Weekend GAA previews
Allianz football and hurling leagues
HL Division One B final
Limerick v Dublin , Semple Stadium, 7pm – After five games Limerick and Dublin were always likely to meet again here to fight it out for that one coveted promotion place – and it promises to be pretty epic.
Limerick may have beaten Dublin last month, but that counts for nothing here.Dublin struck 15 wides that night, ended with 14 men, and have definitely regained some spirit since, this being the sort of winner-takes-all test that manager Anthony Daly will relish. He’s named a strong team too, recalling Paul Ryan and the likes of Danny Sutcliffe and Peter Kelly, and they may just be hitting form at the right time.
Limerick will be hard to break, though, especially with all the big guns now recalled too, including Séamus Hickey and Kevin Downes.
Connacht Under-21 FC Final
Roscommon v Galway , Dr Hyde Park, 6pm – Roscommon are seeking first ever back-to-back titles, and last year’s brilliant run ended only with All-Ireland defeat to Dublin. Galway have looked the part in beating Sligo and Mayo so far, and it will be close, the winners then playing Kildare in the All-Ireland semi-final.
All-Ireland Colleges SH A Final
Dungarvan Colleges v Kilkenny CBS , Thurles, 3.15pm – There’s an air of destiny about this meeting, Kilkenny losing last year’s final, and still seeking a first title in 32 years, while they too stopped Dungarvan in last year’s quarter-final. Now, both teams get to battle it out for the ultimate honour, and the Waterford team might just have talent to win it.
All-Ireland Vocational Schools SH ‘A’ Final
St Brigid’s Loughrea v St Fergal’s College Rathdowney , Thurles, 1.30 – St Brigid’s are chasing a third successive title, awarded it last year after the other semi-final was abandoned, although St Fergal’s – despite having just 300 students – who last won their title in 2006, will certainly make sure St Brigid’s earn it this time.
FL – Division 1:
Down v Kildare , Páirc Esler, 3.0 – Down can actually still avoid relegation if they beat Kildare handsomely, while at least two of the three teams above them – Mayo, Donegal and Kerry – all lose just as handsomely. But it’s not really likely to happen, is it?
No such worries for Kildare. First year back in Division One has actually treated them rather well, despite the blips against Dublin and Tyrone, and manager Kieran McGeeney is already looking forward to the semi-finals. Winning the Leinster under-21 title during the week will have further boosted morale, four senior panellists Niall Kelly, Paddy Brophy, Daniel Flynn and Pádraig Fogarty all playing a key role. With Down’s morale going in the opposite direction, and Paul McComiskey announcing his unavailability for the rest of the year, they look set for an exit from Division One.
Cork v Mayo , Páirc Uí Rinn, 3.0 –
Cork are still in contention for a place in the semi-finals, and only need a draw here to seal it. Manager Conor Counihan has appeared a little indifferent about chasing a fourth title, and a growing list of injuries hasn’t helped, Eoin Cadogan now ruled out for a month, with Colm O’Neill, of course, gone for the season.
But losing to Kerry in the last round might well have renewed Cork’s hunger, and they have a good record against Mayo. Mayo have more to play for this time, namely survival, as defeat could leave them in danger of relegation, depending on how Kerry and Donegal get on. Barry Moran and Keith Higgins have joined their injury list, but victory over Donegal in the last round – ending a run of four straight defeats – may leave them that bit more primed, and indeed hungry, for the victory here.
Tyrone v Kerry , Healy Park, 3.0 – Tyrone may not have to win this – their semi-final spot is already assured – but the sight of a green and gold jersey in Omagh will surely be enough to generate enough competitive juices to ensure this game goes beyond the sum of its parts. Manager Mickey Harte has indicated as much with his team announcement, actually recalling first-choice defender Justin McMahon in place of Conor Clarke at full back, and rolling out all his big guns including Seán Cavanagh and Stephen O’Neill.
All the pressure, however, is on Kerry, who simply must win, and hope Mayo don’t beat Cork, and likewise Donegal don’t beat Dublin – and even then Kerry may still be relegated on scoring difference, thus playing lower division football for the first time in 12 years. Manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice is leaving no player unturned, Paul Galvin, Colm Cooper and captain Eoin Brosnan all recalled to the starting 15, with a familiar full-forward line too of Declan O’Sullivan, Kieran Donaghy and Darran O’Sullivan. It might be enough to save Kerry’s neck, but will make for one hell of fight.
Donegal v Dublin , Ballybofey, 3.0 – Here we go again – Donegal needing to win again in the last round to survive in Division One, although that didn’t do them any harm last year, did it? Home advantage may help get them over the line, but manager Jim McGuinness is already more concerned about next month’s championship showdown against Tyrone.
But winning, as everyone says, is a habit – something Dublin won't want to kick either, even if their semi-final berth is already certain. Manager Jim Gavin looks set to further extend his panel of players beyond the 31 so far used, and with competition for places so red-hot, especially up front, their firepower could be too much for Donegal to contain.
Derry v Westmeath , Celtic Park, 3.0 – Westmeath are the only unbeaten team across all four divisions at this stage of the season and safely promoted to Division One for next year.
