Mayo's Padraig O’Hora (right) and Kerry's Paul Geaney at the launch of the Allianz Leagues, which return this weekend with the football competition. The beginning of the Allianz Leagues represents the dawning of new possibilities for the season ahead, with the Allianz Football League standings determining which counties will compete for the Sam Maguire and Tailteann Cups. Photo: INPHO / Dan Sheridan

Mayo star on hand to help with launch of Allianz Leagues

After a six-month hiatus, inter-county action returns with the first round of the Allianz Football League this weekend.

Allianz Insurance today teamed up with players from last year’s Allianz National Football League Division 1 final – Kerry's Paul Geaney and Mayo's Padraig O’Hora. Kerry beat Mayo in the decider by 3-19 to 0-13 in Croke Park, Dublin.

The Allianz National Hurling League Division 1A final was played between Cork and Waterford, and Patrick Horgan (Cork) and Stephen Bennett (Waterford) were also on hand today to preview this year’s league.

For all players and the 67 teams competing, the Allianz Leagues represent an opportunity, after a five-month break from competitive action and the January pre-season, to set the tone for the upcoming season.

As with all beginnings, the start of the Allianz Leagues provides a sense of new opportunities, with relegation, promotion and, ultimately, the possibility of silverware on offer for all competing teams.

This, together with the fact that for only the second time ever the outcome of the Allianz Football League has a direct impact on qualification for the GAA All-Ireland football championship, has heightened interest in the competition.

The Allianz Leagues will showcase not only the rivalries between teams, but often the opportunity for players themselves to claim their spot in the county panel.

Round one of the Allianz Football League takes place this weekend, with Mayo taking on provincial rivals Galway on Saturday (January) in Hastings Insurance MacHale Park, throwing in at 7.30 p.m.

The Division 1 champions, Kerry, face Donegal on Sunday (January 29).

The Allianz Hurling League commences the following weekend, with champions Waterford playing host to Dublin on February 5 and Cork, last year's runners-up, taking on All-Ireland champions Limerick on February 4.

Speaking at today’s launch, the CEO of Allianz Insurance, Seán McGrath, said: “All of us at Allianz are delighted to be a long-term supporter of the Allianz Leagues. Our purpose at Allianz is to secure our customers' futures.

“As we embark on our 31st year as sponsors of the Allianz Leagues, we, like GAA communities in every county in Ireland, are looking forward to witnessing the players and teams seek to realise the hopes and dreams of the communities they represent as they pursue on-field success. We wish each of the players and the 67 county teams taking part in the Allianz Leagues all the very best for this year’s competition.”

GAA president Larry McCarthy added: “We are delighted that the Allianz Leagues are starting again as they signal the onset of a new GAA inter-county season. Allianz’s sponsorship of the National Leagues is one of the longest-standing sports sponsorships in Ireland – a testament to their commitment to supporting the GAA and communities in every county in Ireland and beyond. We look forward to many fascinating matches and wish the best of luck to all involved.”