable run continues

Division 1′s true survivors pulled off another great escape on Sunday, as their away victory over Mayo secured a 10th consecutive year of top flight football in the Allianz Football League.

Vinny Corey’s charges were perhaps boosted by the fact that their hosts had already qualified for the Division 1 final, but nonetheless they had to dig deep to secure the two points on offer in Castlebar. It was fitting that Conor McManus contributed 1-7 in the victory, given how central the Clontibret man has been to Monaghan maintaining a top tier spot down through the years.

Focus now turns to the championship. While the Farney County have competed with the country’s elite in the springtime over the last 10 years, their summer record is nowhere near as impressive.

It will be interesting to see if they can make their mark in the Ulster Championship and beyond in the coming months.

4. Roscommon warming up nicely

The Rossies were widely tipped for relegation before a ball was kicked in the Allianz Football Leagues. But Davy Burke’s side put any such fears to bed with three wins from their opening three games in Division 1.

Perhaps with one eye on the fact that their Connacht Championship opener is set for one week after the Division 1 final, results went downhill after relegation fears eased. But they closed out their campaign in style with a 0-21 to 0-9 victory over Donegal on Sunday. 0-20 of that tally came from open play, with 11 different scorers.

The Kildare native’s reign has started impressively, and he has injected youth into a team that is moving on an upward trajectory.

All eyes will be on two other Connacht counties as Mayo and Galway face off in next week’s Division 1 final, but the Rossies will quietly fancy themselves in the race for the Nestor Cup.

5. Armagh heading back to Division 2

The Orchard County were one of the stories of 2022, as Kieran McGeeney’s charges built on steady progress to embark on a memorable championship run.

They looked to be motoring well after five rounds in the Allianz Football League, with many tipping them for a first Ulster Championship title since 2008.

But back-to-back defeats at the hands of Galway and Tyrone, combined with a cocktail of unfavourable results elsewhere, have seen Armagh’s three-year stay in the top tier come to an end.

Add the injury to talisman Rian O’Neill into the mix, and Armagh have lost all momentum ahead of the championship.

McGeeney and Co have a job to do if they are to get things back on track.

Get instant updates on the Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues on The42 app. Brought to you by Allianz Insurance, proud sponsors of the Allianz Leagues for over 30 years.

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