Weekend Gaelic games previews: In-form Derry poised to maintain strong start

Dublin will be eager to garner their first points against Roscommon following successive close defeats to Monaghan and Mayo


Allianz Football League – Division 1

Derry v Monaghan, Celtic Park, 5.0 – All this weekend’s fixtures are reruns of All-Ireland group matches last year. This was actually played in the Ulster championship as well when Monaghan’s limitations were exposed before a much-improved display exposed a few of Derry’s shortcomings in a draw. So far, Derry are motoring very well, beating Kerry and Tyrone, whereas Monaghan came to earth against Kerry after beating Dublin and look as if they will be taking their survival prospects all the way to the usual cliffhanger conclusion. Verdict: Derry

Dublin v Roscommon, Croke Park, 5.0 [Live TG4] – In last year’s championship, this triggered some pearl-clutching when Roscommon held on to the ball for six minutes or whatever. They successfully frustrated Dublin in what would be the only match the eventual champions failed to win. A bit unlucky to lose in Castlebar, Dessie Farrell’s team continued to be somewhat blunt in attack and will need to light a few more fuses. Like their opponents, Roscommon have yet to win a match and had mixed news from the Sigerson final. Daire Cregg starred for beaten finalists UCD but Ben O’Carroll couldn’t play because of injury and is unlikely to feature. Verdict: Dublin

Kerry v Mayo, Austin Stack Park, 7.30 [Live RTÉ 2] – Mayo’s strong start to the league gives them some space here to experiment if they want to. Having been beaten twice in this fixture last year, Kerry will hope to rebalance things. They rediscovered some firepower against Monaghan with Seán O’Shea lethal at full forward and with the Cliffords and Tadhg Morley back, the team has an almost championship look if not yet fully run in.


Mayo are still missing a few and may be short Rory Brickenden and Sam Callinan after UCD’s Sigerson disappointment. Despite their wins over Galway and Dublin, the attack isn’t sparking yet with much reliance on contributions from farther out the field. Defence, though, has been good – no goals conceded to date. Kevin McStay is unlikely to be going baldheaded for this and Kerry will be keen to chalk up a home win. Verdict: Kerry

Division 2

Donegal v Fermanagh, Letterkenny, 2.0 [Live BBC iPlayer] – What a start for Fermanagh, hot tips for relegation turned scourge of Leinster in taking three points from Meath and Kildare. Donegal survived the Cavan ambush having reintroduced Shaun Patton from suspension, Oisín Gallen from injury and, for a first start, Eoghan Bán Gallagher. They should be making amends here. Verdict: Donegal

Cork v Cavan, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 4.0 – This was surely one of the fixtures Cork would have earmarked for points before the season began. That was before they lost their opening two matches and Cavan started correspondingly stronger, beating Kildare and running the Donegal side, who had trimmed Cork, to a point. Points are now a necessity for John Cleary’s team. Verdict: Cork

Division 4

Waterford v Longford, SETU Arena, 4.0 – Again, Longford are finding the league taxing after winning the O’Byrne Cup. This should provide respite. Verdict: Longford

Laois v Carlow, O’Moore Park, 6.0 – Laois have started the campaign like a steam train, winning both matches and looking like the promotion front-runners they should be. Carlow are also two from two but this task should prove too steep. Verdict: Laois

Fitzgibbon Cup final

Mary Immaculate College of Education v University of Limerick, Abbeydorney, 2.45 [Live TG4] – The production line of Limerick’s third-level colleges has already turned out nearly all of the county’s current hurlers, who this year chase a five-in-a-row of All-Irelands.

In the past 20 years, the three teams – TUS, formerly Limerick IT is the other – have won half of the Fitzgibbon Cups on offer as well as providing a presence in 14 of the finals with this weekend’s the fourth to be played among themselves.

Seen as likely contenders from the start, Mary I and UL defeated SETU Waterford and NUI Galway in the semi-finals, the second one proving an epic, which UL won by just a point.

That will have been seen as underachievement on the part of the team that has won six Fitzgibbons since 2010.

