Gaelic GamesNational Football League Previews

NFL previews: Lively game in store as Meath host Dublin in Navan for first time in 35 years

Kerry and Galway likely to come away with points in Division One at the expense of Roscommon and Armagh


Allianz National Football League

Division One

Armagh v Galway, Box-It Athletic Grounds, 5pm (Live, RTE2 + RTE Player) — Like all the matches in this division, there’s something at stake in this re-run of last summer’s most talked-about championship fixture between two upper-half counties, both poised for possible advancement but neither guaranteed safety. They have similar trajectories, each having drawn with Mayo, lost to Roscommon and beaten Monaghan. Armagh have a slight advantage with venue — although the clash with rugby’s Grand Slam game won’t help the overall crowd — and Jarlath Burns was in top form the last day but Galway are slowly regaining momentum. Shane Walsh was back for the last match and with Rob Finnerty also returned and Damien Comer not far away, the impressive full-forward line is nearly there. Matthew Tierney has been going well throughout the league. Verdict: Galway

Kerry v Roscommon, Austin Stack Park, 7.30 (Live, TG4) — There must be a concern in both camps given recent results. After a great opening, Roscommon have fallen away with two straight defeats but Davy Burke’s team rallied strongly against Mayo, a revival sparked by Ciaráin Murtagh’s introduction and he is restored to the starting line-up along with Kerry native Conor Cox. The All-Ireland champions have not managed to rev last year out of the engine yet and were again fitful up in Omagh where David Clifford was well-watched, but Donal O’Sullivan doubled down on his growing reputation with a lively cameo off the bench — the 2017 minor having scored 1-3 on his league debut last month. Kerry could do with these points. Verdict: Kerry

Division Two


Meath v Dublin, Páirc Tailteann, 3pm (Live on RTÉ) — Meath have relied far too heavily on goals during the league. Colm O’Rourke’s men have scored 11 — taking something from all the matches they netted two or more. But in the games they managed just a single goal, Meath lost. Why? For two reasons — they have struggled to kick points and they have been too open at the back. They scored just eight points against Clare, seven against Derry, 11 against Limerick. Despite registering 11 goals, they have a scoring difference of -6, their concession of 91 points in total is the second worst in the division after Limerick. One of Dublin’s problems has been scoring goals — Dessie Farrell’s side have failed to raise a green flag in their last three games. Still, in three of their five matches Dublin have kicked more than 15 points and have a scoring difference of +12. This game promises to produce the most raucous atmosphere of the weekend, and Meath’s best chance of pulling off a victory probably sits with harnessing the occasion and emotion of hosting Dublin for a league game in Navan for the first time in 35 years. But teams need to rely on more than hope. Verdict: Dublin

Division Three

Antrim v Cavan, Corrigan Park, 2pm — Cavan are the form team in the division and while Antrim have been incredibly unlucky not to get more from their first five games, it is difficult to see Andy McEntee’s men stifle the Breffni County’s march to promotion. Verdict: Cavan

Tipperary v Offaly, Semple Stadium, 2.0 — This will be a difficult and poignant match in so many ways. The passing of Liam Kearns last Sunday shocked the GAA community, and in particular it cut deepest in the dressing rooms of Offaly, Tipperary and Limerick. Kearns will be in everybody’s thoughts at Semple Stadium. As for the game itself, so much rests on how the Offaly players react to a very difficult week, but their form has been stronger than that of Tipperary up until this point. Verdict: Offaly

Fermanagh v Westmeath, Ederney, 3pm — A pivotal game in the race for promotion. Fermanagh, in many ways, have been the surprise team in the battle for a top-two spot. Westmeath’s losses to Cavan and Down mean they can’t afford any further slip-ups. Dessie Dolan’s men have been putting up some massive tallies, having amassed a total of 105 points to Fermanagh’s 82, and that greater scoring threat could be the telling factor. Verdict: Westmeath

