Dublin can maintain record run while Donegal will test Tyrone’s unbeaten one

Allianz Football League weekend previews:

Tyrone’s Seán Cavanagh made his presence felt when he came of the bench against Cavan at Healy Park, Omagh. Photograph: Inpho

Tyrone’s Seán Cavanagh made his presence felt when he came of the bench against Cavan at Healy Park, Omagh. Photograph: Inpho

 

SATURDAY [Fixtures at 7.0]

Division One

Kerry v Dublin, Stack Park, Tralee [eir sport Xtra 1]Eamonn Fitzmaurice could be forgiven for being exasperated at the Dubs arriving trailing the historical significance of an unbeaten run when he is simply trying to negotiate the latest Division One campaign. On the other hand and to the extent that this rivalry needs amplification, it helps add significance to the fixture – regardless of all the insistence to the contrary – and with Tralee already sold out, a terrific atmosphere is guaranteed. Whereas it’s safe to suggest Jim Gavin is probably not that hypnotised by the prospect of cracking Kerry’s 84-year old record, it’s equally likely he’d prefer not to slip up at this particular point.

Nearly all of Dublin’s first-choice players are back in action more or less ready to go after an extended break and the team has momentum without being massively impressive up until the Mayo match – and that was with the co-operation of the opposition. Fitzmaurice is juggling with injuries, the under-21 season in full flight and Dr Crokes’ club campaign only winding up this weekend. He’ll be glad to put in a decent performance and end the league respectably – relegation isn’t even a plausible prospect to add urgency – so that they can all focus on the summer. If they really rise to the occasion and Dublin are flat, a cheering home victory is possible but the evidence to date suggests otherwise. Verdict: Dublin

Donegal v Tyrone, Ballybofey [eir sport 2] – Tyrone have stealthily come up the field to top the table and look probable finalists against Dublin, which also happened in 2013. This is a continuation of Mickey Harte’s team’s arc of improvement in recent seasons. Although last year’s championship ended disappointingly they won Ulster and have been impressive so far in the league – unlucky not to have taken the shine off Dublin’s trip to Kerry a couple of matches ago.

Their panel strength has been on full view with major contributions coming off the bench in the past two matches from Mark Bradley and Seán Cavanagh against Cavan and Monaghan, respectively. It has been a heartening campaign for Rory Gallagher so far with the number of young players incorporated in the league to date. This is currently the top Ulster rivalry and will test Tyrone’s unbeaten record but it’s a test they can pass. Verdict: Tyrone

Division Two

Down v Kildare, Páirc Esler [eir sport 1] – Down’s emphatic bounce back in the last two matches has put them back in contention in what is an unpredictable division. Kildare picked up one unlucky – and fairly anomalous – defeat late in Derry but have otherwise gone about their business impressively and have the best scoring difference in the top half of the league. The home team have the potential to blow open the division to an even greater extent. Verdict: Kildare

Division Four

Carlow v Waterford, Netwatch Cullen Park – Carlow can overtake the third-placed visitors here. Only Westmeath have scored more goals in the division and no-one’s conceded more than Waterford. Verdict: Carlow

SUNDAY
[Fixtures at 2.0 unless stated]

Division One
Mayo v Cavan, Elverys MacHale Park – There has probably been too much of a reaction to Mayo’s poor display in Croke Park. Despite all the urging to take the spring competition seriously they appear becalmed in another nondescript campaign but in previous years this hasn’t appeared to impact on their summer trajectories. It does however leave concerns that haven’t been eased, primarily the development of a more threatening attack. This match carries the promise of a quick recovery, as Cavan although game contestants have struggled to live with the pace and sharpness of Division One. They have occasionally impressed going forward but consistency of performance has eluded them. This will probably move relegation a step closer. Verdict: Mayo

Monaghan v Roscommon, Páirc Grattan, Inniskeen – Despite all the turbulence of the management upheaval, departing players and harsh words Roscommon have battled away in the division despite having lost their last seven matches in the competition from the moment their startling run in last season’s league came to an end. Monaghan’s indiscipline derailed their comeback in Omagh but they remain a dogged presence in the top flight so no epic in the home of Patrick Kavanagh but a prosaic if welcome two points. Verdict: Monaghan

Division Two

Cork v Meath, Páirc Uí Rinn – The dismal run for Cork continued with the bad news that Brian Hurley had suffered a setback on his return from long-term injury last week. Meath had a contrasting turnaround when defeating leaders Galway with a great display from Donal Lenihan, which contrasts with how feebly Cork used abundant possession against Clare. This could be an away victory. Verdict: Meath

Fermanagh v Clare, Brewster Park – Fermanagh are struggling at the moment, rooted to the bottom of the table and hosting a team that produced the most eye-catching result of the day two weeks ago. Even without Gary Brennan, they were far too sharp for Cork. The home side desperately need some of last season’s form and given the topsy-turvy nature of the division, they may rediscover it here. Verdict: Fermanagh

Galway v Derry, St Jarlath’s Park, Tuam – Like Kildare before them Galway were unable to hold on at the top of the table. Losing to Meath was very disappointing given that they had recovered the half-time deficit to lead in the second half but still lost. Disappointment is too mild a word  for Derry’s home defeat by Down and they are in a tailspin. Emmett McGuckin has been in goal scoring form and that toppled Kildare but it’s unlikely to be enough here. Verdict: Galway

Division Three

Longford v Sligo, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park – Sligo are coming off a scrappy win against Laois whereas Longford were well beaten by Tipperary in the postponed match last week. Sligo, who have taken points off fellow top-four teams Armagh and Tipp can overcome having to travel. Verdict: Sligo

Louth v Armagh, Gaelic Grounds Drogheda – Louth have blazed a trail to top the table and boast the league’s meanest defence outside of Division One. They’re going to need it against the league’s top scorers. Manager Colin Kelly believes on more win will secure promotion; it may not be here, as there’s a sense that Armagh have got their show on the road. Verdict: Armagh

Offaly v Tipperary, O’Connor Park – Offaly are in a grim position having taken a 30-point tanking from Armagh. Tipp manager Liam Kearns has been valiantly talking up the challenge but allowing for some sort of a response from Pat Flanagan’s team, the visitors have too much quality up front. Verdict: Tipperary

Antrim v Laois, Corrigan Park, 3.30 – One of a bunch of counties propping up the table was not presumably what Laois had in mind when relegated from Division Two last year. Antrim have been competitive but you’d have to fancy the visitors to start moving. Verdict: Laois

Division Four

Wexford v London, Innovate Wexford Park,  1.0 – Wexford’s undisturbed progress back to Division Three will continue here. Verdict: Wexford

Limerick v Leitrim, Newcastle West – Limerick have been disappointing so far and even though they’ve played the top two already, so have Leitrim who can spring something of a surprise here. Verdict: Leitrim

Westmeath v Wicklow, TEG Cusack Park – Wicklow were much improved when running leaders Wexford respectably close last time out. They’ll hope to maintain progress but the home team are unbeaten and likely to stay that way. Verdict: Westmeath

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