NFL previews Divisions Three and Four
A look ahead to the weekend's matces in Divisions Three and Four
(2pm unless stated)
Antrim v Cavan Casement Park– If this is the year that Cavan’s much-ballyhooed flock of under-21s are to begin making men of themselves, no better start to make than an away win.
When you consider that Cavan have only managed a total of three such rare gems in the past five years of league football, you might be slow to hold out much hope for them.
Yet their spine of Gearóid McKiernan, Cian Mackey and David Givney – played at full-forward in a recent challenge match win over Dr Crokes – should point the way against an Antrim side missing Thomas McCann and Michael Magill as well as full-back Andy McClean.
Monaghan v Meath Clones –The bookies’ leading candidates for promotion before a ball has been kicked, these two met on this very weekend last year, albeit in the more rarefied heights of Division Two. Meath won by six points on a day when Monaghan kicked 16 wides. Having undergone a relegation and a manager change in the meantime, there’s a new-car smell about both sides.
Monaghan weren’t as hapless as the 10-point defeat to Tyrone last weekend suggested and hauled Tommy Freeman back on-board midweek.
Meath start their campaign without Kevin Reilly, Seamus Kenny, Shane McAnarney and Stephen Bray. Could well make the difference here.
Wicklow v Fermanagh Aughrim– In a vice-squeezed division, most predictions see one or both of this pair falling through the trapdoor. Peter Canavan’s second year as Fermanagh manager will at least see Ryan McCluskey available, a luxury of which he was deprived last year.
Who else he will call on is hard to judge as yet – Canavan reportedly had the guts of 50 players in and around the panel over the winter.
They face a Wicklow side shorn of Leighton Glynn and Seánie Furlong, with Harry Murphy trying out a plethora of fresh faces in an O’Byrne Cup campaign that included a win over a similarly-experimental Dublin.
Fermanagh will probably be the better side in the long run but home patch comforts could swing this Wicklow’s way.
Roscommon v Sligo Dr Hyde Park– Another two sides for whom the revolving door has spun and spun over the winter. Both have jettisoned some established names and freshened up with fairly unknown quantities. On the face of it, John Evans has more viable raw material to build with in Roscommon in a squad populated by two separate generations of underage success. Donie Shine isn’t quite recovered from injury just yet but the two Cathals – Shine and Cregg – will head their challenge here. Having lost to Leitrim in the FBD final Sligo could be in for a long spring, especially without the injured David Kelly.
Tipperary v Carlow Semple Stadium –In a ferocious division, the straightforward encounters will be difficult to locate. For Tipperary, this must count as something close to one. Pound for pound, they boast some of the best players in the division and to a crew that includes the excellent defender Ciaran McDonald and forwards Peter Acheson and Michael Quinlivan (a doubt for tomorrow) is added the return of Barry Grogan after a year abroad.
While Carlow probably have the best player in the division in Brendan Murphy, the pool is fairly shallow beyond him.