GAA Allianz Football League weekend previews
Monaghan bidding to halt the slide in relegation four-pointer against Cavan
Stephen O’Hanlon: has been a bright spot for Monaghan throughout a series of tough results since the opening win over Dublin. Photograph: Lorcan Doherty /Inpho
Monaghan v Cavan, Clones 2 pm.
The league is brutal. Monaghan created the first ripple of surprise of the season by beating Dublin on opening day and haven’t caught a break since.
The emergence of Stephen O’Hanlon has been a bright spot through a series of tough results. This derby is a relegation four-pointer.
All three of Cavan’s league goals came at Roscommon’s expense but in Clones, Monaghan are astute at shutting up shop. They can grind a result in what is a dress rehearsal for their May 18th championship meeting. Verdict: Monaghan.
Galway v Roscommon, Salthill 3.30 pm.
A sinking feeling descended on Hyde Park after Roscommon’s five-point defeat to Dublin. Conor Cox was at the centre of a terrific first 35 minutes but the final whistle brought the realisation that this trip to Salthill will define their league.
Their high pressure defensive strategy is effective but carries the risk of a fading last 15 minutes. Danny Cummins, Pádraig Cunningham and Antoine O’Laoi have expanded Galway’s attacking options this season and they have know-how in these tight league games. Verdict: Galway.
Dublin v Tyrone, Croke Park 7 pm.
A game in which the All-Ireland champions slip into a higher gear. Tyrone haven’t tasted victory against Dublin there in the Jim Gavin era.
Darren Gavin continues to impress at midfield for the city team and competition in the starting six is molten hot.
Roscommon tested Dublin’s full back line twice with high ball and it yielded a goal; this is an opportunity for Tyrone to try something different, with Richard Donnelly one of the four starting players who did not start last September’s All-Ireland final. Verdict: Dublin.
Kerry v Mayo, Austin Stack Park 7 pm.
Not even Kieran Donaghy and the Tralee Warriors could stop this game from selling out. The enthusiasm is due to Kerry contentment rather than the anticipation of fireworks. Mayo’s boys of summer are nowhere near their peak just now. Sean O’Shea and Tom O’Sullivan are leading this charge of Kerry’s youth brigade. Expect David Clifford’s first appearance of the season. Verdict: Kerry.
Clare v Meath, Cusack Park 1.30
In other seasons, a stray point here or a poor ten minutes there cost Meath games and left them dicing with relegation. Andy McEntee’s team have been efficient and steady in this promotion drive.
They have used Graham Reilly as impact-sub cameo to great effect. In pole position, they are good enough to earn an away win here before a crucial last-round showdown with Fermanagh. Verdict: Meath.
Cork v Donegal, Páirc Uí Rinn 2.00.
Michael Murphy saved his county once again in the previous round by hitting Armagh for 1-5 off the bench and preserving Donegal’s promotion hopes.
Senior figures like Neil McGee and Frank McGlynn have also returned to full training. Cork’s win over Tipperary was much needed but this is a steeper challenge. A failure to win here will dent Donegal’s promotion ambitions.
Kildare v Tipperary, Newbridge 2.30 pm.
An appointment with big consequences for a Tipp team which has made bold strides in recent seasons. Their lone win came against Donegal highlights the volatility of this division.
Limited by injury, Tipp’ fans will be relieved by the sight of Michael Quinlivan on the field here: the rangy forward is one of five returnees from injury. Kildare, meanwhile, must operate without Ben McCormack for the remainder of the league. Verdict: Kildare.
Armagh v Fermanagh, Crossmaglen 3pm.
A quietly monumental assignment for Fermanagh football. A win here will leave Rory Gallagher’s crack-defensive unit poised on a breakthrough to Division One.
Eoin Donnelly will make his 100th appearance. Armagh are becoming a tougher nut to crack with each outing but Stephen Sheridan heads a lengthy absentee list through suspensions and injuries. Verdict: Fermanagh.
Longford v Sligo, Pearse Park 2 pm.
Consecutive defeats have halted Longford’s momentum but Pádraic Davis’s team can still make a late charge for promotion in what could well be a photo-finish division. Sligo have suffered a miserable league, shipping 3-12 against Westmeath last time out. Verdict: Longford.
Louth v Westmeath, Drogheda 2pm
The only show in town around these parts. Both counties have a strong shout in the promotion race. Louth have scored 10 goals in their last four games but hit a wall last time out against Carlow. Verdict: Louth.
Offaly v Laois, O’Connor Park 2 pm.
John Sugrue rightly identified Laois’s need for more consistent performances. Last year’s Division Four champions are good enough to keep rising. They need a win here and favourable results elsewhere. Verdict: Laois.
Carlow v Down, Cullen Park 3 pm.
A hugely impressive league for Paddy Tally would deliver promotion for Down with a win here. The presence of Down man Stephen Poacher in the Carlow dug-out adds to the intrigue. Carlow have already lost to Longford at home and may have to fight a relegation battle after this. Verdict: Down.
London v Waterford, McGovern Park, 12.30 In what has been a well-contested division outside of the top two, London have been competitive and Waterford occasionally impressive. Verdict: Waterford
Antrim v Wicklow, Corrigan Park, 2.0 Antrim have been a big disappointment in the division but they can salvage something here. Verdict: Antrim
Wexford v Limerick, Innovate Wexford Park, 3.0 Wexford are another county to have had a nightmare season but last week’s win in Aughrim might signal some rehabilitation. Verdict: Wexford
Derry v Leitrim, Celtic Park, 4.0 It is arguable that Leitrim pulled a plum by meeting leaders Derry so late in the schedule but against that, the second-last fixture would have been viewed at the start as a crucial stage in the promotion scramble, which is instead all sewn up.
What’s more, their record against comparable opposition is similar but home advantage and the looseness triggered by early promotion makes Derry more likely. Verdict: Derry