Roscommon stand between Dublin and a record 35th

Extending unbeaten run a real possibility but champions need to be more clinical

Cian O’Sullivan returns to the Dublin backline for game against Roscommon at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

Cian O’Sullivan returns to the Dublin backline for game against Roscommon at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

 

SATURDAY

Allianz Football League

(Fixtures at 7.0pm)

DIVISION ONE

Dublin v Roscommon, Croke Park (Eir Sport 2) – Whereas the prospect of setting a new record – of 35 unbeaten league and championship matches – is gratifying, Dublin will be more interested in picking up on performance. It’s a great tribute to be scrapping back for draws in matches they could have lost but it would be good to get the wheels rolling, especially in attack. For instance only two teams have managed fewer goals in the division and their bottom-of-the-table opponents have racked up more scores. Defence has been sound and Cian O’Sullivan is back to strengthen it further. Good news for Roscommon sees talented forward Diarmuid Murtagh start for the first time this season after injury but team’s defining problem is at the back, which conversely might help Dublin’s productivity. 

Verdict: Dublin

DIVISION THREE 

Armagh v Antrim, Athletic Grounds – Having overcome an early-season wobble, Armagh now have the momentum of an express train. Antrim had a comforting win over Laois last week but the performance wouldn’t earn them much more than a trimming here.

Verdict: Armagh 

Laois v Longford, O’Moore Park (Eir Sport 1) – There were contrasting fortunes for the counties last time out with Longford taking advantage of 14-man Sligo whereas Laois played half the match a man down and lost. Indiscipline and inaccuracy have cost Peter Creedon’s side but they need these points.

Verdict: Laois 

DIVISION FOUR 

Waterford v Limerick, Dungarvan – Limerick have had a tricky season bringing in new players and coping with injuries but they are on a two-match winning roll, which can be furthered here.

Verdict: Limerick 

Connacht football under-21 semi-final 

Galway v Mayo, Tuam Stadium, 5.0 – A lively attack with senior Michael Daly in form makes Galway favourites to depose the All-Ireland champions, who will not be abdicating easily.  

Verdict: Galway 

SUNDAY 

Allianz Football League

(Fixtures at 3.0 unless stated)

DIVISION ONE 

Cavan v Kerry, Kingspan Breffni Park, 2.0pm – Cavan gave themselves a real lifeline last week in Castlebar and looked like a team that is acclimatising to Division One, whether that’s too late or not at this point. The opposition mightn’t have been terrific but there were good performances from Gearóid McKiernan and Tomás Corr, as Cavan got to grips with Mayo’s centrefield, and Dara McVeety in attack. Kerry should have put a stop to Dublin’s gallop but indiscipline in defence was costly. They won’t, however, allow Cavan the same latitude they enjoyed last week to counter-attack and catch the opposing defence off guard and Paul Geaney is in more rapacious form than any of the Mayo forwards.

Verdict: Kerry 

Donegal v Monaghan, Ballyshannon – Another of Donegal’s provincial rivals arrives in Ballyshannon a week after Tyrone were sent packing along with their unbeaten record. The contest has the added bite that both counties are involved in the seven-point gridlock at the top of the table. Rory Gallagher’s developing side have been impressive and Ciarán Thompson’s regular multi-point hauls from centrefield particularly so. Monaghan for their part have negotiated another respectable season in Division One with the possibility of reaching the final still intact. Conor McManus’s subdued form has been compensated by Jack McCarron’s displays. Donegal though are on a great run at home and can extend it.

Verdict: Donegal 

Tyrone v Mayo, Healy Park (TG4) – Alarm bells rang in both camps last week. Mayo’s lack of energy and penetration against Cavan, coming just a fortnight after the latest Croke Park sturm und drang, was worrying even for a team that tends not to get that exercised by the league. This could be an opportunity to atone. Except it’s not the only one in Omagh: Tyrone’s disappointing defeat in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final stacks onto the anaemic display against Donegal in demanding a response. Last August was Mayo’s most impressive tactical coup of the summer, playing around the Tyrone sweepers. They’ve a good record against Mickey Harte’s team but to maintain it, they’ll have to find form from nowhere.

Verdict: Tyrone 

DIVISION TWO 

Derry v Cork, Celtic Park, 1.0pm – Both teams are in dire straits having blown winning half-time positions last week and now in the thick of the relegation reckoning. It would be a calamity for either county but even allowing for the possible return of Slaughtneil players, Cork’s situation may be the falser of the two.

Verdict: Cork

Meath v Fermanagh, Páirc Tailteann – Andy McEntee may have cut an anomalous figure giving out about Meath recovering a nine-point deficit in the second half but his frustration at the team’s mood swings was understandable. Fermanagh had a good win against Clare but it’s probably time for the home side to win again.

Verdict: Meath

Down v Galway, Páirc Esler – A crackpot match in Tuam saw Galway concede 2-15 to Derry and still win by nine. Their firepower has them on the cusp of promotion even if there are obvious defensive issues. Down’s mini-revival halted last week and even with home advantage, they’ll struggle to contain the visitors.

Verdict: Galway

Kildare v Clare, Newbridge, 3.15pm – It comes full circle for Cian O’Neill’s team. A year ago this was the last fixture in the regulation matches in Division Three. Kildare won but then lost the divisional final to the same opposition in Croke Park. It’s taken nearly 12 months to turn it around but the home side should seal promotion. Verdict: Kildare

DIVISION THREE 

Sligo v Offaly, Markievicz 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

Tipperary v Louth, Semple Stadium – 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 one more win will secure promotion. It may not be here, as there’s a sense that Tipperary have got their show on the road.

Verdict: Tipperary

DIVISION FOUR 

Leitrim v London, Páirc Seán Mac Diarmaida, 1.0pm – Whereas London’s displays have been respectable this season, Leitrim will want to establish the pecking order before May’s championship encounter.

Verdict: Leitrim

Wexford v Westmeath, Innovate Wexford Park, 1.0pm – Wexford are already up and Westmeath as good as but this will be an interesting contest. The home side have the best defence in the league but Westmeath can successfully test that.

Verdict: Westmeath 

Wicklow v Carlow, Aughrim Last year this fixture was Carlow’s first win at the venue for 37 years and that new pecking order doesn’t appear to have changed much in the past 12 months.

Verdict: Carlow 

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