Derry can join them in the top flight, and two points clear of the chasing duo of Laois and Galway, only need a draw to do so.
The fact that Westmeath are playing a largely second-string team should ensure Derry can at least secure that, and so they’ll most likely meet again in the Division Two final, where things should be a little more competitive.
Louth v Longford , Drogheda, 3.0 – Longford are still looking for their first points in Division Two, and win or lose, they’re already resigned to making the drop back down to Division Three. It’s a pity after the good progress of recent years, but their scoring difference of -21 reflects the heavy nature of some the defeats too, the one positive thing being the good group of under-21 players coming through.
Louth do still have something to fight for, needing to win to avoid relegation, or otherwise hoping neither Armagh nor Wexford win. With home advantage, and against a team with nothing to gain, it all points to a Louth victory.
Wexford v Laois , Wexford Park, 3.0 – Laois can still seal promotion if they beat Wexford, but need Derry to lose handsomely to Westmeath. It’s unlikely, but manager Justin McNulty will be happy enough, at least with no fears of relegation.
Wexford can be relegated, although a win here would leave them safely ahead of both Armagh and Longford. Laois looking to have the better momentum.
Armagh v Galway , Athletic Grounds, 3.0 –Armagh are without suspended captain Ciarán McKeever. Their fate now rests on this must-win game, and the hope that both Wexford and Louth lose, and that really is walking on thin ice.
Their task won’t be helped by the fact that Galway still have an outside chance of promotion, and recorded a good win over Wexford in the last round. If there is any last kick in Armagh it probably will come out here, but not enough to save them from relegation.
Monaghan v Antrim , Clones, 3.0 –
The maths are pretty simple for Monaghan here – win and they’re promoted, lose and they’re not.
They’ve had a decent league and can be forgiven the blip against Roscommon last time out. With the best defensive record in the top three divisions, they should have too much for Antrim here. Paddy Cunningham said during the week that he wouldn’t like to think Antrim would be going to Clones for a hammering! Frank Dawson’s side have a had a miserable league and are staring down the barrel of Division Four.
Meath v Fermanagh , Páirc Tailteann, 3.0 –Maybe it doesn’t say a lot for the quality of the division but Meath have done well to find their way back from such a shambolic start.
After taking hidings from Cavan and Monaghan, their league would have been done and dusted if they’d let Sligo cash in a nine-point lead in Navan but they dug a way out and could even grab an unlikely promotion with a win here.
Fermanagh started slowly, but have improved as the league has gone on and are the top scorers in the division. They’re clearly one of its fittest teams as well and if this is as tight at the end as we expect it to be, they won’t want for air. Barry Owens is back after suspension and with Fermanagh only needing a draw for promotion, he could make the difference.
Cavan v Roscommon , Breffni Park , 3.0 – League form, who’d trust it? Both these sides have had enough about them to beat Monaghan – described by John Evans as the best team in the division – yet Cavan lost to Antrim on the opening day and Roscommon couldn’t beat Wicklow last month. That sort of carelessness is what will likely keep both of them in Division Three next year, as they both probably need too much to go their way in the other games to send them up.
Maybe Cavan’s relatively clean bill of health will swing it form them.
Sligo v Wicklow , Markievicz Park, 3.0 –It doesn’t reflect well on Sligo that they’re in a relegation battle but they’ve shown decent form in flashes.
The fixture list has been tough – they’re the only side who faced Fermanagh, Monaghan and Meath away from home . But they just haven’t been scoring enough.
For all that, the fixture computer has given them exactly the tie they need to get out of trouble. Wicklow have been abject all spring and have a poor scoring difference. The drop beckons for them.
Clare v Limerick , Ennis,3.0 –
How Clare must regret that opening-day defeat at home to Waterford. It left Micko’s side with no wiggle room at all for the rest of the league and so the defeat to Tipperary four weeks ago has them in need of a win here.
You wouldn’t totally rule it out, as Limerick have only been just coming out on the right side of low-scoring games. Oddly, though they’re top of the table, Limerick are the lowest scorers in the division. That will hurt them if it ends in the three-way tie at the top. Micko will be planning a big scalp and a big finish.
Offaly v Tipperary , O’Connor Park, 3.0 – Tipperary really have no business being in Division Four and they played the first couple of games in it as though they believed that. After complacent defeats to Carlow and Waterford, they’ve splashed water in their face and gone on to beat everybody else in the division by eight, six, six and seven points.
They have the Munster under-21 final coming up on Wednesday. With Offaly welcoming Niall McNamee back, this is no gimme for Tipp. They should muddle through though.
Leitrim v London , Carrick-on-Shannon, 1.0 – Leitrim’s league didn’t get quite bounce they’d have hoped from their FBD win. Yet they’ve been a little unlucky too – three of their four defeats have only been by the kick of a ball. Leitrim head into championship action against New York on the first weekend in May and they can’t have their league finish with anything but a win.
Carlow v Waterford , Dr Cullen Park, 3.0 – Two sides whose best day in this league was the first one. Carlow beat Tipperary and Waterford took Clare, both results coming on the road. It’s all been downhill since. Waterford get the nod here.