With every All-Ireland winner, plus two of the runners-up of the last ten years in the top flight, Division 1 of the 2013 Allianz Football League, which gets underway next weekend, promises to be one of the most competitive for a long time.
There will be plenty of exciting action in the other three Divisions too as the battle for promotion places intensifies over the next two months.
It’s the 21st year that Allianz have been associated with the Leagues, making it one of the longest sponsorships in Irish sport.
Having created history by bringing the Division 1 title back to Cork for a third successive season last year, Conor Counihan’s men will be bidding to become the first team to win the League (Division 1) four-in-a-row since Kerry in 1971-74. Winning the treble was quite an achievement - Cork doubled it up with an All-Ireland win in 2010 - and they are again among the favourites to be challenging for Allianz League honours in April.
They begin their title defence against Dublin in Croke Park next Saturday (7pm), two hours after All-Ireland champions, Donegal and Kildare throw-in. It’s an exciting double-header to launch a campaign which will feature 116 games between next Saturday and the four Divisional finals on the weekend of April 27/28.
For the season opener at Croke Park top act Republic of Loose will form part of the entertainment bill on Saturday night which will also include a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the GAA’s ownership of Croke Park and a tribute to the late Kevin Heffernan.