preview the weekend's GAA fixtures.
Not that the named Mayo team is anything to set your watch by but it would seem James Horan will opt to expose more of his younger players to facing Dublin. As bad as their record has been against Dublin and a win now would be bigger than any other February victory in recent times, he will be able to identify who is up to it by their attitude against the All-Ireland champions. Dublin won’t be as experienced as last week but will have enough to win.
We highlighted earlier this week how shaky Kerry can be at home early in the League and Galway come with three good wins behind them as much as two of them were in pre-season. You would think the game against Dublin will have brought their fitness on a tonne but if they aren’t motivated for this as they were for Croke Park Galway will seize on it. Damien Comer needs match fitness badly but there were glimpses of his menace in Salthill last weekend. Galway to come away with something.
That point in Roscommon must have felt like a victory for Micheál Quirke given how fancied Anthony Cunningham’s side are for promotion. And then comes another county expected to challenge for one of the top two positions. Armagh carry more of a threat in attack than Roscommon and that might hurt Laois more.
So bad was Cavan’s opener that Mickey Graham apologised for it but it’s going to be difficult to turn things around in the space of a week. Sure, there should be some more heart to their performance but Westmeath are a lot more settled and that can translate to the scoreboard.
Leitrim packed more punch than many of us expected in Round 1 and Derry now have to make up for some lost ground. Down were slight favourites too but had to settle for a point in Tipperary. Newry won’t frighten Derry and Rory Gallagher should be more than able to match fireguard with fireguard against Paddy Tally.
A sobering opener for Paul Galvin but Wexford have demonstrated in recent campaigns they can bounce back quickly from defeats. Home advantage has been a factor for them too.
Fitzgibbon Cup commitments will undoubtedly come into the thinking of both managers as they look to pick up their first points. Liam Sheedy won’t have minded so much Tipperary’s second-half fadeout against Limerick as Kieran Kingston the frees and wides his team chalked up in Walsh Park. There’s more work for Cork to do while Tipperary fitness levels will have improved greatly with that test in Thurles. Cork’s work-rate is still a matter of concern and Tipp’s forwards can be enough of a nuisance to stop the home team clearing their lines.
Dublin travel to Mayo in need of a win after being held by Tipperary in Round 1. Mayo, meanwhile, are high on confidence after seeing off the challenge of Donegal in their opening fixture. The visitors’ needs may be greater.
The Déise would have started as outsiders against last year’s beaten finalists Galway but they made the trip to Corofin a winning one, as the Murray triplets; Emma, Katie and Aoife, all found the net. Donegal have begun recent campaigns in impressive fashion, but they stumbled against Mayo in Round 1.
The Rebels will feel that they have many wrongs to right after a disappointing year by their standards. With Paudie Murray remaining at the helm there’s no reason for the Cork women not to come back stronger this year. With Dan Shanahan joining Fergal O’Brien’s Waterford management team and Beth Carton leading the line, Waterford are expecting this year but a Cork win beckons here.
St Francis were the last Cork school to reach the final, but that was all the way back in 2015. St Brendan’s will need to be wary of the opposition’s goal threat, Rochestown finding the net on eight occasions across their three games. The Killarney students will know they’ll need to improve from their quarter-final showing.
St Francis College, Rochestown
The Rathmore school are bidding to reach a first Corn Uí Mhuirí final, less than a year on from contesting the All-Ireland colleges B final. They’re average winning margin en route to the semis has been an impressive 10 points. Tralee were equally eye-catching when winning their quarter by 18 points.
Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra Rathmore.
Monaghan don’t have the worst record in Castleblayney and while it mightn’t have the same intimidating factor as Inniskeen it will suit Seamus McEnaney’s battle mentality. Having Peter Donnelly alongside him after he switched from Tyrone, McEnaney already has one up on Mickey Harte. Monaghan left it too late to catch Galway but here it’s likelier Tyrone are doing the chasing at the end.
Home wins are essential if Meath are to prove people wrong and remain in Division 1 next season but Donegal will be seething with themselves for throwing away a victory in Ballybofey. That lack of a killer instinct has hurt them so much in the Super 8 the last two years and in Navan they will be determined to be lethal.