Although Tipperary’s Gearóid O’Connor has been starring for UL, he has had a good collaboration with Clare’s Mark Rodgers, scorer of 1-3 in the semi-final. O’Connor and Galway defender TJ Brennan are on a possible three-in-a-row Fitzgibbon sequence.

They should have a good contest against a Mary I side, who had another Clare man, Shane Meehan, matching his county colleague’s 1-3 in the other semi-final and coach Jamie Wall can boast another pair of Clare starters, Diarmaid Ryan and Adam Hogan, in his defence.

It is a concern of UL that they haven’t been easily hitting good form to date but they are back in the final with an excellent chance of a third successive title. Verdict: University of Limerick


Allianz Football League – Division 1

Tyrone v Galway, Healy Park, 1.45 [Live TG4] – Brian Dooher, a Sigerson winner with UCD, must nonetheless have been happy to see his alma mater beaten on Wednesday given the performances of the Canavan brothers for UU.

Both teams need points even at this early stage. Galway have a lot of talent in dry dock because of injury and simply need to focus on survival. That is helped with the return to the panel of captain Seán Kelly. Pádraic Joyce has also been able to test drive Cillian Ó Curraoin and Liam Ó Conghaile and after the woeful opening against Mayo, his team bounced back to more respectable form when drawing with Roscommon.

Tyrone’s comprehensive defeat in Derry was accompanied by a hatful of wides and they’ll need to tighten up on accuracy. Pádraic Joyce has a good record in this fixture and is unbeaten in three league and championship meetings. His diminished options make this more problematic allowing that Tyrone are in the midst of reconstruction. Verdict: Galway

Division 2

Meath v Louth, Páirc Tailteann, 2.0 [Live TG4 app and deferred coverage TG4] – The Leinster triangle – with Kildare – is looking very tied up with the relegation battle. Louth have started better than either of the others under Ger Brennan’s management. Meath were well beaten in Armagh where their lack of pace was a striking feature. The visitors will be buoyant, which has to demand a response from Meath. Verdict: Meath

Kildare v Armagh, Dr Cullen Park, 3.45 [Live TG4] – A match that has assumed a larger significance than Glenn Ryan would have wished at the start of the season but two straight defeats by Cavan and Fermanagh have cast the Tailteann shadow on this meeting, as discontent grows within the county. Armagh are 100 per cent at this point, as Kieran McGeeney returns to take on his old team and his side have played with purpose to date. Verdict: Armagh

Division 3

Wicklow v Westmeath, Aughrim, 1.0 – Wicklow, with manager Oisín McConville suspended, welcome to Aughrim divisional front-runners Westmeath. Fortunate to beat Clare, Dessie Dolan’s side have had to manage without John Heslin but Ronan O’Toole continues to be productive. Verdict: Westmeath

Antrim v Down, Corrigan Park, 2.0 – Down have been sizzling away as befits the county considered promotion shoo-ins. Antrim, though, with Dominic McEnhill still finding the target, have also opened with two wins. They could make this interesting but the visitors won’t be in the mood to relent. Verdict: Down

Limerick v Sligo, Rathkeale, 2.0 – Limerick have had a chastening start, as could have been anticipated given the number of players they have lost since last year. Sligo were unlucky to get turned over by Clare and can get a bit more out of this trip to the southwest. Verdict: Sligo

Offaly v Clare, O’Connor Park, 2.0 – Early pressure on both teams, as Declan Kelly gives runs to some of his All-Ireland winning under-20s and Mark Fitzgerald has to manage the post-Colm Collins era in Clare. Dylan Hyland is back from suspension and Offaly could do with better productivity from their forwards. Verdict: Offaly

Division 4

London v Tipperary, Ruislip, 1.0 – London have lost two matches despite being competitive, a fate they may have to endure again with the visit from Tipp, who pipped Longford away from home the last day. Verdict: Tipperary

Leitrim v Wexford, Páirc Seán MacDiarmada, 2.0 – Leitrim top the table but have already played the bottom two. This is equally important for Wexford if they are to get involved in promotion having lost to Laois last time out. Verdict: Leitrim

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Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times