The 2023 National Football League season brings a breath of fresh air to the sport as changes are made, but the game we all know and love is not going away any time soon. In 2022, Kerry came out on top but teams will enter January with a fresh sense of optimism as another season of intrigue and heartbreak begins.
Kerry start the new season having lifted the trophy in 2022, and you’d be right in thinking they will have a shot at it again in 2023. They are one of the most successful counties in history, holding 37 all-Ireland victories, and have come out as winners 19 times.
Dublin have no doubt dominated modern football, winning the All-Ireland championship six years in a row from 2015 to 2020. They join Kerry on top of the favorites list to win the All-Ireland final, but this year will be playing in Division 2. Along with Kildare, Dublin will face the likes of Derry, Meath and Cork, having won just two games in the 2022 campaign.
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Let’s not forget last year’s league runners-up, Mayo, whose fortunes have been somewhat mixed in the last ten years. Since 2011, Mayo have made the final four six times, yet have never managed to go all the way. Perhaps Mayo have underestimated some of their opposition in years gone by, but If you’re backing Mayo to win it all this year, you’d be forgiven for thinking that their luck may be beginning to turn.
Elsewhere outside of Division 1, many fans will be hoping Meath finally make it out of Division 2 after years of missing out on advancing to the top tier of the National Football League. Their women’s team tasted success in 2022 and the men’s side will be hoping to replicate their fortunes.
However, they’ll face stern competition from Dublin, and also Derry, who were unfortunate not to be promoted in 2022. They missed out by a single point, having lost just one league game in 2022.
One big change you will see in the 2023 National Football league is a new, tiered championship structure being introduced, having been passed at a GAA Congress in February. The motion was passed by 94.7% of members, showing the vast popularity of the decision to structure the postseason competition. Football is not the only sport to have seen a change in format, with rugby adopting a similar change for the Champions Cup.
But what does this change entail? Starting in 2023, there will be a round-robin competition for teams competing for the Sam Maguire Cup, with four groups of four teams. Eight counties will earn their place, having made provincial finals, and the remainder of teams are made up by the eight best counties based on league ranking.
In the round-robin, each side plays a home, away and neutral game, with the first-place team qualifying automatically for the All-Ireland finals. The second and third sides will then play a preliminary round game, with the second-placed side holding home field advantage.
Westmeath have already booked their place, having won the 2022 Tailteann Cup, meaning there remains just 15 spots for remaining teams. This will no doubt put more pressure on teams to perform in the Allianz Football League and make for an even more exciting season.
Make no mistake, there are still 16 teams going toe-to-toe for the Sam Maguire Cup, just in a different format. This means more games, drama and action – what’s not to like?
Another change we will see this year is a bigger emphasis on the 2023 National Football league. Last year, 10 of the All-Ireland club championship games overlapped with the beginning of the National Football league season, but this is not the case this year.
The senior club semifinals took place in December, allowing the opening month of the National Football League to take center stage. While this may not be the perfect resolution to the strange formatting of the GAA calendar, it builds excitement for what is certain to be another fascinating football season.
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