This weekend's GAA previews
Derry v Laois, Celtic Park – On a day of gales all across Ireland last weekend, Derry managed the neat trick of significantly outscoring themselves playing into the wind against Galway than with it. The rocket they received at half-time in Salthill from Brian McIver presumably had plenty to do with it and they will need to have bucked up considerably for the visit of a very settled Laois side. Justin McNulty is playing more or less his championship team for the second week in a row and they could win here.
Louth v Galway, Drogheda – Having spilled a five-point second-half lead against Westmeath last Sunday, Louth have turned to experience here with Paddy Keenan and Darren Clarke in from the beginning. If Keenan is pitted against rising Galway midfielder Fiontán Ó Curraoin, it could be a sight to see. Alan Mulholland’s side has a hungry enough look about it – all four of their subs last Sunday got on the scoresheet – and with Michael Meehan in terrific form, chances are they’ll be four or five points the better side.
Division Three: Sligo v Antrim, Markievicz Park – Antrim’s comfortable handling of Cavan last Sunday said only good things about Frank Dawson’s tenure, especially since the bulk of their scores came from a completely new full-forward line. Additionally, they have Paddy Cunningham, Tomás McCann and Michael Magill all back and ready to be sprung from the bench.
Sligo haven’t started the year well and it will be interesting to see what difference the recruiting of Mayo midfielder James Kilcullen will make as the league goes on.
They can’t afford a second defeat, and shouldn’t see one.
Wicklow v Meath, Aughrim – If Wicklow weren’t prepared for the smooth running of the Fermanagh machine that came down to hand them a beating last week, while Meath surely had no indication that a 12-point hiding was awaiting them up in Clones.
The news got no better during the week for Mick O’Dowd when Damien Carroll broke his ankle in training. O’Dowd has changed a third of his team, dropping Joe Sheridan and Brian Farrell among others, for a game they can’t countenance losing.
Division Four: Leitrim v Clare, Carrick-on-Shannon – Disappointment for Leitrim with the defeat in Limerick spoiling the mood after their FBD victory but this is a more attainable task with Mick O’Dwyer’s Clare hoping to recover from the opening defeat by Waterford. This can see the home side bounce back.
Offaly v Limerick, Tullamore – Likely to have a significant influence on how promotion pans out in two months, this could hinge on Limerick’s ability to bring back key forwards Ian Ryan and Ger Collins whereas Niall McNamee is still out for Offaly.
AIB All-Ireland club finals IHC:St Gabriel’s (London) v Clara (Kilkenny), Croke Park, 3.45 – On a big day for the English clubs St Gabriel’s have a fighting chance against Clara but the Kilkenny club should still win this one.
Fullen Gaels (Warwickshire) v Thomastown (Kilkenny), Croke Park, 2.0 – On a weekend of big England-Ireland clashes, the talented Thomastown team are the shortest odds to take the prize here.