Weekend football previews: TV details, throw-in times and verdicts

Seán Moran looks ahead to a busy first weekend as football action returns

This weekend’s action gets underway at MacHale Park, Castlebar,  as Mayo host Down at 2pm. File photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

This weekend’s action gets underway at MacHale Park, Castlebar, as Mayo host Down at 2pm. File photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Saturday

Division One North
Tyrone v Donegal
, Healy Park, 5.0 (Live, TG4) - Two counties sick of the sight of each other, you’d imagine. It will be Tyrone’s third time in their last four competitive matches to take on the neighbours as well as for good measure last year’s Ulster under-20 final. They are under the new management of Fergal Logan and Brian Dooher, hoping to represent a step change from the cautious orthodoxies of Mickey Harte but Cathal McShane’s injury is proving stubborn. Conscientious objectors have returned to the panel and for Donegal Odhrán Mac Niallais is back after a year out. Declan Bonner needs his team to be more productive under pressure and that starts today against fired-up opponents.

Verdict: Tyrone

Division One South
Kerry v Galway
, Austin Stack Park, 3.0 (Live, eir Sport) - Last year this fixture was stolen from Galway with a larcenous 1-1 in injury-time to swing it for Kerry. Pádraic Joyce’s team never recaptured the spring form and lost both autumn league matches. Kerry won the title but their championship ended in a horror story so both teams have things to prove. Both sides have to absorb departures: Kerry have lost the retired Peter Crowley whereas Galway’s Michael Daly and Ian Burke aren’t available and Cillian McDaid’s injury woes continue. On the plus side, Damien Comer is restored to full fitness and last year’s All-Ireland winning under-20s add quality for Galway but the tight confines of this league don’t give much room to breathe.

Verdict: Kerry

Division Two North
Mayo v Down, Elverys MacHale Park, 2.0 (Live, GAAGO)- Two counties that were two divisions apart in 2020: Down’s volatility last year cost them dearly, their pace and adventure giving them a big lead against Cavan but inexperience and lack of leadership undermining them. This will be a test against James Horan’s rejuvenating team - missing Aidan O’Shea possibly for the league - who need to build on the All-Ireland run.

Verdict: Mayo

Division Two South
Cork v Kildare
, Semple Stadium, 3:30 (Live, eir Sport) - When this pair met here in 2015, Kildare produced a great display and Cork didn’t. They have lost home advantage because of the training Covid breach and face Kildare short a couple of significant injuries, especially Killian O’Hanlon’s cruciate. The excellent Seán Powter is back and the team may fancy the big pitch. Jack O’Connor’s Kildare spell has been massively disrupted and they need to tighten up at the back.

Verdict: Mayo

Division Three North
Longford v Derry
, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park 5.0 (Live, GAAGO) - Under Pádraic Davis Longford have been competitive in the division but this was the fixture that stifled any thoughts of promotion last autumn. Derry missed out on a head-to-head and if Rory Gallagher intends to move them in the right direction they need to be winning this and they have Conor Glass home from Hawthorn.

Verdict: Derry

Fermanagh v Cavan, Brewster Park, 7.0 (Live, GAAGO) - Cavan’s glittering 2020 is now in the rear-view mirror and fixtures like this an indication of how tough the division is - even for Ulster champions. Still, the enhanced status of All Stars Raymond and Thomas Galligan as well as Pádraig Faulkner must surely translate into performance against a Fermanagh side, now missing last year’s leading light Tomás Corrigan.

Verdict: Cavan

Division Three South
Limerick v Tipperary, LIT Gaelic Grounds, 5.0 (Live, GAAGO) - Limerick must be fairly chuffed at Tipperary’s exploits last winter given that they had them nearly beaten. Tipp have acquired former Dublin All-Ireland panellist Philly Ryan and manager David Power is keeping in touch with Colin O’Riordan - just in case.

Verdict: Tipperary

Division Four North
Louth v Antrim, Geraldines GFC, 3.0 (Live, GAAGO) - The Tyrone reunion as Enda McGinley brings Antrim to visit Mickey Harte’s new project. Louth are probably undervalued on the markets and it will be interesting to see how a new structure suits them.

Verdict: Louth

Division Four South
Waterford v Carlow, Fraher Field, 7.0 (Live, GAAGO) - Niall Carew returns to Waterford who he managed seven years ago, having taken up the reins from Turlough O’Brien, who put a lot of pep into Carlow in recent years. His Waterford counterpart Shane Ronayne has been successful in the women’s game but has his work cut out here.

Verdict: Carlow

Sunday

Division One North
Monaghan v Armagh
, Brewster Park, 3.0 (Live, TG4 player app and deferred, TG4) - Neither side will be buzzing after last year. Monaghan were the first to let Cavan off the hook and pay the price whereas Armagh were very disappointing in the face of admittedly Donegal’s best display. The match is moved from Monaghan because of the training Covid breach. Kieran McGeeney has to target staying up after it taking nine turbulent years to return to the top, which included switching divisions on six occasions. The regionalised divisions are a bit claustrophobic. Both have Kerry implants: Donie Buckley coaching Monaghan and Kieran Donaghy helping Armagh, who also welcome back Ross McQuillan from Essendon.

Verdict: Armagh

Division One South
Roscommon v Dublin
, Dr Hyde Park, 1.45 (Live, TG4) - Roscommon have a decent record against the Dubs in the Hyde and will want to give a good account here after a disappointing championship. Their yo-yo league existence has seen them stay put only one season in the last seven. They looked under-powered against Mayo in November so this will be a fair test. No major change likely although Steven Poacher is an interesting addition to the training ticket. Dublin’s loss of Paul Mannion won’t be fully felt until later and there will be an opportunity to test a few newcomers, like under-20 shootist Ciarán Archer. Brian Howard also due to re-stake a claim for his place.

Verdict: Dublin

Division Two North
Meath v Westmeath
, Páirc Tailteann, 3.45 (Live, GAAGO)- Andy McEntee sets about rehabbing after last year’s Leinster final drubbing and relegation with a frontier derby and an extensive ‘to do’ list. Where to get the best out of Donal Keogan; how to cover for Ronan Jones’s absence after last week’s broken arm? Westmeath were in the shake-up last year so this will be a test.

Verdict: Meath

Division Two South
Clare v Laois
, Cusack Park, 3.45 (Live, GAAGO) - Colm Collins is facing into a fifth successive season in the second division, which is hugely impressive consistency. This match was decided by a point last year and again it’s a challenge for Clare now without the retired Gary Brennan and Gordon Kelly, as Collins must rebuild. Donie Kingston’s back for Laois together with Seán Byrne and Colm Murphy and Mike Quirke says that he has “a full hand”.

Verdict: Laois

Division Three South
Wicklow v Offaly, Aughrim, 2.0 (Live, GAAGO) - Newly promoted Wicklow face John Maughan’s solid outfit for whom regular defender David Dempsey is named at centre forward. Davy Burke’s team have lost experience in Rory Finn and Darren Hayden and will look to involve some younger talent.

Verdict: Offaly

Division Four North
Sligo v Leitrim
, Markievicz Park, 3.0 (Live, GAAGO) - Both teams are in Mayo’s championship sights but this is like a relegation eliminator. Terry Hyland has an unusually settled panel with a decent attack but they’re up against Tony McEntee whose task of resurrecting Sligo starts here.

Verdict: Sligo

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