This weekend's GAA previews
Cavan v Monaghan, Breffni Park, 7.00 – If we take league form at any sort of face value, there appears to be a gap between these two already. Monaghan hockeyed Meath last Sunday while Cavan tripped up against Antrim.
Malachy O’Rourke’s side are in fine early-season nick and have been running up hefty scores with Conor McManus looking untouchable at times. They’re as short as 8 to 15 in some places for this one, though away from home . Cavan lost their shape quite alarmingly last week and it’s hard to imagine they’ve rectified that in seven days.
Division Four: Waterford v Tipperary, Dungarvan, 7.0 – Great start for Niall Carew last week and hopes will be high that the county can build on the successes of John Owens’s tenure. Tipperary’s minds will be concentrated by letting a six-point lead slip against Carlow last week and they can bounce back.
(Matches at 2.0 unless stated)
Division One: Kerry v Dublin, Fitzgerald Stadium (Live on TG4) – An interesting fixture, which three years ago marked the first steps in the team-building that took Dublin ultimately to an All-Ireland. Jim Gavin will be happy with the points last week but aware that this will be a more demanding match physically.
Last week’s attack looked good with Bernard Brogan playing well within himself and Paddy Andrews maintaining his impressive January form. But the defence, although eye-catching on the break,was opened up for a couple of goal chances, which required good reactions from new captain Stephen Cluxton.
Understrength in Castlebar a week ago, Kerry blacked out in the second half but have stepped it up for tomorrow with Tomás Ó Sé and Bryan Sheehan both back in the team but the attack is still light on heft and experience. Dublin waited nearly three decades for their last league win in Kerry. They can make it two on the spin.
Mayo v Tyrone, Castlebar (Deferred on TG4) – Mayo were in full command against Kerry in the first round, riding out the early wind disadvantage so comprehensively that they led at half-time and with Kerry down to 14 in the second half, they put them away. Tyrone trialled a number of newcomers in their successful opening match in Newry but they can expect to find exchanges harder going here. Mayo will probably have the edge around the middle, where Tyrone bring in Conor Clarke, and if so this will complicate things for the visitor’s fluid style. Mayo’s defensive application will keep it tighter for the Tyrone attack than Down managed and overall the points should stay in Castlebar.
Division Two: Longford v Westmeath, Pearse Park – Westmeath had a genuine pulled-out-of-the-fire win against Louth last week while Longford coughed up a nine-point lead in Wexford. Without both Bardens and Brian Kavanagh, Glenn Ryan’s side is a little short on scoring power, which should count against them here as they face a Westmeath side that racked up 16 points despite playing for 50 minutes with only 14 men. Dessie Dolan’s return for his first league start in almost two years could well tip the balance their way.
Armagh v Wexford, Athletic Grounds – Not to panic unduly but Paul Grimley could do with pinning a win up on the noticeboard to quell some of the grumbling in Armagh. They’ve been conceding heavily – no team raised more flags than Laois last Sunday, a side not usually the most prolific in the land. They host a Wexford team that is full of experience – their scorers last week were Red Barry, PJ Banville, Ben Brosnan, Adrian Flynn and Shane Roche. Aidan O’Brien hasn’t needed a new broom and the team he has is good enough to go to Armagh and win.