previews the weekend's GAA fixtures.
Going by the results between the teams in Croke Park since 2014, Dublin have never forgotten that All-Ireland semi-final loss. The Ullster men have made a good fist of some encounters but have routinely been the inferior team. Don’t be surprised if there’s a real purpose in the visitors’ approach but Dublin to hold sway.
With three home games remaining, Fermanagh will look to take themselves away from the B championship drop zone. This being a derby, it will be the trickiest of the trio for Ryan McMenamin’s team but they can edge a win.
Trip up here and Down could see Longford disappear into the distance in the promotion stakes.
It’s just as well Ronan McCarthy is developing a deeper panel given the huge number of injuries in the Cork ranks. Saturday night they face a Tipperary group who have no fears whatsoever of facing their southern neighbours. Goals have featured prominently between these two in the past but both have been pretty mean defensively this spring. A tight one that should just about fall Cork’s way.
Goal concessions have been hurting Waterford more than anything else and they are coming up against the team well capable of finding the net.
Wexford won’t have their full battalion starting here but victory will mean that a knock-out spot is theirs for the taking. Dublin are back to business after a poor start against Kilkenny but their focus here is to learn a few lessons to help their cause when the Model men come to Parnell Park in a few months time.
This already looks like the battle to avoid the drop. Laois looked ragged early on but gave Clare a good test last weekend and should be buoyed by that. They will know Carlow are targeting this game as much as they are but anything other than a home win would be a shock.
Kerry have done a lot of the spadework for a promotion final but they can’t stop now.
Expect this to be as close as their group meeting in Tralee in November, a game where the Sem came from two down late on to sneak a 1-17 to 2-13 win. St Brendan’s are trying to avoid back-to-back final defeats, while Tralee are hoping to steer clear of a third final loss in four years. Conor Hayes and Sean Quilter give a very strong look to the Tralee CBS inside line, but there appears to be greater balance to the St Brendan’s attack.
Kerry have to be mindful that they face a desperate Meath team in Killarney on Sunday and they will have to match that urgency if they are as expected to come away with the two points. Peter Keane will want his side to be more clinical given their last three tight encounters.
A contrast in styles here but ifCathal McShane starts you can be sure Mickey Harte will be encouraging ball is delivered into the full-forward line as quickly as possible. Galway have looked a more consistent outfit in recent weeks with Tyrone showing the character against Kerry that was lacking when going down to Monaghan the week previous. Galway to defeat a second Ulster opponent in the space of two weeks.
This has been teed up as a relegation battle by some but we would beg to differ given the margins are so tight in Division 1. Mayo have been patchy but then it’s another spring of exploration for James Horan as he gives more youth its head while trying to keep the team competitive. Despite losing a wealth of experience over the winter, Monaghan are doing well enough. There has been a bite between these two in the past and there should be more of the same on Sunday.
Conditions aside, last Sunday’s poor showing by Laois was one completely at odds with the promise that they had shown in the opening rounds. They will want to wash that defeat to Cavan out of their system quickly but Clare’s needs are as great as theirs.
Fourteen points separate these teams on score difference yet in points accumulated they are level Westmeath’s return of minus one highlights the strength of the tussles they have been involved in and it’s that experience of battle that could see them pip Armagh here.
Kildare’s backs are to the wall against a Roscommon side which have failed to live up to their pre League status as promotion favourites. Kildare’s need for two points appears that bit stronger.
After tripping up against Leitrim on the first day and then losing to Down, Derry have a lot of ground to make up. A second win on the bounce is on the cards against a Louth team struggling for confidence.
If Leitrim are to stay up never mind remain in the frame for promotion, they have to make home comforts count. Offaly, though, are chasing too.
After a forgettable start to the campaign, Wexford’s battling qualities have been to the fore these past two rounds. A third consecutive win should fall their way.
The only unbeaten team across the league, Limerick face another side with a spring in their step. Wicklow’s two wins have come at home and this might be beyond them.
Carlow’s opening day win over Wicklow seems a distant memory and another defeat here means promotion looks a distant possibility. Antrim have been solid in all three of their outings.
It’s what happens between these two in 11 weeks’ time that occupies the minds of Kieran Kingston and John Kiely but they won’t mind a competitive outing this weekend. On this improved sod and with their Fitzgibbon Cup crew back in harness, Cork should be a fiercer animal than in recent weeks.
Then again, Limerick had an extra week’s break and have their own college players back. Seamus Harnedy, sent off by Seán Cleere in the last two League campaigns, will be careful not to react to what’s thrown at him by his marker. How Cork live with Limerick’s physical approach will be key to the result.
The prospect of facing Galway after Limerick would have been relished by Liam Cahill as it would have given him a real indication of how his young players coped with the conditioning of the 2017 and ‘18 All-Ireland champions.
Galway don’t have a great record against Waterford and there is an onus on the Déise to make Walsh Park a fortress this year. Personnel available will have a major say in the outcome but for now, we will hedge our bets.
This clash will give Liam Sheedy the chance to both try out some of fringe players while improving the fitness of those established players in need of game time. They should get an examination here from the team below them on the table.
Clare top the table but it is worth noting two of their three wins came against Carlow and Laois at home. They will be presented with their biggest test yet in Nowlan Park facing a Kilkenny team stinging from going down to Wexford for a third time in a row. We can expect to see more of a Ballyhale flavour to the Kilkenny panel. Tony Kelly has been one of the major stars of the league but he can expect more attention on this occasion. Kilkenny to get back to winning ways.
Meath have been competitive and won’t mind the trip but it’s the Saffrons who can take another step towards a promotion final.
Offaly know exactly what they must do to make amends for the defeat to Kerry. Anything less than three wins from their remaining three games and it will be a major setback for them and a much-heralded new management team. Step one will be taken in Castlebar.
Cork will aim to make it four wins from four when they welcome Mayo to Cloughduv. The Leesiders have been impressive this spring and claimed a morale-boosting victory over Dublin at Croke Park last time out.
Mayo are motoring nicely too, with two wins from three outings, and they’ll look to build on their gritty victory over Waterford.
When the sides last met in competitive fare, Dublin claimed a third successive Brendan Martin Cup win at Croke Park. Dublin will be without midfielder Lauren Magee, who suffered an injury against Cork that looks set to rule her out for some time.
Dublin will be wary of the threat posed by the Leonard cousins, Tracey and Roisin, who are in rich scoring form.
Tipperary are on four points after a draw against Dublin and a victory over Westmeath. Waterford have lost their last two games after beating Galway in impressive fashion on the opening day.
Westmeath are pointless after three games and three points from safety. The Lake County need to start picking up points if they’re to avoid the drop. Donegal claimed a very good victory over Waterford in Round 2, but they lost out to Galway last time out.