Allianz League previews

  Odhrán MacNiallais: will be hoping to help Donegal bounce back from two defeats when the county take on Dublin at Croke Park.  Photograph: Lorcan Doherty/Presseye/Inpho

Odhrán MacNiallais: will be hoping to help Donegal bounce back from two defeats when the county take on Dublin at Croke Park. Photograph: Lorcan Doherty/Presseye/Inpho

 

SATURDAY

Allianz Football League Matches at 7.0 unless stated

Division One
Dublin v Donegal, Croke Park
With semi-final advancement already secured this is an opportunity for Jim Gavin to grind his system on one of the top Ulster teams, who have during his tenure provided the most interesting Croke Park tests. The holders have been doing enough to win so far whereas Donegal have hit a speed bump, losing their last two matches.

They had alibis for the Roscommon defeat – missing players, losing Odhrán MacNiallais to a second yellow, the net effect of which was to keep Michael Murphy for the most part as far away from goal as most Donegal opponents would wish. Dublin though might actually welcome his deployment on the edge of the square to road-test options in the post-Rory O’Carroll world. Donegal’s need for a response and Dublin’s comfort could engineer a surprise but the home side still look more likely.

Division Two
Tyrone v Armagh, Healy Park –
Ordinarily Armagh in their current circumstances might be glad to face a team with nothing left to play for but Tyrone are unlikely to be indifferent opponents even with their promotion secured. Kieran McGeeney’s team picked it up against Galway and were unlucky to get caught for a draw but you’d fancy Tyrone to get to grips with Stefan Campbell whose eye-catching form has been a rare plus for the visitors.

Division Three
Tipperary v Kildare, Clonmel, 2.0
Cian O’Neill’s concerns about Kildare’s form were vindicated in the shock home defeat by Sligo and the team is weakened by injuries and the demands on the under-21s. Tipp have felt the departure of influential players so far and need to win this to preserve promotion chances. Kildare backlash to decide the outcome.

Division Four
Leitrim v Carlow, Carrick-on-Shannon, 2.0
Similar records for two counties becalmed in mid-table. Leitrim have better momentum having won their most recent matches whereas Carlow are headed in the other direction. Home win.

Allianz Hurling League
Division Two A final

Carlow v Westmeath, O’Connor Park, 4.0
Carlow narrowly won the regulation fixture last week but on neutral ground Westmeath, who had been slightly more impressive up until then, can redress the balance.

Division Two B final
Armagh v Down, Dowdallshill, 2.0;

Division Three A final
Monaghan v Roscommon, Ballyshannon, 4.0;

Division Three B final
Fermanagh v Longford, Markievicz Park, 2.0.

SUNDAY

Allianz Football League Matches at 3.0 unless stated

Division One
Cork v Down, Páirc Uí Rinn, 2.0 –
Cork arrested the alarming slide in results in the last outing against Monaghan, building on the much-improved form shown against Dublin in the Croke Park defeat. The attack still looks the more convincing part of the team’s overall structure and Colm O’Neill has been in good form.

They face a Down team whose first season back in the top division has been a calamity and who are facing confirmation of a swift return to Division Two. That should be forthcoming after the final whistle.

Monaghan v Kerry, Clones
Last year’s win in Tralee was the stand-out result for Monaghan last season and fired them in the direction of the semi-finals. This year’s fixture may be at home but it is more daunting, as Kerry are gradually reassembling both playing strength and form. Bryan Sheehan’s injury is a loss but David Moran’s return is a plus.

Against Mayo, they looked smart and efficient. Colm Cooper’s display on his comeback was encouraging and their counterattack took comfortable care of a misfiring Mayo. Monaghan have drifted into relegation trouble and need the points but, as ever, the reliance on Conor McManus leaves them vulnerable, particularly against a side that can pose a multi-faceted attacking threat.

Roscommon v Mayo, Dr Hyde Park, 3.30
This promises to be a fascinating fixture. Mayo have more to play for, as they need the points to get out of the drop zone but that hardly leaves Roscommon with a lack of motivation, as the idea of being potentially the only Connacht county in Division One has its appeal. Mayo are feeling the impact of injury and club ties – in which respect the desperate display of Castlebar on St Patrick’s Day comes as a nasty twist – as Stephen Rochford tries to implement a new approach.

The Connacht champions have been experiencing difficulty putting up scores, as vividly evidenced against Kerry. They take on opponents who have electrified the division on their return to the top flight.

Roscommon are top scorers in the table – not surprisingly considering an 80 per cent efficiency in turning attacks into shots and a further 80 per conversion rate – way ahead of the national averages of 75 and 53 per cent, respectively. Mayo’s wounded pride will be a huge factor here but may not be enough.

Division Two
Derry v Meath, Owenbeg, 2.0

Derry were involved a fortnight ago in a crazy match against Laois but one that summarised their season. They’re the top goal scorers in the league but have the third-worst defensive record. None the less they’re still in with a shout of making a quick return to Division One.

It’s been a disappointing season for Meath and they’re stapled together with Laois and Armagh at the bottom of the table. Hard to see beyond Derry.

Cavan v Laois, Breffni Park

Cavan have made a run into the promotion frame and will be favourites here against a Laois side that is looking into the abyss (okay, Division Three) with the league’s worst defensive record. An evidently reborn Seán Johnston is driving a Cavan attack that won’t turn down that invitation.

Galway v Fermanagh, Tuam Stadium
Galway have slowed in the dash for the tape with two draws in succession, unfortunate to get caught by Meath and lucky to catch Armagh. Fermanagh’s alternating season, winning every two matches, has left them just above the bottom teams and, with Shane Walsh in form, Galway look to have the necessary tools to take their promotion challenge to a last day showdown against Cavan.

Division Three
Westmeath v Offaly, Cusack Park –
Westmeath woke up with a start the last day and Limerick bore the brunt but the home team still have work to do. The quality of their attack gives them an edge against Offaly who have yet to pick up a point on the road.

Clare v Longford, Cusack Park –
Clare tripped up in their promotion challenge when losing late on against Offaly but are still in the hunt where Longford have joined them. But the home side can repeat last summer’s qualifier win and push on to the last day.

Sligo v Limerick, Markievicz Park –
A gratifying return to Newbridge for Sligo manager Niall Carew two weeks ago yielded a strong display and both points. They could still do with the points and are likely to get them here against a Limerick side yet to win.

Division Four
Waterford v London, Fraher Field, nb 1.0 – Ciarán Deely’s team have a glimmer of opportunity but Waterford have been competitive this campaign and should stay above their visitors.

Wicklow v Antrim, Aughrim –
A win here would send Antrim up and it’s likely to come against a Wicklow side that has struggled even at home.

Louth v Wexford, Gaelic Grounds –
Louth must be bitterly regretting the defeat by Leitrim that has cost them second place in the table. This is their opportunity to regain the initiative but Wexford have the edge.

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