Down v Longford, Páirc Esler, 7pm — Longford have really struggled to get any form or momentum during the league. Paddy Christie’s side are still searching for their first win, but it is unlikely to come against a Down side still very much in the promotion hunt, especially if they can pick up their fourth victory of the campaign here. Verdict: Down

Division Four

Carlow v Sligo, Netwatch Cullen Park, 5pm — Carlow are sitting mid-table after a win in London but Sligo have picked up the pace of a promotion challenge and blitzed Wexford the last time out with Pat Spillane and Seán Carrabine in shooting form. They will travel hopefully. Verdict: Sligo

Waterford v London, Lemybrien, 5pm — Waterford are becalmed at the bottom of the league but in their campaign debut at the venue, welcome the team just above them. Their performances have lacked the competitive vigour of some of last year’s displays. This would be a good place to start. Verdict: Waterford

Wexford v Wicklow, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 7pm — Wexford have had a wayward sort of campaign, looking quite good on occasions before falling to undistinguished defeat. Today’s visitors have decent momentum and need to maintain it if they have promotion ambitions. Verdict: Wicklow


Division One

Monaghan v Tyrone, Clones, 2pm —This fixture would always have had the look of being dourly competitive and Monaghan, who are gallantly positioning themselves to cheat the hangman yet again, will be sorry it couldn’t have taken place sooner. Whether it proves a false dawn or not, Tyrone bounced back into something at least resembling their best form when sending Kerry home pointless two weeks ago. They had decent displays around the field — Frank Harte exhibiting the type of energy associated with his best performances, Mattie Donnelly rolling back the years after a really tough injury interlude and both Canavans indicating they are approaching readiness. Monaghan’s apparent recovery ran aground in Salthill despite having a man advantage for the whole second half. Verdict: Tyrone

Donegal v Mayo, Ballybofey, 3.45pm [Live, TG4] — Much will depend on Mayo’s approach to this but they didn’t play mind games in Roscommon and still survived a late rally to seal another win and preserve the division’s only unbeaten record. Although Donegal have talent in their forward ranks, such as Oisín Gallen, Jamie Brennan and Michael Langan, they are diminished as a collective by the absence of captain Patrick McBrearty. Mayo have an established habit of being hard to beat in this fixture – having equalised late into injury time in the three most recent league matches between the counties. They are playing well at present and have taken points from stronger-looking Donegal selections even if the home side’s backs are to the wall here. Verdict: Mayo

Division Two

Derry v Clare, Owenbeg, 1pm (Live on BCC iPlayer & GAAGO) — Derry have been the outstanding team in the division, while Clare have probably been the unluckiest. Colm Collins has a real challenge on his hands to keep the Banner in Division Two now, especially as it would be a significant surprise for Clare to get anything from this trip to Owenbeg. Derry are heading for Division One, Clare are dicing with relegation. Verdict: Derry

Louth v Cork, Ardee, 1pm — Louth had hit some real form before the break, winning their last three games — victories over Limerick, Meath, Kildare. Promotion is still possible, but it’s not likely, and the reality is Louth will be satisfied to retain their status in the division. Cork have found their rhythm in recent weeks and should have too much firepower for the home side. Verdict: Cork

Limerick v Kildare, Gaelic Grounds, 3.45pm — Tough folk in Limerick, who got rid of Ray Dempsey after only managing to get a draw against Meath! The reality is the noises coming from the camp weren’t good after their hammering to Cork. Either way, Limerick’s fate in the division is gloomy. Defeat here to Kildare will consign Limerick to Division Three for next season. Kildare have been in freefall recently, but this is a game that should see them at least slow the descent. Verdict: Kildare

Division Four

Leitrim v Laois, Avant Money Páirc Seán MacDiarmada, 2pm — Letirm have disappointed in the past two matches, losing to Wexford and Wicklow in contests they let slip. Top scorers in the divisions, they know a win here against the leaders would reignite their campaign. Verdict: Laois

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

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

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times