Damage limitation is the phrase that comes to mind when assessing Cork’s prospects here. The opening win over Mayo feels a long time ago and in the context of the thumping defeats by Donegal and Roscommon, a single-digit loss wouldn’t be the end of the world, even if it would truly leave them in the reckoning for a relegation spot. Dublin have had two great tests against Mayo and Monaghan and don’t look they’re in the mood to take it easy on Cork.
Hard hats at the ready as these two get ready to duke it out for a second time this season but let’s focus, if we can, on the football. Even though they beat Fermanagh last weekend, Armagh’s form is patchy while a third straight win and Cavan will have consolidated Division 2 status for another year and a promotion race beckons.
Damian Barton may have had his sideline privileges withdrawn after his pitch incursion in the counties’ McKenna Cup final but he is sure to give a rallying call here. Derry need to get their promotion campaign back on track after losing at home to Galway but they must jump the psychological hurdle of beating Tyrone this year after losing twice. Full-blooded encounter ahead.
A nice boost for Waterford in Carlow last weekend but if Wexford are to remain in the hunt for Division 3 football next season, they need the full complement of points.
Ger Cunningham never did get the chance to get one over on his St Finbarr’s club-mate Jimmy Barry-Murphy last year, losing to Cork in both league meetings. Not since 2011 have Dublin beaten Cork (four meetings) and it’s Cork who arrive in Croker desperate to end a run of form that belies some of the hurling they showed in the Munster Senior League. Don’t expect many goals but maybe just enough from Cork to help lift themselves off the bottom. Some more steel in their approach would help.
Laois know taking something here could transform what has been a poor start to the season.Another defeat and it’s hard to see them avoid a relegation play-off.
Division 3A Tyrone v Warwickshire, Healy Park 5pm (J Clarke, Cavan)
Both teams came a cropper in their respective provincial finals. Cathal Noonan and Brian Mullins will be key for Gort, Brian McGrath, Tom Murphy, Kevin Hassett and Lyndon Fairbrother the go-to men for Templemore.
Our Lady’s Templemore
Our Lady & St Patrick’ s College, Knock
Scoil Mhuire gan Smál
All-Ireland post-primary schools senior D football semi-finals (Br Edmund Ignatius Rice Cup) St Joseph’s, Charlestown v St Mary’s Limavady, Ballyshannon, 2pm.
St Joseph’s, Charlestown
Beara Community School
St Jarlath’s College, Tuam
Cork and Monaghan are both in the unaccustomed position of sitting closer to the bottom than the top with just one win each in four matches to date. Ephie Fitzgerald saw a much improved performance from his Cork side in defeat to Dublin last weekend but if they want to be playing football in May, they will need to find their form fast. The same can be said of Monaghan, without several top players. Cork are at home, have welcomed back some big players and shown more signs of improvement.
How many people owe Roscommon an apology after they lost their first round game to Monaghan? Their Division 1 survival plans had been questioned after that defeat and yet they have bounced back with excellent results but even better performances in Killarney and Cork. Another victory here and they can look forward to Division 1 football in 2017. Against a lowly Down, the only thing they must avoid is complacency.
How Kerry mentally prepare for this encounter will be key to their fortunes. Newry was a procession for them but now they are visited by a team steeled by an intense win over Mayo and backed by a recent warm weather trip. It says plenty about the depth of the Donegal panel that they can keep some of their tried and trusted on the bench. Kerry, after two defeats, can’t afford that. Under Eamonn Fitzmaurice, they have never lost their first two home games but a win may be beyond them here.
Ignoring their dead rubber defeat to Dublin last year, Monaghan have made Clones a fortress in the league. There is sure to be a fiery element to this clash given the previous meeting in MacHale Park last year. For a team in the top flight for 18 straight years, Mayo will find it difficult to countenance relegation but a battle to avoid the drop will stare them in the face if they lose. Manic aggression required.
Laois sit at the foot of the division on score difference and they won’t find Pete McGrath’s side as forgiving as Armagh were last month.
Things have gone off the rails for Meath in their last two games and the recent record in Pearse Stadium won’t fill them with confidence. Galway recovered from a home defeat to Tyrone by winning at Derry and can further enhance their promotion prospects.
