Women’s National Football League: Division One previews

Mayo begin life without Cora Staunton while All-Ireland winners Dublin take on Donegal

Mayo will start a league campaign without Cora Staunton. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Mayo will start a league campaign without Cora Staunton. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Mayo v Westmeath – Swinford Amenity Park, 12.30pm (M Farelly)

Mayo suffered defeat to Galway in last weekend’s Connacht Winter League final but last year’s beaten TG4 All-Ireland senior finalists were admittedly understrength. It will be interesting to see how new manager Peter Leahy copes without Cora Staunton, who’s preparing for life as a professional in Australia, while fellow long-serving stars Martha Carter and Yvonne Byrne have yet to declare their intentions for the coming season. Westmeath are preparing for life in Division 1 after gaining promotion from the second tier, with Stephen Maxwell continuing to guide their fortunes. They couldn’t have asked for a much tougher assignment in the top flight and Mayo will be anxious to get life under Leahy off to a positive start.

Galway v Monaghan – TBC, 2pm (M Kenny)

Galway beat Mayo in last year’s TG4 Connacht final but were then wiped out in the qualifiers by Cork. Manager Stephen Glennon will hope to remove that type of inconsistency from their game and coming into the new season on the back of an Aisling McGing All-Ireland U21 final win against Mayo, and last weekend’s Connacht Winter League final victory over the same opposition, there’s a quiet feeling of optimism in Galway that the team could emerge as dark horses in 2018. Monaghan make the trip west with Annmarie Burns in charge of the county team for the first time. On their day, Monaghan can be a match for anybody and this could be one of the most interesting ties of the weekend.

Kerry v Cork – Knocknagoshel, 2pm (N McCormack)

Kerry progressed to last year’s TG4 All-Ireland senior semi-final, but they were well beaten by eventual winners Dublin. In their first competitive outing since then, it couldn’t be a much tougher task against old rivals Cork, who are the reigning Lidl Division 1 League champions. Kerry look set to introduce some new faces into their starting line-up, alongside experienced players like Aislinn Desmond, Sarah Houlihan and Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh. Cork are chasing a tenth Division 1 crown in eleven seasons and are notoriously slow starters in the group stages. It’s a tricky assignment for them away from home against Kerry, and this Munster derby could be a tight affair.

Donegal v Dublin – Letterkenny, 2pm (G Carmody)

The battle of the champions in Letterkenny as Ulster holders Donegal host 2017 Leinster and All-Ireland winners Dublin. The visiting Sky Blues look set to add 2011 All-Ireland winner Paul Casey to their backroom team, while 2010 All-Ireland champion Siobhán McGrath is back in an extended panel. All-Star Rachel Ruddy, who’s set to go travelling, is a loss but Dublin have plenty of strength in depth under the guidance of Mick Bohan. Having captured that All-Ireland title last year, Dublin will now hope to add the Division 1 League title, a competition the Jackies have never won. Donegal contested last year’s decider, falling narrowly to Cork, and they’ll hope for another big season. All-Star nominee Karen Guthrie captains the team, with All-Star winning sisters Ciara and Niamh Hegarty pivotal figures in defence and attack respectively.

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