Weekend football previews
Divisions 1, 2, 3, and 4
Meath’s Eamonn Wallace has been ruled out for the season due to a cruciate injury. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho
(7.0 unless stated)
Armagh v Monaghan, Athletic Grounds – Two sides level on points for whom the season could tilt either way although Armagh’s run-in looks more taxing. Paul Grimley’s team have recovered well despite a poor start and a Biblical plague of injuries. Sheer application and impressive scoring returns from a number of players – Jamie Clarke scored 0-11 a fortnight ago and a point last week with Tony Kernan and Stefan Campbell picking it up against Laois. Monaghan are getting their best team back in harness and Paul Finlay returns this evening. It’s likely to be tight but the visitors are closer to full strength.
Laois v Meath , O’Moore Park – On the league swing-o-meter that appears to govern many performances, Laois were poor last week – loose at the back while playing a sweeper and squandering chances up front – and will be expected to show tangible improvement this evening. Meath, after a disappointing couple of matches, knocked off a collector’s item by taking the campaign’s first point off Donegal and may be vulnerable to an adverse reaction. Manager Mick O’Dowd also is coping with the news of Eamon Wallace’s cruciate-ruined season but in the immediate term, the performance levels in Ballybofey and resilience against the division’s top team gives them a slight edge here.
Waterford v Leitrim, Fraher Field, 5.0 – Waterford walked into another ambush last week despite London having only about a third of their historic championship team from last summer. Leitrim’s form promises no relief this evening.
(2.0 unless stated)
Derry v Dublin, Celtic Park – This will be an interesting test for Dublin, as Jim Gavin’s side have little experience of these difficult league trips to Ulster having played just once in the province – the last-day draw against Donegal 11 months ago – since the manager took over. Derry have been an impressive new presence in Division One although this is now an important indicator for them (having lost to leaders Cork last week) of their chances of finishing in the top four. Fergal Doherty’s return has strengthened centrefield and the team are the highest scorers in the division. But the holders arrive with the meanest defence and a bit of momentum after last week’s comfortable win. A significant encounter with the visitors just about preferred.
Kildare v Kerry, Newbridge, 2.30 – The twist on this relegation tangle is that few would have predicted a week ago that the sides would finish the weekend with a 25-point swing in scoring difference towards Kerry. Drubbing Tyrone to inflict a first defeat of the season on Mickey Harte’s team was partly explained by the opposition’s curious second-half opt-out but it was strong stuff from Kerry, David Moran giving further evidence of the importance of his comeback and James O’Donoghue adding to his growing stature with three goals. He’s down to be marked by Kildare’s Mick O’Grady, who has outshone his more experienced colleagues in the full-back line. Under Jason Ryan Kildare are unlucky to be on only two points but still look too open for a Kerry attack that seems to have found its batteries.
Mayo v Cork, MacHale Park, 2.30 – Panic is over for Mayo, now tucked in on four points but James Horan will be hoping the leakiness of their defence – only Kildare have conceded more – will be addressed by the incremental return of the first-choice defenders. They’ve a good record against Cork in recent leagues but their opponents arrive under first-term management and topping the table with a 100 per cent record. Brian Cuthbert engages in some heavy rotation, eight changes most significantly giving Colm O’Neill his first start of the league after some sparkling cameos off the bench. The sight however of young pretenders heading towards their homestead might be enough of a motivation to get Mayo moving.