Without Colin O’Riordan, Steven O’Brien and Seamus Kennedy, Tipp have ground out results thus far but a win is essential if they are to remain in the promotion hunt. Offaly, who also have four points, will be hard toppled.
It probably wasn’t a case of if Kildare would be promoted but how. They are well on their way to Division 2 in 2017, pulling off wins in a business-like fashion. Limerick find themselves in eighth spot and yet haven’t been all that terrible. Still, they should remain there after tomorrow afternoon.
Westmeath’s needs are greater here as they search for their first win of the campaign but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will take the points. They are where they are for more than one reason and they don’t boast as totemic a force as Gary Brennan although they’ve a more exciting attack.
It’s hardly rocket science distinguishing how well Sligo do at home compared to their disappointments on their travels, but it’s a fact they’ve yet to win an away league game under Niall Carew. Currently on two points with Longford, they can take a further step to survival although it will be close.
Antrim look a force to be reckoned with in Frank Fitzsimmons’ second year in charge and a fourth win is on the cards in Ruislip.
Only score difference keeps Leitrim off the base. Carrick-on-Shannon can be a formidable venue for them but Louth are in fine fettle.
Carlow would have fancied their chances of taking points off Waterford at home last weekend. The trip to Aughrim is also likely to leave them with empty pockets.
Without Richie Hogan and despite never hitting their groove, Kilkenny had enough to cope with a more than decent Tipperary performance 13 days ago. That game, and the gap since, will have brought on their fitness and they should look a completely different team to the one Waterford bested last month. Galway haven’t yet sampled the intensity Kilkenny have faced and that greenness should be exhibited on the scoreboard.
Just who Derek McGrath replaces the suspended Maurice Shanahan with as the spearhead of the Waterford attack will be interesting. The league champions may have beaten Tipperary in last year’s semi-final but have lost their last two meetings with them in Thurles. Tipp were stung by how Kilkenny caught them down the stretch. A returning Seamus Callanan can guide them to a hard-fought win..
There were signs against Clare the last day that the funk Wexford have been in since the Walsh Cup final is shifting. That will only be confirmed by a win and they will have their work cut out based on how Limerick fared in Killarney. A tight victory is within their grasp, nevertheless.
Limerick need no reminding about how Offaly have dented their promotion hopes in recent years. Tomorrow is about being as professional as possible and righting a few wrongs. TJ Ryan will hope the exploits of his Fitzgibbon Cup final men last weekend didn’t take too much out of them.
Only way for Carlow to move on from the Ruislip shock is with a win. Derry have yet to pick up points and look to be there for the taking.
These two are likely to meet again in the promotion final and Westmeath will be aware beating rivals the first time around has little benefit if it’s not followed up. All’s not lost if they don’t take two points.
Wicklow’s misery set to continue as Armagh look set to remain in promotion hunt.
Down’s firepower is stronger than Mayo’s and can see them home.
Meath’s defence has been the strongest part of their displays so far and can help deliver them a second win.
Monaghan v Louth, St Mary’s Park, Castleblayney, 1pm (C Cunning, Antrim)
Roscommon v Fingal, Waldron Park, Athleague, 1pm (R McGann, Clare)
A repeat of the 2013 final and a repeat result looks to be the wisest prediction based on the inter-county strength that permeates the Milford side and how they fended off last year’s winners Oulart-the-Ballagh in the semi-final. Having suffered a rare hiccup last year, the north Cork outfit have put together a string of performances indicating they won’t be found wanting as they seek a third title in four years.
Cahir are a team on the rise but they face an Eyrecourt side boasting established stars like Molly Dunne, who will be difficult to keep quiet, and Susan Earner, who at the other end will be hard to beat.
Tyrone are bottom of the table having lost in the relegation six-pointer against Monaghan last week. Things don’t get any easier as they welcome a Dublin team starting to find their best form.
Kerry area a toug nut to crack in home fixtures and they will need those home comforts when they take on table-topping Mayo, with Cora Staunton on top form.
Galway have suffered the hammer blow of losing star forward, Tracey Leonard, to injury. Armagh were undefeated before being humbled by Mayo last weekend but host a Galway side in patchy form.
Donegal v Clare, Ballyshannon, 2pm (G. Chapman).
TBC, 2pm (S. McNulty)