Allianz Football League previews: Plenty on the line as Armagh face tough test in Omagh

Galway’s impressive defensive record likely to be tested by Kerry’s visit to Salthill


Allianz National Football League

Division 4

Wexford v Carlow, Wexford Park, 5.30 – It would take an extraordinary series of results for Wexford to snatch a promotion spot, including London beating Laois, Sligo hammering Leitrim, and Waterford beating Wicklow. Wexford would also have to do a number on Carlow. Generally, there’s not much to separate these sides, but Wexford have shown more punch in front of the posts this season. Verdict: Wexford


Allianz National Football League


Division 1 (all 1.45pm)

Galway v Kerry, Pearse Stadium (Live on TG4) – Galway have the best defensive record in the division, and by quite a distance, having conceded just 67 points in total. Armagh, on 80, have the second meanest defence.

But Kerry should test Galway’s defensive structure in Salthill. Jack O’Connor has said Kerry weren’t pushing for a league final place this season, but it is within striking distance for them now, and surely they won’t want to gift Galway any psychological edge for the summer by rolling over in Pearse Stadium. Verdict: Kerry

Roscommon v Donegal, Dr Hyde Park – Paddy Carr prevented an even greater crisis in Donegal by walking away rather than digging his heels in after it emerged the players wanted a change of management. Aidan O’Rourke and Paddy Bradley are taking charge for this game, but what kind of Donegal reaction we get remains to be seen. Roscommon still have an outside shot at a league final, but they could also be dragged back to the relegation squabble, which should be enough to focus the home side’s minds. Verdict: Roscommon

Tyrone v Armagh, Healy Park, 1.45 (Live on BBCiPlayer & GAAGO) Both sides have blown hot and cold during the league, though Tyrone’s last two outings – wins over Kerry and Monaghan – suggest the 2021 All-Ireland champions have hit a run of form. The inconsistency of Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh has left them dicing with relegation, so with plenty on the line this is likely to be a tight and abrasive affair in Omagh. Verdict: Draw

Mayo v Monaghan, MacHale Park, 1.45 Mayo have been the best team in Division One and so if they approach this game like they have their previous six then you’d expect Kevin McStay’s side to maintain their unbeaten record. However, Mayo are already guaranteed a place in the league final next weekend and they have championship the week after, so if they don’t go full pelt here that would open up an opportunity for Monaghan to produce another last day great escape. But, in truth, this year they haven’t looked much like the defiant Monaghan of old. Verdict: Mayo

Division Two (all 2pm)

Clare v Limerick, Cusack Park – The two counties had probably sketched in scenarios where this fixture would be their get-out-of-jail card, dealt in the last hand. Instead they ended up taking the drop together, which is a particular blow for Clare, bringing to an end their seven-year residency in the top half of the league and extinguishing their place in the Sam Maguire. Limerick had a management upheaval but to noticeable pick-up. Verdict: Clare

Cork v Derry, Páirc Uí Chaoimh – Cork became the latest victims of Louth’s mysterious run of form and now for their finale, welcome the division’s top team. Now that they have been promoted and with a Croke Park final to come, manager Rory Gallagher may rest a few players for this but they are all hopping fit and mad for action. Cork’s form has fluctuated but they have scored impressively. This weekend they are facing the meanest – by a considerable distance – defence in the entire competition. Verdict: Derry

Dublin v Louth, Croke Park – Arguably Louth’s campaign has been the most impressive of any county in the league. The repurposed James Califf has been terrific in goal and they have managed to get by without top scorer Sam Mulroy. This will be a big challenge because Dublin, despite having had their moments during the league, are picking up momentum.

Comfortably on top in Navan, they will find the well-tutored Louth defence harder going. Killian O’Gara was the star turn against Meath but it was also encouraging to see Con O’Callaghan getting back to his best. Few would seen this as an effective semi-final when the fixtures were drawn but that’s what’s at stake. Verdict: Dublin

Kildare v Meath St Conleth’s Park – Meath got a dose of the usual unpleasant medicine against Dublin last week but had a good if brief spell before half-time. Matthew Costello was robust and feisty but they were wide open at the back.

Kildare finally got a result down in Limerick, as Darragh Kirwan found his range and maybe the relief of getting a necessary win will revive Glenn Ryan’s team. The consequences for the losers is the precarious status of sixth place in the division, making them the first side to be picked off if any unseeded counties gatecrash the Sam Maguire by reaching a provincial final. Verdict: Kildare

Division Three (all 2pm)

Cavan v Fermanagh, Kingspan Breffni Park – Cavan were caught on the hop last time out by Antrim but even that setback hasn’t derailed their now assured promotion. Fermanagh can join them if they win or at least don’t lose this. Even if they do come up short, promotion can remain a prospect but defeat and an Offaly win means they’re done. Verdict: Cavan

Westmeath v Tipperary, TEG Cusack Park – Maybe their status as Tailteann winners and guaranteed Tier 1 contestants disrupted their focus but Westmeath managed to post a 50-50 record in the division to date despite being the highest scorers and having conceded least. That they appear to go to town on the teams they beat adds up to a worrying-sounding scenario for Tipperary, who have had a bitterly disappointing season after last year’s promotion. Verdict: Westmeath

Offaly v Down, Glenisk O’Connor Park – There is a disproportionate motivation here in that should they win and Fermanagh lose Down will not be promoted as they lost the head-to-head earlier in the competition. Offaly would progress in that scenario as they defeated Fermanagh previously. That should give the home side something at aim for. Verdict: Offaly

Longford v Antrim, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park – Longford’s fate was sealed early and they will play in the basement next year. Antrim, a team they might have felt would be in the mix with them at this stage in fact sprang free by unexpectedly beating the leaders Cavan. Verdict: Antrim

Division 4 (all 1pm)

London v Laois, Ruislip, 1.0 – London have failed to rediscover the form that helped them finish fifth in the league last year. They won three league games in 2022, but all they’ve picked up this season is one point from a draw with Wexford. Laois know a high-tally win here should be enough for them to secure promotion on scoring difference, so it could be a tough afternoon for the home side. Verdict: Laois

Waterford v Wicklow, Fraher Field, 1.0 – Waterford ended their winless streak against London last time out, but Oisín McConville’s Wicklow should prove a much stiffer test. Wicklow are still in the promotion race, but they would need other results to fall their way to finish in the top two. First of all, they need to win here to give themselves a chance. Verdict: Wicklow

Leitrim v Sligo, Páirc Seán MacDiarmada, 1.0 – The outcome of this game will have a huge impact on the final standings. Sligo are top of the table with ten points and a scoring difference of +26. Leitrim, Laois and Wicklow all have eight points. Leitrim’s scoring difference is +29, Laois +24 and Wicklow +6. Tony McEntee’s Sligo have been less erratic than others in this fiercely contested division. Verdict: Sligo

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