Weekend Gaelic Games previews

Mayo eager to get McStay era off to a positive start at Galway’s expense



Monaghan v Armagh, St Mary’s Park, Castleblayney, 6.30 (Live BBC iPlayer) – A testing campaign beckons for Monaghan, who between retirements and travel will need to find a number of new faces, starting on Saturday. Stephen O’Hanlon is back involved but a number of experienced players – Conor McManus and the Hughes’s – aren’t quite ready. Armagh were nearly caught in this fixture last year but the trajectory of both teams has been contrasting in the interim. Kieran McGeeney has also added to his panel during the McKenna Cup and the visitors look primed to kick on this year. Verdict: Armagh

Mayo v Galway, Hastings MacHale Park 7.30 (Live RTÉ2/RTÉ Player) – Connacht football has been so finely balanced that any slight shift can have consequences. Both teams will want to make a statement at the start of the year: Galway, to build on last year’s success and Mayo, to get the Kevin McStay management regime off to a good start. The Connacht champions are short players because of injury and travel whereas the home side have the ‘bounce’ of a first FBD win in 11 years. The teams played earlier this month and Mayo’s energy and hard work was a key part of the victory. This fixture has a volatile recent history but Mayo can make a positive start. Verdict: Mayo



Derry v Limerick, Owenbeg, 3.0 – Rory Gallagher’s men were unlucky to miss out on promotion last year. But since then Derry have been crowned Ulster champions, contested an All-Ireland semi-final and only last week won the McKenna Cup. Iain Corbett and Donal O’Sullivan remain Limerick’s joint captains for 2023, but Derry’s march towards promotion should begin today. Verdict: Derry

Dublin v Kildare, Croke Park, 5.0 (Live TG4) – Who knows what to expect from Dublin? Having fielded hugely experimental sides during the O’Byrne Cup, this is essentially Dublin’s first outing since last summer’s defeat to Kerry. Kildare’s O’Byrne Cup wasn’t exactly a sit-up-and-take-notice campaign either, but this is probably as good a time as any for them to get Dublin. Still, Dessie Farrell has more aces. It all depends how he uses his deck. Verdict: Dublin


Fermanagh v Longford, Ederney, 2.0 – Paddy Christie’s tenure has started positively in Longford, as they claimed the O’Byrne Cup – though they almost did so by being the last county interested in playing in the competition. Still, silverware helps build confidence and momentum, though Fermanagh will be out to stifle Longford’s run in what is likely to be a tight affair. Verdict: Draw

Tipperary v Down, FBD Semple Stadium, 6.0 – In Down’s two McKenna Cup group games they scored 2-10 and 2-14 respectively. Oddly, Tipperary chalked up the same scores in their first two McGrath Cup matches. But Down racked up those totals in wins over Monaghan and Donegal, two Division One sides. Tipp played Waterford and Limerick. Down only exited the McKenna Cup on penalties to Derry. Conor Laverty seems to have them humming. Verdict: Down


Leitrim v Waterford, Avant Money Páirc Seán MacDiarmada, 1.0 – Andy Moran’s players can get off to a good start against Waterford, who lost heavily to Limerick and Tipperary in the McGrath Cup. Verdict: Leitrim

Sligo v Laois, Markievicz Park, 2.0 – The two promotion favourites meet – Laois having had an erratic pre-season and under pressure to get out of the division. The home side have Colm McFadden as forwards coach and a clear ambition to get promoted. Verdict: Sligo


Mayo v Kerry, Connacht Centre of Excellence, 12.45pm (Live TG4); Donegal v Meath, O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny, 1pm



Roscommon v Tyrone, Dr Hyde Park, 1.30 (Deferred, TG4; live on tg4.ie) – Roscommon have an energetic new manager and probably need to start well if they are to stabilise and stay put in this division. Davy Burke set himself the task of a thorough trawl of players during preseason despite the relatively late appointment. Tyrone arrive just after a McKenna Cup mauling by Derry, albeit not with their first team, but it did feature ‘access all areas’ defending. The visitors desperately need to get back on track after a dismal 2022. They can manage that. Verdict: Tyrone

Donegal v Kerry, Ballybofey, 2.0 (Live, TG4) – The usual pomp and ceremony of a first league match for All-Ireland champions is well mitigated by Kerry’s ‘unavailable’ list, which brings some cheer to the home side. Jack O’Connor is on the record as aiming a little less ambitiously in this league and will be happy to add to his panel and road-test his options in the absence of David Clifford, who is due a major rest after the heroics of the past 12 months. Donegal have to come to terms with Michael Murphy’s retirement and its off-field as well as on-field implications. Given the weakness of the champions, there’s a chance for Paddy Carr’s team in his first major match but it’s hard to be certain. Verdict: Kerry


Cork v Meath, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 1.30 (Deferred coverage on TG4, live on tg4.ie) – Cork looked well ahead of the pack in Munster in terms of fitness and cohesion for January as they claimed the McGrath Cup with relative ease. They scored a staggering 7-40 in their three games (all wins) while Meath registered 3-33 (one win, two draws) during a largely benign O’Byrne Cup campaign. Verdict: Cork

Clare v Louth, Cusack Park, 2.0 – A meeting between two managers currently with the longest unbroken service in the game – Colm Collins with Clare and Mickey Harte, who took on the Louth role just weeks after stepping away from Tyrone. Both men will view this as a winnable game in a difficult group. Verdict: Clare


Westmeath v Cavan, TEG Cusack Park, 2.0 – A repeat of last year’s inaugural Tailteann Cup final, both are among the favourites for promotion but a loss here in the opening round would put the beaten team on the back foot. Dara McVeety’s return to the squad is a positive for Cavan, who might just have enough up top to squeeze a narrow victory. Verdict: Cavan

Antrim v Offaly, Corrigan Park, 2.0 – Given Offaly last won the O’Byrne Cup in 1998, it was quite the move not to play their semi-final as only Louth and Longford stood between them and a seventh title. It suggests Offaly have designs on a strong league showing. Antrim lost both their Dr McKenna Cup games. Verdict: Offaly


Carlow v Wicklow, Netwatch Cullen Park, 7.0 – Neighbourhood engagement sees Carlow hoping to build on last year’s rebuild and Oisín McConville’s Wicklow looking to kick-start promotion. Verdict: Wicklow

Wexford v London, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 7.0 – Wexford finished behind London’s after the latter’s great start to last season but new manager John Hegarty is targeting promotion and even in captain Liam Coleman’s absence they can get the job done. Verdict: Wexford

WOMEN’S NFL (2.0 unless stated)


Galway v Dublin, Tuam Stadium; Waterford v Cork, Piltown


Westmeath v Laois, St Lomans; Monaghan v Tyrone, St Tiernach’s Park, Clones; Roscommon v Armagh, St Brigid’s, Kiltoom; Tipperary v Cavan, Fethard Town Park


Clare v Wexford, Cooraclare, 1.0; Down v Sligo, Páirc Esler, Newry; Offaly v Louth, Bretland Park, Clara; Kildare v Longford, Manguard Plus Centre of Excellence


Derry v Wicklow, Owenbeg; Leitrim v Kilkenny, St Mary’s, 2.30

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times