Weekend GAA previews

Allianz football league and All-Ireland club hurling semi-final



DIVISION ONE – Mayo v Monaghan, MacHale Park, 7.0 ( Eir Sport 2HD, 6.45). Referee: Conor Lane (Cork) – Only in Mayo could the local paper describe playing Monaghan in February as "the biggest league game in years". All the same, the home side have plenty to contend with here. They're without Lee Keegan and Kevin Keane (club-tied) and Aidan O'Shea, Seamie O'Shea, Ger Cafferkey and Brendan Harrison (injured). For Monaghan, Dick Clerkin and Paul Finlay are retired but Hughes brothers look like joining forces in midfield and Conor McCarthy will aim to take the pressure off Conor McManus up front. Given the Mayo injury list and the unpredictability of early-season form, they're a big price at 9/4. Verdict: Monaghan

DIVISION TWO – Down v Fermanagh, Páirc Esler, 7.0 (Live, Eir Sport 2, 6.45). Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford) – Down haven't won a game in league or championship since April 2015 so Job One over the next few weeks is to get people to stop writing that sentence. New faces like Alan Davidson and Cathal Magee have been good additions but they look set to be without Conor McGinn here. Fermanagh have Sean Quigley back and with trips to Cork, Kildare and Meath in their future, they'll see this one of the more manageable away fixtures. Verdict: Fermanagh

DIVISION THREE – Laois v Louth, O'Moore Park, 7.0 (Live, Eir Sport 1, 6.55). Referee: John Hickey (Carlow) – You have to go back five seasons to Longford in 2012 for the last time the Division Four champions opened the following season with a win. Louth have a shot here with Laois missing the likes of John O'Loughlin, Brendan Quigley, Evan O'Carroll and Paul Cahilane. But Peter Creedon's side should be too good for most teams in this division, Colin Kelly's included. Verdict: Laois



St Thomas's (Galway) v Ballyea (Clare), Semple Stadium, 5.0 Live, TG4, 4.30. Referee: Seán Cleere (Kilkenny) – The imponderable here is whether Ballyea's momentum has been killed off by the Christmas break. Their Munster campaign was a magic carpet ride but St Thomas's have been waiting in the wings and are the older hands at this level. Could be enough to swing it their way.




Cavan v Dublin, Kingspan Breffni Park, 2.0. Live, TG4, 1.30. Referee: Pádraig O'Sullivan (Kerry) – If nothing else, the old bowl in Cavan town will be fizzing for the arrival of the Dubs, in whatever guise they turn up. Even allowing for it being their first game of the year, it's hard to see Jim Gavin's side being overly vulnerable to a Cavan team missing Gearóid McKiernan, Cian Mackey and Ray Galligan as well as the handful of veterans who walked at the tail end of last year. Verdict: Dublin

Donegal v Kerry, Letterkenny, 2.0. Deferred coverage, TG4, 3.45. Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois) – For all that Donegal have suffered a winter exodus, they've only actually lost three of the team that started against Kerry in Tralee last year so they will fancy a result here. But Kerry have the cleanest bill of February health seen in the five years since Eamonn Fitzmaurice took over. Peter Crowley captains in the absence of the Crokes contingent. Verdict: Kerry

Tyrone v Roscommon, Healy Park, 2.0. Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wexford) – Even when Tyrone were in the doldrums, they were able to raise a gallop to trample over the Rossies. Hard to see anything else on the horizon in a game where Mattie Donnelly at centre-back is an interesting posting. Having lost a handful of potential leaders in the off-season, Kevin McStay's side look like the division's whipping boys until they prove otherwise. Verdict: Tyrone


Derry v Clare, Celtic Park, 2.0. Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh) – Clare are more than Gary Brennan, as they showed last year. But without him on the road against a Derry side with Enda Lynn and Benny Heron back, they'll surely struggle. Verdict: Derry

Galway v Cork, Pearse Stadium, 2.0. Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone) – Probably the biggest game in the division this side of the final, featuring the two squads best equipped for promotion. Galway are in slightly better shape just now than Cork, who will miss the likes of Brian Hurley, Alan O'Connor, Jamie O'Sullivan and Eoin Cadogan until later in the spring. Kevin Walsh's side can draw first blood at home. Verdict: Galway

Meath v Kildare, Páirc Tailteann, 2.0. Referee: Ciarán Branagan (Down) – Andy McEntee has named a pretty fresh-faced Meath side for the visit of Kildare and it will be interesting to see how long Jack Hannigan can hold onto the goalkeeper's spot. Kildare have to be hurt by their O'Byrne Cup exit and could be in the mood for a response. Verdict: Kildare


Longford v Offaly, Glennon Bros Pearse Park, 2.0. Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry) – Their eighth meeting in three years, with Longford 4-3 up – albeit Offaly won both games last year. Mickey Quinn and Brian Kavanagh are missing for the home side, which could tip it Offaly's way. Verdict: Offaly

Sligo v Armagh, Markievicz Park, 2.0. Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon) – Sligo won convincingly the last time these teams met in 2015 but Armagh ought to be a coming side in this league and should get the start they need. Verdict: Armagh

Tipperary v Antrim, Semple Stadium, 2.0. Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare) – These teams tend to alternate victories against each other but the loss of Michael McCann will probably be too much for Antrim to bear. Verdict: Tipperary


Waterford v London, Ardmore, 1.0. Referee: Barry Tiernan (Dublin) – Waterford haven't beaten London home or away in the league since 2010. But all those games were in March – London don't games win in February. Verdict: Waterford

Westmeath v Carlow, Cusack Park, 2.0. Referee: Paul Faloon (Down) – No more cliffs to fall off for Westmeath after three relegations in a row. Verdict: Westmeath

Wexford v Limerick, Innovate Wexford Park, 2.0. Referee: Alan Kissane (Waterford) – Tough on Limerick, who go to their toughest away game without talisman Ian Ryan. Verdict: Wexford

Wicklow v Leitrim, Aughrim, 2.0. Referee: Fergal Smyth (Offaly) – Two very young sides in need of an encouraging start. Emlyn Mulligan's class could swing it for Leitrim. Verdict: Leitrim.

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times