Allianz Football Leagues: Previews, throw-in times and TV details

Intercounty season restarts with plenty still at stake in all four divisions

Dublin’s Ciaran Kilkenny and Graham Reily of Meath during last year’s Leinster SFC final in Croke Park. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Dublin’s Ciaran Kilkenny and Graham Reily of Meath during last year’s Leinster SFC final in Croke Park. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Division One

At the top: Galway have the edge with eight points but finish with two tough matches, against Mayo and Dublin. Kerry are a point behind with Dublin and Tyrone on six each. Realistically the title lies between the four of them.

At the bottom: Meath have already been relegated and Mayo are so precariously positioned that a defeat in either of their remaining matches all but seals their fate, as they lost the head-to-head with Monaghan and have a considerably poorer scoring difference than them and Donegal, also on five.

Fixtures

Monaghan v Kerry

Throw-in: 2pm, Saturday. Venue: Innishkeen. How to watch: Live on GAAGo. Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).

Kerry have one eye on the league and one eye on Cork, who are more of a concern this year especially with a knockout championship. The lay-off has settled two significant injuries in Peter Crowley who was sorely missed in last year’s championship but who is well recovered at this stage and David Moran. Jack Barry has an injury but won’t be missing for long. Monaghan’s main interest is to preserve their status and they beat Kerry here two years ago. Pre-lockdown they had some good performances to beat Tyrone and Mayo but Séamus McEnaney may have to manage without Conor McManus for this because of injury and if the visitors aren’t knackered from the driving they can keep the pressure on.

Verdict: Kerry

Dublin v Meath

Throw-in: 7pm, Saturday. Venue: Parnell Park. How to watch: Live on eir Sport 1. Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare)

A dead rubber for Andy McEntee’s men, who were relegated before the league shut down but something at stake for Dublin, who face Galway in the last match of the season with maybe the league on the line. McEntee lost last year’s top scorer, the luckless Mickey Newman to another injury and he misses the season. AFL player Cian McBride has, however, been allowed home from Essendon. Dessie Farrell is likely to experiment a bit with Paddy Small’s outstanding form for Ballymun putting him in the frame and Farrell’s former minor Emmet Ó Conghaile also believed to be involved. Of course the Dubs are also missing high-profile absentee Jack McCaffrey whereas there have also been retirements since Marc, most notably Diarmuid Connolly but also the ultimate panellist Darren Daly. They should win a first league match at the venue for 10 years.

Verdict: Dublin

Galway v Mayo

Throw-in: 2pm, Sunday. Venue: Tuam Stadium. How to watch: Live on TG4. Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)

After all the excitement of last weekend and the apparition of Jim McGuinness at Galway training, it’s down to brass tacks. Pádraic Joyce has a pile of injuries, including Shane Walsh whose supernal form was part of what gave Galway such a good start. John Daly is long-term absentee and misses the year, as does Ciarán Duggan. Mayo are a lot better off with nearly a full muster although Brendan Harrison and Jason Doherty are still out and James Horan gives debuts to Mark Moran and David McBrien. Overall Joyce looks like he’s trialling as well so Mayo’s greater need may be sufficient to swing this.

Verdict: Mayo

Donegal v Tyrone

Throw-in: 4pm, Sunday. Venue: Ballybofey. How to watch: Live on TG4. Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo).

Edgiest fixture of the day between the fractious recent history between the counties as well as the imminence of a first winner-takes-all championship match between them for over 20 years. Both sides could do with the points and there’s just one between them. Donegal manager Declan Boner made the point that a match like this isn’t all about cute hoorism and that with the championship so close teams need momentum. After a Covid lockdown, his panel is back in business. Mickey Harte’s 18th season resumes short of the defensive keystone that was Colm Cavanagh, now retired. Very hard to call but the home side can nick it.

Verdict: Donegal

Division Two

At the top: The winner of Armagh v Roscommon will be all but guaranteed promotion. Cavan can get in the mix if they beat Kildare and the winner of Westmeath v Laois will be in with a shout on the last day.

At the bottom: Only the top two are safe as things stand. Fermanagh look doomed. Realistically they need to beat Clare to have a hope on the final day. A Clare win will see them leapfrog one or both of Westmeath and Laois, ditto Kildare if they beat Cavan.

Fixtures

Westmeath v Laois

Throw-in: 2pm, Saturday. Venue: Mullingar. How to watch: Live on GAAGo. Referee: Patrick Maguire (Longford).

A few comings and goings in the Laois squad, the most notable being the return of Paul Kingston who had opted out at the start of the year. His brother Donie hasn’t come back, however. Though both sides have almost identical records, Laois looked marginally the friskier proposition in the spring.

Verdict: Laois

Armagh v Roscommon

Throw-in: 5.30pm, Saturday. Venue: Athletic Grounds. How to watch: Live on RTÉ2. Referee: David Gough (Meath).