Not that anyone expected less than a battling display from Clare in Mullingar but the fact they came so close to taking a point was a tad surprising. Kildare have racked up the scores against them in the recent past but this could be a dog of an afternoon for them. Goals will be needed to beat Clare but a draw looks a strong prospect.
A lot of guts in the Fermanagh show in Newbridge and they will be harder to beat in Enniskillen. Whether they have enough firepower to be anything more than difficult, though, is another question and the Rossies are hunting a win.
It’s Tipperary who are missing a leader in Michael Quinlivan but in terms of quantity it’s Louth who are struggling. Character earned Tipperary a point against Down and Louth came close enough to Longford yet there would appear to be more to glean from Tipperary’s 14-man draw.
Cork will be forewarned by how Leitrim turned out to be more than just awkward for Derry. It’s a good thing then that they have generally been good travellers. If Leitrim want to turn this into a slug-out they will find Cork have the forward power to hit them with one or two blows too many.
A re-run of the O’Byrne Cup final two weeks ago, Offaly have suffered another loss since and a third consecutive defeat and they are staring at the second tier championship unless they do something spectacular.
London were handed quite the drubbing by Sligo and Limerick aren’t going to be in a charitable mood with promotion on their minds.
There was some good work done by John Evans before Davy Burke arrived and they will improve under the Kildare man. They sneak a win here too.
Sligo won’t get too excited about what they did to London bearing in mind the Exiles have a new manager in place. All the same, the momentum can stand to them against Antrim.
Plenty of Limerick and Na Piarsaigh men on the sideline here as Shane O’Neill plots against his countymen and fellow club-mates. O’Neill has been making all the right noises since he took over in Galway and there is a nice blend to his team. However, he is still on a fact-finding mission whereas John Kiely knows plenty more about his team. That poor first half against Tipperary aside, Limerick look to be a step ahead of most right now.
Liam Cahill won’t want his young side to take their foot off the gas now that they have secured two unexpected points. The margin of Westmeath’s defeat to Galway was coloured by an early sending off and if Waterford dismiss them as fodder then things could get decidedly awkward. There should be enough cool heads among the visitors to avoid that happening.
Both teams’ displays left a lot to be desired last weekend and it was at this notoriously difficult venue for visiting teams last year that Eddie Brennan recognised Laois were capable of something special and indeed beating Dublin. Yet there should be too much pain for Dublin hanging over from last year to be caught again.Verdict: Dublin.
Colm Bonnar recognised the comprehensiveness of the defeat to Clare for what it was. Kilkenny could inflict a similar loss upon them but if Carlow are to keep their heads right for the Joe McDonagh Cup they must ensure they at least perform while going down to stronger teams.
If TG4 don’t have a camera fixed to the sideline where Davy Fitzgerald and Brian Lohan are stationed they are missing a trick. That could be explosive but the hurling should make for interesting viewing too. Clare are bringing a familiar side while Wexford are still down a few key players. However, Wexford have been excellent thus far in 2020 with a mix of first team and fringe players and at home they stand couple of inches taller.
Meath can pick up their first win after running Offaly close in Round 1.
Mayo are trying to punch above their weight but Antrim will dismiss them with ease.
One wonders just how beneficial that handsome win Kerry had over Mayo will be compared to the test Offaly were presented by Meath. A game that will likely rule one team out of the promotion race and it might just be Kerry.
Tipp memorably defeated Cork at Páirc Uí Rinn last year, when Aishling Moloney scored one of the goals of the season with a stunning fisted effort. Cork began their campaign with victory against Westmeath last Saturday and can follow it up with a tight one on this occasion.
After losing to Waterford, Galway manager Tim Rabbitt will demand an immediate response from his players against Westmeath. A second consecutive loss for the Lake County would have them deep in relegation trouble already.
Both counties had poor 2019 campaigns but despite poor results Clare manager Ger O’Connell will know he has the forward players that can turn any game on its head at any given time.
A new management team always brings fresh ideas, so it is up to John Treacy and Willie Braine to restore the confidence back into the Dubs. The Tribeswomen are the team to beat in 2020.
Having lost to this weekend’s opponents to end their Championship campaign in August, Limerick will be looking to turn their fortunes around on this occasion. Tipperary may still have the edge.