Team by team: How the National League's top flight sides are shaping up

Newstalk Sport looks at the eight contenders in Division 1

Dublin, Kerry, Paul Flynn, David Moran

Pictured (L-R) Kerry’s David Moran and Dublin’s Paul Flynn ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

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 1 sees new additions in the shape of Down and last year's Division 2 champions Roscommon.

But how are the Allianz National League's Top 8 shaping up for the 2016 campaign?

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

CORK

New Cork senior football manager Peadar Healy
©INPHO/Ken Sutton

Last year... Cork finished top of the table in Division 1 with five wins from seven and put four goals past Donegal to reach the final, with Dublin ultimately proving a bridge too far.

The All-Ireland championship proved to be a disappointment. While they took Kerry to a replay in the Munster final, they fell at the last hurdle in the qualifiers to Kildare in a surprise result.

Pre-season form... saw Cork win the McGrath Cup by beating Clare in the final on January 22nd.

Changes made... mainly centre around new management as 2010 All-Ireland winning selector Peader Healy  replaces Brian Cuthbert, who resigned last Autumn

His backroom team includes legendary former Cork Ladies football boss Eamon Ryan.

DONEGAL

 

 Donegal's Frank McGlynn ©INPHO/Presseye/Jonathan Porter

Last year... they reached the league knockout stage, only to lose to Cork by four points in the semi-final. Donegal lost the Ulster championship final to Monaghan by a single point before being kept at bay by Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-finals in manager Rory Gallagher's first year in charge.

Pre-season form... Not good on paper as they finished bottom of a McKenna Cup group featuring Fermanagh, Down and St Mary's.

Changes made... Karl Lacey won't be lining out in the early rounds of the league as he and the likes of Colm McFadden are rested. Long-time goalkeeper Paul Durcan was also on the move to Qatar after the end of last season's championship. Rory Kavanagh has come out of retirement though.

DOWN

Down's Caolan Mooney ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Last year... Down earned promotion to Division 1 but lost the Division 2 decider to Roscommon. The summer was a let down as Derry thwarted them at their first hurdle in the Ulster championship, before they exited the All-Ireland qualifiers in Round 1.

Pre-season form... In Donegal's group, they also just won a single game in the McKenna Cup.

Changes made... see Eamon Burns become new manager to replace Jim McCorry. Benny Coulter also ended speculation about a potential comeback, confirming that he will focus solely on club football during 2016. 

DUBLIN

 

Dublin’s Paul Flynn ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Last year... the Dubs regained their All-Ireland crown and won the 2015 National League. Not the worst year for them was it? Oh, and they won their 10th Leinster title in 11 years for good measure.

Pre-season form... they reached the O'Byrne Cup semi-final but lost in Longford by 1-12 to 0-9.

Changes made... include the retirement of Alan Brogan, who spoke to Off The Ball about his decision upon its announcement in December.

KERRY

Kerry’s David Moran ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Last year... No Division 1 knockout appearance in 2015, but they did win the Munster championship and reach the All-Ireland final.

Pre-season form... saw the Kingdom win once and lose once in the McGrath Cup with Clare topping their group.

Changes made... Paul Galvin has retired for a second time, while James O'Donoghue's shoulder issues have flared up again which is a worry for manager Eamon Fitzmaurice.

MAYO

Aidan O’Shea in action against Dublin ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Last year... No league knockout place like Kerry, won Connacht routinely with Aidan O'Shea a powerhouse at full-forward, before losing out again in an All-Ireland semi-final, this time after a replay against Dublin.

Pre-season form... They won two from three in their FBD League group this January.

Changes made... A lot has changed. Amid much media scrutiny, joint-managers Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly stepped down with players wanting a change.

As Aidan O'Shea told Off The Ball this week, "it was something we felt had to be done to go and win the All-Ireland".

Stephen Rochford steps up to take on the role and the task of ending Mayo's long, long wait for Sam Maguire. 

MONAGHAN

Monaghan's Conor McManus celebrates scoring a point ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Last year... Ulster championship winners and Division 1 semi-finalists, 2015 was positive in many respects, although the championship ended in contentious circumstances in that match against Tyrone which featured the Tiernan O'Halloran dive.

Pre-season form... saw them finish bottom of their McKenna Cup group with one win from three.

Changes made...  Owen Lennon announced his retirement at the start of the month.

ROSCOMMON

 

Roscommon's Cathal McHugh with a volley pass attempt on the Galway goals ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Last year... Winners of Division 2, the Connacht championship saw them slump to Sligo in the semi-finals, before a qualifier run which saw them fall to Fermanagh in Round 3. 

Pre-season form... saw the Rossies reach the FBD League final, only to be edged out by Galway.

Changes made...  John Evans left the manager's role after last year, to be replaced by long-time Sunday Game analyst Kevin McStay and Fergal O Donnell.