Roscommon have been bolstered over the break with the return of the Murtagh brothers, Ultan Harney and Shane Killoran. Armagh were the form side in the country back in March, boasting the best points difference in the four divisions. But their prep has to have been upset at least somewhat by their Covid outbreak so the Rossies have to be slight favourites here.

Verdict: Roscommon

Clare v Fermanagh

Throw-in: 1pm, Sunday. Venue: Ennis. How to watch: Live on GAAGo. Referee: James Bermingham (Cork).

It is desperately rough on Fermanagh to have to play this game having had their squad decimated by a Covid outbreak. Into the bargain, they were already bottom of the league and the break has allowed Clare to entice Gary Brennan and Jamie Malone back into the squad. Should be straightforward for the home side.

Verdict: Clare

Kildare v Cavan

Throw-in: 2pm, Sunday. Venue: Newbridge. How to watch: Live on TG4. Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).

The big spike in Covid cases in Cavan has caused Mickey Graham to have to do without a handful of players who are close contacts for this one. Though he’s confident of having close to a full panel by the time the Ulster championship starts, Cavan are up against it here. Kildare have got Ben McCormack back over the break and Eanna O’Connor has been called up as well.

Verdict: Kildare

Division Three

At the top: Cork are all but promoted, needing just one more point to bounce back to Division Two after just a year. Behind them it’s a toss-up between Longford and Down but the latter finish their campaign against Louth, which looks straightforward but didn’t prove that way last year when defeat cost Down promotion.

At the bottom: Louth look already gone unless they get something out of this weekend but above them Tipperary and Leitrim are locked together on three points and may go to the last day of the season when they face each other.

Cork v Louth

Throw-in: 4pm, Saturday. Venue: Páirc Uí Chaoimh. How to watch: Live on GAAGo. Referee: Séamus Mulhare (Laois).

This comes as a relief for Cork who spent the lockdown a point short of promotion. There has been good news for Ronan McCarthy in the rehabilitation of Ruairí Deane but more bad news for Ciarán Sheehan, who is ruled out with knee surgery. However, it looks to be too tall an order for the under-pressure visitors.

Verdict: Cork

Down v Leitrim

Throw-in: 4pm, Saturday. Venue: Newry. How to watch: Live on GAAGo. Referee: Niall McKenna (Monaghan)

Down are well positioned for promotion and have Caolan Mooney back in action less than a year after a horrific assault left him with severe head injuries. Leitrim aren’t out of contention for staying up if they can get something from this but it’s probably too stiff a test.

Verdict: Down

Derry v Longford,

Throw-in: 4.30pm, Saturday. Venue: Celtic Park. How to watch: Live on GAAGo. Referee: Séan Laverty (Antrim).

If promotion was going to be up for grabs at this stage of the campaign Derry would have assumed it was going to them involved. Instead Longford arrive in search of points for their battle with Down for the second spot. That ambition may not survive the arduous journey.

Verdict: Derry

Tipperary v Offaly

Throw-in: 2pm, Sunday. Venue: Semple Stadium. How to watch: Live on GAAGO. Referee: David Murnane (Cork).

Tipperary have done better out of the lockdown than many with former All Star Michael Quinlivan back at their disposal after being unavailable at the start of the year. Offaly had taken points without dazzling earlier in the campaign and Tipp look a good bet to repeat the four-point win of three seasons ago.

Verdict: Tipperary

Division Four

At the top: Limerick are top but far from guaranteed promotion. In fact, each of the top five teams are in with a shout. Antrim have done the hardest yards so far, beating Limerick and Wexford already. Sligo and Wicklow need to win and get help from elsewhere. Not easy but not impossible.

Wicklow v Antrim

Throw-in: 12.30pm, Saturday. Venue: Aughrim. How to watch: Live on GAAGo. Referee: John Hickey (Carlow).

This is championship stuff for both sides. A win for Antrim leaves them with a reasonably straightforward task against Waterford next week. Wicklow are still in with a shout but Lenny Harbinson’s side can pull off an away win.

Verdict: Antrim

Carlow v Sligo

Throw-in: 5pm, Saturday. Venue: Carlow. How to watch: Live on GAAGo. Referee: Fergal Smyth (Offaly).

The long-term loss of both Brendan and Seán Murphy is a killer for Niall Carew as he takes Carlow for the first game of his reign. Sligo have lost Adrian Marren to retirement but can still put themselves in the promotion hunt.

Verdict: Sligo

Limerick v Wexford

Throw-in: 3pm, Sunday. Venue: Rathkeale. How to watch: Live on GAAGo. Referee: Seán Lonergan (Tipperary).

Billy Lee’s panel has lost Jamie Lee, James Naughton and Patrick Begley over the break and Danny Neville is likely to miss the restart with a broken hand. Shane Roche has had to deal with a Covid outbreak ahead of his first game since taking over from Paul Galvin so it’s hard to see beyond a home win.

Verdict: Limerick

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