It’s difficult to neglect just how strong Kildare have been in the run to this stage. They look a more formidable outfit than last year when they went down to Dublin by four points. Neil Flynn was a real threat in that game as he will be again here. Colm Basquel and Con O’Callaghan lead the Dublin attack but the team doesn’t have the same strengths they possessed in 2015.
Roscommon are more battle-hardened going into this decider as they aim to complete the three-in-a-row. Their win over Sligo was facile but the opener against Galway put them in good shape. Ultan Harney and Cathal Compton give them such presence around the middle third and Diarmuid Murtagh is a class forward but the superb Diarmuid O’Connor will have to be minded closely.
Both of these sides come into this tie having completed their group matches with an identical record of 3 wins and 1 defeat each as well as finishing on the same points difference. Limerick defeated Cork by five points before suffering their only defeat to table topping Kilkenny last weekend. All-Ireland champions Cork, who haven’t lost since that Limerick, defeat, look better placed to advance.
Their semi-final spot is within their grasp but there are too many incentives at play here for Kerry to take things easy - ending a run of two league defeats to Cork and the possibility of avoiding Dublin in a league semi-final. Cork are in limbo but at least know a win or a draw will keep them safe. Kerry are unlikely to give anything away too easily as they seek a fifth straight win.
It seems to be Mayo’s turn to claim two points off Down although they’ll need to be wary of a team that have been bitten so many times these last nine weeks. Mayo’s urgency for two points so as not to join Down in Division 2 next season will be too much for the visitors to handle.
Even after their poor afternoon against Kerry in Clones last Sunday, the presence of Donegal should guarantee a sizeable crowd in Castleblayney. Both teams have to stop the rot that has set in during their last few outings: in Monaghan’s case, four matches; in Donegal’s, three. The sight of Donegal alone should inspire Monaghan but even with close to a full strength side last weekend they struggled.
With Dublin assured of action tomorrow week and Roscommon all but certain of it too, it remains to be seen how they approach what is almost a dead rubber if it weren’t for Dublin wanting to continue their 100% streak and Roscommon keen to make up for losing to Mayo at the same venue. Dublin have established players who still need to find some form so it’s unlikely they will be taking things lightly.
A day when all players on teams with no more league games to look forward to will be on their best behaviour as bans carry forward to the championship. That may take some sting out of this affair.. Armagh’s need is greater and they seem to be i improving.
Expect Galway to start this game as they mean to go on as a draw would see their opponents secure the remaining promotion spot. Cavan must be given credit for adding more of an attacking dimension to their game whilst staying resolute at the back. But Galway pack a punch and it could stun them.
Apart from a first day thrashing from Derry, Fermanagh have hardly made a show of themselves in Division 2 after securing promotion last year. Mickey Harte will demand Tyrone return to winning ways after drawing with Armagh although, like last weekend, their opponents’ incentive is greater.
Meath may have felt their days of relegation battles in Division 2 were gone with Seamus McEnaney but now there is a threat Mick O’Dowd will end up where he started with Meath. Laois, though, look too loose at the back to save themselves.
Kildare fans are already looking forward to a Croke Park date towards the end of the month where they will face Clare should the visitors take a point or two. Ultimately, they could glean more from seeing Clare at full stretch.
Whether it will be enough to see them join Kildare in Division 2 is another matter but Offaly should live up to their side of the bargain with an away win against doomed Limerick.
Finally, Westmeath have found some form which is just as well because Longford have been faring better this spring. A draw may be enough to keep Westmeath up as their score difference is healthy but they can take no chances.
Tipperary will be out to demonstrate their heavy loss to Kildare in Clonmel was nothing to get too worked up over. Sligo are coming off two wins. A stalemate would secure each team their Division 3 status.
Dead rubber match between the Division 4 finalists yet the hosts won’t want to ruin the celebratory mood for their supporters.
Wicklow’s Leinster opener is only six weeks away and a win is important for their confidence.
Morale is sure to be low in both camps after below-par campaigns although Waterford know a win will see them avoid the “wooden spoon”.
Quite the yo-yo spring for Carlow who have been eminently better on the road than at home. Wexford can get over their promotion disappointment here, though.