Weekend GAA previews

Malachy Clerkin runs the rule over this weekend's Allianz League matches

Jim Gavin: leads Dublin to Ballybofey as the All-Ireland champions seek to preserve their long unbeaten record. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Jim Gavin: leads Dublin to Ballybofey as the All-Ireland champions seek to preserve their long unbeaten record. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

SATURDAY

All-Ireland Club Hurling semi-final

Cuala (Dublin) v Slaughtneil (Derry) Athletic Grounds, 3.00

Very difficult to see any outcome here other than the Slaughtneil magic carpet ride coming to a halt. They haven’t hurled together for four months, a spell in which Cuala have won the Dublin championship, fought their way through Leinster and played four challenge matches since the turn of the year. With the best will in the world, this ought to be pretty one-sided.

Verdict: Cuala

Allianz Football League

Division One

Mayo v Roscommon MacHale Park, 7.00 (Live, Eir Sport 2HD, 6.55)

Still no sign of either of the two elder O’Shea brothers for Mayo and with Tom Parsons out through suspension, they could lack a certain amount of ballast here. Alan Freeman has left the panel and the luckless Kevin Keane is gone for the year. In the circumstances, Roscommon shouldn’t be without a chance. But they have their own personnel problems and Mayo should have a fair bit in hand.

Verdict: Mayo

Division Two

Down v Meath Páirc Esler, 7.00 Live, Eir Sport 2, 6.55

Down badly need to stop being the sad-sack story of the league. Banging out press releases about the evils of Newstalk seems an odd way to go about it. Meath put up a big score the last day and Down have shown no evidence of an ability to prevent the same happening here.

Verdict: Meath

Division Three

Laois v Tipperary O’Moore Park, 7.00 Live, Eir Sport 1, 6.55

Peter Creedon comes up against his former protégés and though Laois are missing a handful of players, Tipp are missing far more.

Verdict: Tipperary

Division Four

Carlow v Limerick Netwatch Cullen Park, 7.00

If ever the air was taken out of a decent result, Carlow’s defeat at home to London was surely it. Limerick should pick up their first points on the road.

Verdict: Limerick 

SUNDAY

Division One

Donegal v Dublin Ballybofey, 2.00 (Live, TG4, 1.30)

Donegal haven’t lost a game in Ballybofey since 2010 – a streak running at 15 matches by this stage – but with no fewer than nine of last year’s squad unavailable to Gallagher, that’s surely a road whose cliff-edge is fast approaching. Patrick McBrearty and Karl Lacey won’t be back for this one. The Dubs haven’t lost an away fixture in Ulster since March 2014 – it would count as a sizeable shock if they were to start now.

Verdict: Dublin

  Kerry v Monaghan Fitzgerald Stadium, 2.00 Deferred, TG4 3.45

Here’s a mad one. Kerry haven’t won a game in Killarney in February in 15 years. A combination of ritual league slow starts and games taking place in Tralee means you have to a win over Wicklow in 2002 for the last time, with one E Fitzmaurice at wing-back. They won’t get much handy here and if they continue their habit of not scoring in the closing 15 minutes, Monaghan have the free-takers to keep it close. On the basis of the Ulster side’s struggle to put Cavan away, however, winning is another matter.

Verdict: Kerry

Tyrone v Cavan Healy Park, 2.30pm

Mattie McGleenan’s early insistence that Cavan aren’t going to be ultra-defensive under his watch hasn’t really survived the opening couple of games. These sides played out a bewilderingly high-scoring Ulster championship game last time they met – 5-17 to 2-18 - but we won’t see much of that sort of vulgarity here. Mattie Donnelly is available again for Tyrone.

Verdict: Tyrone 

Division Two

Cork v Fermanagh Páirc Uí Rinn, 1.00

It all went a bit pear-shaped for Fermanagh after Eoin Donnelly was black-carded against Galway. They’re not without a chance here against winless Cork. That said, Peadar Healy’s side have played the two best teams and should find this more manageable.

Verdict: Cork

  Derry v Kildare Celtic Park, 2.00

It would be a very Kildare thing altogether to end the year as the best February team in the country but they can’t worry about that just at the moment. They haven’t missed a beat so far and can keep their run going away to a callow Derry side.

Verdict: Kildare

Galway v Clare Pearse Stadium, 2.00

No Gary Brennan for Clare means that Galway are heavy favourites even though both sides sit on three points after two games. Kevin Walsh’s side should be too strong.

Verdict: Galway 

Division Three

Antrim v Sligo Corrigan Park, 2.00

It’s been a dire start to Division Three life for Antrim and Sligo will surely be too free-scoring for them here.

Verdict: Sligo

Longford v Armagh Glennon Bros Pearse Park, 2.00

Rank sloppiness at the end of games has nobbled Armagh’s start to 2017, otherwise they’d be sitting on four points instead of one. They’ll need to post their first win on the road in two years here to straighten things out.

Verdict: Armagh

Offaly v Louth O’Connor Park, 2.00

Louth shouldn’t have been such a surprise package given the swathe they cut through Division Four last year. Offaly will have a slight physical edge over but they can polish their credentials all the same.

Verdict: Louth 

Division Four

Wicklow v London Aughrim, 1.00

London are on a roll and can pick up another two points.

Verdict: London

  Wexford v Waterford Wexford Park, 1.00

Top of the table clash in name only – Banty McEneaney’s side can put clear water between them and the rest.

Verdict: Wexford

Westmeath v Leitrim Cusack Park, 2.00

Leitrim are stirring, Westmeath look leaden. Could be an upset.

Verdict : Westmeath

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