NFL previews Divisions One and Two
A look head to the weekend's matches
NFL DIVISION ONE
Kildare v Donegal Croke Park, 5pm(Live, Setanta Ireland) – The All-Ireland champions name a very strong team for this league opener with 13 – All Stars Karl Lacey and Neil Gallagher are likely to miss most of the league – of the side having started last September, but appearances can deceive.
Some of the players are in reasonable nick and Michael Murphy was in top form for DCU during the week in the Sigerson, but some haven’t kicked a ball with intent since autumn club matches.
Furthermore , having just returned from holiday in Dubai two weeks ago, they have little more than a handful of sessions done.
Kildare, on the other hand, have been able to put down a solid training base and came through an intense pre-season programme culminating in last weekend’s O’Byrne Cup final when they surged past Dublin in extra-time.
Kieran McGeeney rests some of the impressive younger players from that match but his team have enough done to take the points here.
DONEGAL: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; F McGlynn, D Walsh, A Thompson; R Kavanagh, M McElhinney; M McHugh, L McLoone, R Bradley; C McFadden, M Murphy, P McBrearty.
KILDARE: S Connolly; O Lyons, P Kelly, H McGrillen; E Bolton, M Foley, M Conway; G White, P O’Neill; B Flanagan, C McNally, E O’Flaherty; S Johnston, T O’Connor, J Doyle.
Dublin v Cork Croke Park, 7pm(Live, Setanta Ireland)– Contrasting blends of youth and experience for the teams who preceded Donegal as All-Ireland champions. Jim Gavin selects eight of the 2011 team for duty tonight but the inclusion of some of the younger players more familiar to him from his under-21 days is partly enforced with half of the defence from two years ago – Cian O’Sullivan, Kevin Nolan and Michael Fitzsimons – on the way back from injury.
Conor Counihan has been more conservative in his Cork selection, with just Damien Cahalane making a league debut this evening.
Still that leaves them experienced and physically well equipped. Centrefield will be interesting, as Alan O’Connor and Aidan Walsh return to the scene of last summer’s difficulties against Donegal to face a Dublin pairing, minus the suspended Denis Bastick, of an in-form Michael Darragh Macauley and Declan O’Mahony trying to rebuild a once promising career gravely undermined by chronic injury.
Their less experimental line-up edges it towards Cork.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; J Cooper, R O’Carroll, K O’Brien; D Daly, G Brennan, J McCaffrey; MD Macauley, D O’Mahony; P Flynn, P Andrews, P Quinn; K McManamon, D Connolly, B Brogan.
CORK: K O’Halloran; E Cadogan, M Shields, J O’Sullivan; P Kissane, G Canty, D Cahalane; A O’Connor, A Walsh; F Goold, P O’Neill, C Sheehan; C O’Neill, D O’Connor, P Kerrigan. Subs: D Lordan, J McLoughlin, E O’Mahony, N O’Leary, T Clancy, D O’Sullivan, A O’Sullivan, J O’Rourke, B O’Driscoll, M Collins
Down v Tyrone Newry, 7pm (Live, Setanta Sports 1) – This will be critical for Down, whose strong home record has kept them in contention in the league since regaining Division One status two seasons ago.
There have been expressions of remorse within the county for the manner in which their championship disintegrated but league displays under James McCartan have been very good, culminating in reaching the play-offs in two of the three years.
They functioned within themselves during the McKenna Cup and won’t simply surrender their status but Tyrone are formidable opposition and won the McKenna Cup while trialling a number of new players.
Just three members of the All-Ireland winning team of 10 years ago line out and it will be interesting to see how the half forward line gets on , Peter Harte again starting there with the promising Matthew Donnelly and the industry of newcomer Kevin Gallagher.
It should be enough for the visitors .
DOWN: MCunningham; D Turley, D McCartan, R Boyle; R Mallon, A Carr, D O’ Hagan; K King, K McKernan; K Quinn, M Poland, B Coulter; C Laverty, C Harrison, P McComiskey.
TYRONE: N Morgan; A McCrory, C Gormley, C McCarron; R McKenna, J McMahon, R McNamee; P Kane, S Cavanagh; K Gallagher, P Harte, Matthew Donnelly; C McAliskey, S O’Neill , Mark Donnelly . Subs: J Devine, C Clarke, J Lafferty, D McBride, T McCann, Justin McMahon, P McNiece, R O’Neill, M Penrose, B Tierney, S Warnock.
Laois v Armagh O’Moore Park, 7pm– The two relegated teams meet in a repeat of what proved a controversial clash last season. At times last season Laois looked impressive, managing to move the ball well in co-ordinated attacks but ultimately they lacked consistency.
They can win here with 13 of the team that lined out in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final.
A full-forward line featuring Pádraig Clancy and the returned Donie Kingston will test their inexperienced Armagh opponents.
Paul Grimley will need more time to assemble his best team, particularly in the absence of the Crossmaglen players.
2.30 unless stated
Mayo v Kerry Castlebar, 2.0(Live, TG4) – It’s been a satisfactory opening month for new Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice, who begins the county’s necessary reconstruction job with a difficult trip to Mayo, who have been breaking even with them in the league in recent seasons. Dr Croke’s have given Johnny Buckley permission to play and he gets a run at centrefield.
James Horan has run the rule over a good few players during the FBD League but it remains to be seen if he has unearthed anything significant.
Mayo’s record in the competition has seen the county establish a long-term tenancy in the top division but this is going to be a very tough campaign with trips to Tyrone, Dublin, Down and Cork.
Kerry are experimenting and for a range of reasons are missing Colm Cooper, Kieran Donaghy and Declan O’Sullivan from the attack as well as Bryan Sheehan in the middle. They’re accordingly vulnerable.
Mayo need to and can exploit that.
KERRY: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, A O’Mahony, S Enright; J Lyne, J Sherwood, K Young; A Maher, J Buckley (capt); M Geaney, Darren O’Sullivan, M O’Donoghue; BJ Keane, P Curtin, P Geaney. Subs: B Kelly, B Sheehan, P Crowley, D Culhane, B Maguire, C Cox, A Garnett, BJ Walsh, M Griffin, S O’Carroll, D O’Sullivan.
Galway v Derry Pearse Stadium, 2pm(Deferred, TG4) – Alan Mulholland has regrouped after an ultimately disappointing first year despite a good league showing which left Galway just short of promotion.
Coincidentally that campaign also started with a match against Derry, which they won in Celtic Park.
Derry have a new manager in the experienced Brian McIver and his first league team places Mark Lynch in his optimal centre back position.
Galway are favourites but this time Derry have the advantage of surprise. It should be close but the home team are determined to kick on and can start that process tomorrow.
Westmeath v Louth Mullingar –Another of the fixtures that replicates last season’s opening weekend. Louth won at home and a weakened Westmeath looked doomed to relegation before staging a near-miraculous recovery.
The counties then met twice in the championship, winning one apiece. Aidan O’Rourke’s first matches with Louth in the O’Byrne Cup were encouraging – the blow-out against Dublin was with an understrength side – and with Shane Lennon back at full forward and Jim McEneaney in form, they can take a valuable away win here against opponents who have been slower out of the blocks.
Wexford v Longford WexfordPark– These counties also met twice in last year’s championship – as well as twice in the league – with Longford performing the better, including winning the Division Three final.
Wexford have a new manager in Aidan O’Brien and he has targeted the home matches.
This weekend’s task is made easier with the absence of Paul Barden, who was man of the match in the drawn championship encounter.
Wing back Adrian Flynn, who kicked five points from play, is included for Wexford in a strong line-up that can open positively.