National Football League previews: Monaghan face struggle to preserve top flight status

Farney County in dire need of a victory over neighbours Tyrone to boost their Division One survival hopes

Saturday March 16th

Allianz FL Division One, Sound Six

Tyrone v Monaghan, Healy Park, 7.30 (Live on TG4)

Monaghan’s annual fight for survival enters Rocky mode on Saturday, as they try desperately to maintain their streak of top flight football stretching back to 2015 – only Kerry have a longer unbroken presence in Division One right now.

The worry for Monaghan though is their form-line, since beating Dublin on the opening weekend they have shipped four heavy losses and sit bottom of the table with a scoring difference of -40. The teams directly above them, Roscommon and Tyrone, both have scoring differences of -4.


Rory Beggan’s absence as an anchor at the back has not helped while, at the other end of the field, Conor McManus only made his first appearance of the season last time out, coming off the bench against Galway.

Monaghan will take hope in the fact Tyrone tend to be wildly inconsistent and the Farney County are the great survivors, old pros at avoiding knockout blows. But if Tyrone are inconsistent, Monaghan’s inability to pick up points this season has been all too consistent.

Verdict: Tyrone

Galway v Dublin, Pearse Stadium, 3.15 (Live on RTÉ)

Dublin have tucked away three wins on the bounce and Dessie Farrell will take his side to Salthill knowing it is mission accomplished now as regards avoiding the risk of getting mired in a relegation scrap.

A victory over Galway would leave them on the road to a league final, though there is a sense this is a more important game for the Tribesmen than for the Dubs.

Galway have been without several key players because of injury but this could prove the ideal time for Pádraic Joyce’s men to start building some momentum leading towards a championship charge. It’s unlikely to define either team’s season, but a victory might just be more valuable for the home side.

Verdict: Galway

Division Two

Armagh v Cavan, Box-It Athletic Grounds, 5.0

The one match that can upset the apparently predetermined promotion of Donegal and Armagh. Cavan have been the most impressive of the rest in this division although the performance against Meath wasn’t the best example of this and it took goalkeeper Gary O’Rourke to save the draw.

Armagh haven’t always pushed through on teams they were beating and, to that extent, maybe there’s an opportunity for Cavan who, if they win, would be promoted on the head-to-head. Realistically though, the home side have been playing at a higher level and can survive an improved performance from Cavan.

Verdict: Armagh

Kildare v Donegal, Netwatch Cullen Park, 5.0

Is there any resistance left in Kildare? It didn’t look like it when Cork bounced back from a desperately bad start and put them under pressure two weeks ago.

Between, injuries, low morale and unhelpful controversy, it’s been an awful campaign for Glenn Ryan and his team, who have to regroup for a meaningful crack at reaching the Leinster final from the easier side of the draw.

As for this, Donegal are too organised and clinical to allow the chance of securing promotion to slip.

Verdict: Donegal

Louth v Fermanagh, Ardee, 2.0 – Another vital encounter: Louth must win or end up depending on other results for survival. Both teams have been feisty in their fixtures date with Louth losing three matches by less than a score and Fermanagh falling prey to a late goal against Cork.

Louth look to have greater firepower. Sam Mulroy, Ryan Burns and Ciarán Keenan have been in good form and that combined with home advantage gives them an edge against opponents, who have slipped away after an encouraging start

Verdict: Louth

Meath v Cork, Páirc Tailteann, 2.0

These teams opened last year’s league with a sparkling display of attacking football, which Meath won with a greater goal threat. Colm O’Rourke’s team have steadied and nearly secured their status but Cork have come with a late charge, winning two matches on the spin with impressive comebacks. Their momentum may even take them through this.

Verdict: Cork

Division Three

Clare v Antrim, Cusack Park, Ennis, 3.30

Clare have rallied really well in what could have been an awkward season of transition. The close shave against Westmeath now looks to have cost promotion but they are safe whereas Antrim could do with another point or two, having lost the last three matches.

Verdict: Clare

Wicklow v Limerick, Aughrim, 3.0

Basement clash with the slenderest prospects of survival for the winner. Both have yet to register a point and although Wicklow have underperformed everyone in the division, home advantage holds out some hope.

Verdict: Wicklow

Sligo v Offaly, Markievicz Park, 2.30

A challenge for Offaly, who are by no means out of the relegation conversation. Sligo have had a robust campaign with three wins and are unbeaten at home. The visitors are however the second top scorers in the division after leaders Down and can improve their prospects.

Verdict: Offaly

Division Four

London v Waterford, Ruislip, 1.0

The battle to avoid the bottom! London and Waterford have both picked up one point so far in this campaign – from playing out draws with Tipperary. Paul Shankey is trying to rebuild a Waterford squad in his first year at the helm but a concern will be their concession of 96 points in total in five games.

London have shipped 77 points during the same period and will hope to exploit that perceived weakness in Waterford’s rearguard.

Verdict: London

Longford v Carlow, Pearse Park, 3.0

Both sides remain alive in the promotion race with six points from five games – which sees them occupy joint second alongside Leitrim and Wexford. However, Longford’s recent form has been stronger, they have won their last three matches, and have been more impressive on both sides of the ball. Longford have tallied a total of 83 points to Carlow’s 75, while at the back Paddy Christie’s men have conceded 70 compared to Carlow’s 82.

Verdict: Longford

Laois v Leitrim, O’Moore Park, 4.15

Justin McNulty’s Laois have been the standout team in the bottom division. The question around Laois at this stage really is who will be playing them in the Division Four final. Leitrim hope it will be them, but Andy Moran’s men will need to deliver their best performance of the season if they are to leave Portlaoise with any points.

Verdict: Laois

Wexford v Tipperary, St Patrick’s Park, Enniscorthy, 6.0

Tipperary’s promotion push suffered two gut-punches in draws with London and Waterford – matches they almost certainly needed to win to finish in the top two. Outside of that they have done okay, and all of their games have been close. Wexford are one of four teams currently on six points but this is likely to be another tight and edgy Division Four encounter, with little between the sides.

Verdict: Draw

Sunday, March 17th

Allianz FL Division One, Round 6

Roscommon v Kerry, Dr Hyde Park, 1.45 (Live on TG4)

Roscommon’s final two group games are against Kerry and Derry – not exactly the home straight you’d be hoping to find yourself on when fighting for Division One survival.

Kerry appeared to take their Dublin drubbing as a call to arms when facing Tyrone last time out, and Jack O’Connor will be encouraging his side to maintain that attitude and momentum in the Hyde.

That’s likely to be bad news for Roscommon, whose best chance of picking up points in these last two games could be based on Derry having already booked a final place before the last divisional round of matches.

Verdict: Kerry

Mayo v Derry, Hastings MacHale Park, 3.45 (Live on TG4)

In the aftermath of Mayo’s win over Roscommon, Kevin McStay didn’t quite give off the impression of a man obsessing over back-to-back league titles. Mayo’s business with the league is almost done, it would seem. Avoid relegation and then move on towards the championship.

Derry, having played Dublin in neutral, will probably slip back through the gears here to try tidy up a place in the league final before the last round of games. The match could see Aidan O’Shea make his 100th league appearance for Mayo.

Verdict: Derry

Division Three

Westmeath v Down, TEG Cusack Park, 3.0 [Live TG4 Player, deferred]

A top of the table match between the two front runners, both on 10 points, and Westmeath insulated against Clare by the head-to-head. Down have been that bit more impressive cutting through the fixtures by larger margins. Westmeath should have won this match last year but Down recovered well and with the bit between their teeth, can do so more emphatically.

Verdict: Down.