Weekend’s Allianz League previews

Crunch time as league campaigns come to a head in football

Cork’s Noel Galvin tackles Aidan O’Shea of Mayo during the Allianz Football League Division One game at Páirc Uí Rinn last week. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.

Cork’s Noel Galvin tackles Aidan O’Shea of Mayo during the Allianz Football League Division One game at Páirc Uí Rinn last week. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.


Saturday (Matches at 3.0 unless stated)

Football Division Four Leitrim v Waterford, Carrick-on-Shannon – With only promotion at stake the bottom division gets a dispensation from simultaneous throw-ins. Leitrim’s campaign has finished strongly and that can continue against a Waterford side which has disappointed. Verdict: Leitrim.

Connacht Under-21FC final Galway v Roscommon, Tuam Stadium, 6.0 – Roscommon could be forgiven envious glances at how Galway turn their titles into All-Irelands. Galway’s win over Mayo was impressive but the sense is that Roscommon, with survivors from last year’s All-Ireland final and a formidable display against out-classed Sligo, are going to retain the title. Verdict: Roscommon.

Hurling Division Two A final Westmeath v Kerry, Gaelic Grounds – The winners will play Antrim in a promotion play-off and although Kerry are holders, Westmeath’s improvement this year makes it likely they can repeat their divisional win although in a closer contest. Verdict: Westmeath.

Hurling League finals: Division Two B – Kildare v Meath, Cusack Park; Division Three A – Tyrone v Monaghan, Keady; Division Three B – Longford v Warwickshire, Ratoath. All-Ireland Colleges SH final Thurles CBS Secondary v St Kieran’s College, Thurles, 5.0 – Two powerhouses of school’s hurling do battle for the first time in a final. A typical Tipperary and Kilkenny tug-of-war is expected with both teams having impressed en route to the final. Thurles CBS won an eighth Harty Cup final in February before beating St Peter’s by three points to reach the weekend’s decider. In search of an astonishing 20th Croke Cup, that would be 19 more than their opponents. St Kieran’s carry nine players from the team that won last year’s final and 10 from last year’s All-Ireland winning Kilkenny minor team. Although two of those are ruled out through injury. Thurles are underdogs but carry 13 players from last year’s squad including seven Tipperary minor panellists. Aided by the experience of former Tipperary intercounty hurlers Martin Maher and John Devane, an enthralling contest is on the cards.

Sunday (Matches at 3.0 unless stated)

Football Division One

Mayo v Donegal, MacHale Park – The winners here are likely semi-finalists, which would be an acceptable achievement for new management teams who have presided over up-and-down campaigns.

Both are upbeat after last week, as although Mayo lost to a late goal in Cork, they gave a good display and Tom Parsons looked the part at centrefield, fuelling optimism that he can finally fulfil his potential there this year. Danny Kirby brings added robustness to the full-forward line and Aidan O’Shea has done well in attack but it remains to be seen if that marks a paradigm shift up front.

Donegal punished an abject Tyrone last week but face into this without the suspended Michael Murphy. Mayo’s tangle with massed defence against Tyrone didn’t go well but they can learn from that and driven by last week’s disappointment can take the points. Verdict: Mayo.

Derry v Cork, Owenbeg – A dead rubber between one team heading for the semi-finals and another on the way to Division Two. The margins haven’t been enormous in either case but Cork’s ability to rotate through the league, using their most experienced players sparingly has been impressive as has Brian Cuthbert’s ability to revive the team’s sense of purpose after last year.

Derry fell foul of the aesthetic police last week so it’s hard to say that it was a respectable defeat in Croke Park but they showed commitment and energy on a foul night. This would be a defiant sign-off but Cork are a bit too buoyant even with big guns rested. Verdict: Cork.

Monaghan v Dublin, Clones – Both teams may well get to the semi-finals but this will be an interesting contest regardless of the final table. Monaghan have been excellent on their return to the top division, combining their defensive priorities – the Wylie brothers in good form and Dessie Mone flying as a sweeper – with the ability to score – Conor McManus back to fitness – a balance that eluded Derry last week.

Dublin have blown hot and cold, from slicing rashers off Mayo and maintaining the tightest defence in the division to labouring against ultra-defensive set-ups and wasting scoring opportunities. They were lucky to take the points here four years ago and have it all to do if Monaghan are to be denied a fourth win on the bounce. Verdict: Monaghan.

Tyrone v Kerry, Healy Park – Kerry have had the whip-hand in this fixture in recent times and this would be no time to lose that edge, as a two-point defeat will relegate them unless there’s a massacre in Castlebar. They required last-day deliverance in Omagh two years ago and secured it but this time around they can relax a bit, preparing to defend the All-Ireland and gradually re-assembling the first-choice panel – Colm Cooper and Paul Galvin are back on the bench for a first league match in two years.

Things have taken a nightmare turn for Tyrone with a couple of awful performances – they haven’t beaten any of their Ulster rivals – culminating in last week’s horror-show in Ballybofey. They will have Seán Cavanagh back and will be thoroughly wound-up for the challenge but Kerry look better placed. Verdict: Kerry.

Football Division Two

Westmeath v Roscommon, Cusack Park – Every team in the division has something to play for but just about. Even a win may not spare Westmeath relegation but anything less and they’re bunched.

Roscommon’s defeat by Galway may have cost them promotion and their under-21s are in action tonight, which isn’t ideal, but despite a leaky defence they’ve been consistently better than their neighbours this campaign. Verdict: Roscommon.

Down v Laois, Páirc Esler – Like Roscommon, Down faltered last week but have a simple task here: win and go up. Laois’ revival foundered against Kildare and they are still in the relegation combat zone and with Donie Kingston suspended.

Down give former AFL export Caolan Mooney a start and will hope to improve on last week’s erratic shooting. Verdict: Down.

Galway v Kildare, Tuam Stadium – Two very disappointing campaigns collide on the last day. Galway can theoretically go up or down whereas Kildare would be simply happy to stay afloat. The under-21 match tonight impacts given the display of Damien Comer and Liam Silke against Roscommon last week but Galway can edge this. Verdict: Galway.

Meath v Cavan, Páirc Tailteann – A neighbourhood squabble with potential promotion thrown in. Meath’s display in Newry confounded their more doubtful performances but Cavan come with a tight defence and a grim resolve. The home team should get over the line, though. Verdict: Meath.

Football Division Three

Sligo v Armagh, Markievicz Park – Unusually this has been the least competitive division this year. Armagh are already out of here after one season whereas Sligo are virtually safe. Verdict: Armagh.

Louth v Limerick, Drogheda – If these teams could contrive a draw it might save them both. Otherwise the losers are in trouble with the worst scoring difference in the table. Verdict: Louth.

Clare v Fermanagh, Cusack Park – Clare need something from this to be certain but they are up against the surprise packets of the division and the league’s top scorer, Seán Quigley. Verdict: Fermanagh.

Tipperary v Wexford, Clonmel – It’s been a disastrous campaign for Wexford, now basement-bound whereas Tipperary have missed out at the other end of the table. As the method actors say: “What’s my motivation?” Verdict: Tipperary.

Football Division Four ( Matches at 2.0)

Wicklow v London, Baltinglass – Wicklow to finish on an – ummm – high. Verdict: Wicklow

Carlow v Longford, Netwatch Cullen Park – Longford have done well to return at first time of asking and, until last week’s poor display against Leitrim, Carlow had been creditable. Verdict: Longford. Offaly v Antrim, O’Connor Park – The biggest match in the division with the winners going up. Antrim have momentum, having won their last four whereas Offaly have stalled. Verdict: Antrim.

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