Weekend football previews
Dublin's Michael Darragh Macauley (right) is back from suspension ahead of Kildare clash. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
TODAY DIVISION ONE Down v Mayo, Newry, 7.0 – Down are beginning to run out of options in the fight to avoid relegation even though just three matches have been played.
The late heartbreak against Cork was the second home match lost narrowly to and realistically they need to win this with trips to Dublin and Kerry coming up.
Mayo have had the misfortune of the late-goal defeat themselves, against Tyrone, but last week was more clear-cut even though Dublin finished with 14 men.
For a team whose defensive realignment has been key to improvement they were too loose on Bernard Brogan, unable to man-mark him and just as importantly conceding a lavish platform at centrefield until Aidan O’Shea switched, a move James Horan sticks with from the start.
Fired up by last summer’s mauling and the consequences of defeat Down will be motivated but Mayo are in better shape than a 33 per cent return would indicate.
DOWN: B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McArdle, R Boyle; R Mallon, A Carr, K Quinn; K King, K McKernan; C Laverty, M Poland, P McComiskey; D O’Hare, C Harrison, B Coulter.
MAYO:K O’Malley; C Barrett, G Cafferkey, K Higgins; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; B Moran, A O’Shea; K McLoughlin, R Feeney, C Carolan; E Varley, J Doherty, M Conroy.
Derry v Armagh, Celtic Park, 7.0 – The return of the Crossmaglen players helped Armagh maintain lift-off and this evening they face an in-form Derry with two wins in the past two outings. Brian McIver has been trawling and trialing while keeping Derry in contention in what looks like being a volatile division.
There’s been more of the huff and puff about Armagh so should be a home win.
Fermanagh v Monaghan, Brewster Park, 7.0 – A trip home for Malachy O’Rourke who masterminded Fermanagh’s championship win over his current county five years ago.
Peter Canavan’s team have lost top scorer Seán Quigley for the season whereas Monaghan welcome back Ulster captain Darren Hughes and Conor McManus, which can tilt it for the visitors.
Division Four – Clare v Tipperary, Cusack Park, 2.0 – Tipp can’t afford another defeat but this trip to Ennis looks likely to yield little, as Mick O’Dwyer’s team chase promotion.
London v Waterford, Ruislip, 2.0 – London have been competitive to date but Waterford won’t lose ground here.
Donegal v Kerry, Ballybofey, 2.0 – Three series gone and this pair have the princely total of two points between them.
Clearly, neither is targeting the league but nor would relegation be part of the plan even if Jim McGuinness was relatively nonchalant about the prospect last week. This is achievable for Kerry with the champions still under-strength and under-cooked. Last week in Newbridge represented a big improvement on previous performance levels and had the finishing not been so sloppy they could have done damage.
Configuring Kieran Donaghy and Johnny Buckley, who has improved impressively so far this season, will be a significant tactical call for Eamon Fitzmaurice, who’ll presumably give the former a turn or two at full forward.
Donegal didn’t do badly for a team less fit than Tyrone and for most of the match also outnumbered but they want points on the board now; nonetheless the visitors mightn’t prove accommodating.
KERRY: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, A O’Mahony, S Enright; T Ó Sé, K Young, P Crowley; K Donaghy, E Brosnan; J Lyne, D Walsh, J Buckley; J O’Donoghue, D O’Sullivan, M Geaney.
Dublin v Kildare, Croke Park, 2.0 – There were signs six weeks ago when the counties played out a terrific O’Byrne Cup final that Dublin and Kildare were shaping up for a good league. Jim Gavin has happily shuffled the deck in the absence of a number of established players while maintaining an unblemished record.
Kieran McGeeney has introduced new faces, who have impressed. Jason Ryan’s introduction appears to have benefited the forwards and the attack is more penetrating and scoring goals. Based on the January encounter Kildare can feel upbeat. Tomás O’Connor was a match winner that evening but only came at half-time. Bernard Brogan – sensational last week – was kept fairly quiet by Ollie Lyons but Michael Darragh Macauley, who has been Dublin’s most influential player, is back from suspension.
Form lines suggest the home side but Kildare’s wins over Cork and Kerry came against sides performing better than they had against Dublin.
Good opportunity for McGeeney’s side to get a psychologically valuable win.
DUBLIN: tba , KILDARE: tba
Tyrone v Cork, Omagh, 2.30 – Cork’s ability to finagle points on the road has played its part in their four successive league titles but the manner in which they wiped Down’s eye was startling even by those standards.
They’ve always been robust against Tyrone even in those years when clearly not as good and with the home side on the rise again, this will be interesting.
Kyle Coney’s back after injury and if he can pick up last season’s form Mickey Harte’s side will be even more menacing. Donegal couldn’t contain their fast-breaking attacks last week until the match had slipped away.
Cork will find themselves under similar pressure and with their defensive game not clicking so far, Tyrone can take advantage of the Croke Park meeting of their unbeaten rivals.
TYRONE: N Morgan; A McCrory, C Gormley, C McCarron; R McKenna, Joe McMahon, R McNamee; C Cavanagh, S Cavanagh; P McNiece, P Harte, Matthew Donnelly; K Coney, S O’Neill, R O’Neill.
CORK: K O’Halloran; M Shields, E O’Mahony, E Cadogan; T Clancy, N O’Leary, J O’Sullivan; G Canty, A Walsh; F Goold, M Collins, P Kerrigan; D O’Connor, C Sheehan, C O’Neill.
Longford v Galway, GlennonBrothers PearsePark, 2.0 – Two deeply frustrating seasons collide. Longford have lost three matches by a cumulative margin of less than half a dozen point whereas Galway’s form has oscillated wildly from beating Derry to slumping against Louth and failing to put away Westmeath after a booming start. Longford will be fired up by their under-21 exploits but Gareth Bradshaw starts for the visitors and they can compound the home side’s difficulties.
Louth v Wexford, Drogheda, 2.30 – But for careless end games, both sides could be sharing top place even if Wexford achieved the reverse in clipping Longford late. The problem for the visitors is a lack of consistency but Shane Lennon is a big loss for the Louth attack. An important match, which will determine the character of the remaining campaign. Home win.
Westmeath v Laois, Cusack Park, 2.30 – It’s been a great season for Westmeath, who are the only unbeaten team in the division and a win would put them within touching distance of promotion. This however could be their first fall against a free-scoring Laois side, who look stronger with the return of accomplished defender Cahir Healy and target man Pádraig Clancy at full forward.
Sligo v Cavan, Markievicz Park, 2.0 – Cavan have been stacking up some good results, beating neighbours Monaghan and Meath and they can maintain that momentum against a Sligo side in sluggish form so far this year.
Wicklow v Antrim, Aughrim, 2.30 – Wicklow belied their poor form so far by taking a point in Roscommon and now have the opportunity to consolidate in the division by beating their mid-table visitors, who are employing a more direct game under Frank Dawson and can take something here.
Roscommon v Meath, 2.30 – John Evans is re-united with his former temporary charges from last season. The Kerryman must be disappointed with the unevenness of the campaign so far but they are strong at home and face a Meath team in a bit of a crisis given the scale of the beatings from Cavan and Monaghan. Home win.
Limerick v Carlow, Gaelic Grounds, 2.30 – A determined promotion campaign should remain on track for the home team, who are unbeaten, against Anthony Rainbow’s Carlow, defeated for the first time last week.
Leitrim v Offaly, Carrick-on-Shannon, 2.30 – Two defeats have already imperilled Offaly’s prospects. There’s a danger here that they’ll be killed off entirely.