Today's Allianz league previews
Published 13/03/2011 | 05:00
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE (2.30 unless stated): Division 1 Mayo v Armagh Castlebar
James Horan still has many injury worries but competition for places is massive -- no two line-outs have been the same over the last four games. Newcomer James Doherty's two-goal haul against Galway gives them another edge but they need to win here.
Armagh are a physical, running side and that won't suit Horan's men. In training, however, Mayo have focused intensely on starting games better, winning more breaking ball and increasing movement. They'll have to shine in all three areas to beat an Orchard side that was unlucky to lose to Down. Billy Joe Padden's return in the colours of Armagh will no doubt evoke bittersweet memories for him.
Monaghan v Dublin
Without Eoghan O'Gara (suspended) and Cian O'Sullivan (injured), they'll be boosted by the return of Michael Darragh Macauley and most of their Kilmacud contingent. Their unity, running style and scoring power should be enough to seal a win here. The ultra-direct Kevin McManamon is in fine form up front.
Meanwhile, critics of Monaghan's style will be interested to note that they are top of the GAA's Fair Play Table. However, they would be more interested in points on the board.
Kerry v Galway
Kerry need to get back to winning ways after a pulsating but unsuccessful encounter with the Dubs. The wily Tom O'Sullivan is back in the fold after an extended breather but all eyes will be on David Moran to see if he can maintain his recent excellent form. Without the injured Seán Armstrong for possibly the rest of the league, Galway are in even more trouble as relegation looms and they have made a heap of positional and personnel changes.
Meath v Donegal
Meath have lost two of their three games and now Cian Ward is out injured just as he was breaking back into the starting 15. Losing to Antrim was a massive blow and manager Seamus McEneaney has changed things around for today with five personnel switches and other positional adjustments. Against Antrim they kicked 14 wides, missed a late penalty and conceded eight points from frees. Donegal centre-back Leo McLoone is out for two months with a broken ankle. What could hinder them here is that only two of their starting 15 scored against Kildare. They'll need to improve on that.
TYRONE V ANTRIM
DUE to a heavy snowfall, last night's scheduled game now goes ahead this afternoon (subject to a pitch inspection this morning) with Tyrone making five changes. Johnny Curran, Dermot Carlin, Davy Harte, Conor Gormley and Stephen O'Neill come into the line-up while Antrim make two changes with goalkeeper Chris Kerr and full-back Andy McClean drafted in. Tyrone have been hugely inconsistent and since beating Sligo lost the McKenna Cup final to Derry. Antrim are not much better -- they also have just one win from their opening three fixtures. Whoever loses today will be staring relegation in the face. Verdict: Tyrone
Kildare v Laois
Laois had a fantastic win away to in-form Derry last time out, scoring 1-21. They'll have no fears of travelling a few miles over the border today with free-scoring half-back Darren Strong the epitome of what they are about under Justin McNulty. In contrast, Kildare's forwards are poor at the moment.
Sligo v Derry
Physically, Sligo have struggled and badly need a win but meet a Derry team today champing at the bit to get back on track. Eamonn O'Hara will have to revert to midfield today if the home side is to win -- he is wasted in the forwards. Still, Sligo never give up and away from home Derry have been unpredictable. Verdict: Sligo
Louth v Offaly
Despite losing key players to emigration, Louth have started their bid for promotion in impressive style, winning their first three games. JP Rooney is back and a win today is on the cards which would almost guarantee them a trip to the second tier next season.
Limerick v Cavan
Gaelic Grounds, 12.45
Cavan are in mid-table and playing marginally better than Limerick who are struggling badly for scores but today represents a chance for them to get their season up and running.
Westmeath v Wexford
Westmeath will be boosted by having ended a 16-game run without a victory. However, Wexford look to have more potential up front, are more settled and are making a determined push for Division 2 football.
Wicklow v Longford
Longford top the group on seven points from four games while Wicklow, with former Mayoman Austin O'Malley in tow, have six points from four games. It will be a very close encounter but Paul Barden is flying it and Brian Kavanagh is back. Verdict: Longford
Roscommon v Fermanagh
A win will keep Roscommon's promotion hopes alive but they're without David O'Gara, Donal Shine, Ger Heneghan and the St Brigid's contingent. Fermanagh to pinch the points.
Kilkenny v Carlow
Nowlan Park Verdict: Carlow
Allianz Hurling League
Galway v Kilkenny
A Galway win would really blow this division wide open but they spluttered last Sunday against Cork, hitting 10 first-half wides and spurning two goal chances. Many of their Fitzgibbon Cup players line out for the fourth week in a row today but you sense they'll raise it for Kilkenny whose 'keeper PJ Ryan will need to repeat his heroics of last weekend. After losing to Galway in last year's league, Kilkenny will be eager to make a point.
Tipperary v Offaly
MacDonagh Park, Nenagh
If they lose here Offaly are in dire trouble. Without a host of established names like Ger Healion and Shane Dooley, their race in Division 1 could be run. Tipp are still nowhere near the level they were at last year so Offaly have some hope. Still, with Eoin Kelly back in the team, the three Mahers in tenacious form and Pa Bourke showing more frequent flashes of his ability, a comfortable home win is on the cards.
Waterford v Cork
There's never much to separate these two, but psychologically Waterford have the edge. Fraher Field is unlikely to suit Cork but the home side need to be much more disciplined after two red cards last Saturday evening. Still, their work-rate was outstanding against Tipp and that should see them through against the Rebels.
Wexford v Dublin
Wexford put up a very strong show against Kilkenny last weekend and will be heartened by that. Whether they can lift it to the same extent against in-form Dublin remains to be seen. Ryan O'Dwyer has proven to be a huge addition to the Dubs' set-up and although Wexford are improving, they still lack serious scoring clout from play.
Antrim v Carlow
Antrim are short six regulars but should be safe at home -- even if Carlow are galvanised further this season. Last weekend they beat Kerry despite picking up two red cards and are benefiting from Kevin Ryan's tenure.
Clare v Down
Cusack Park, 1.30
This will be a perilous trek into the Ards peninsula for Clare but you'd expect them to tough it out, even if they are labouring. They had nine different scorers against Westmeath.
Limerick v Laois
Gaelic Grounds, 2.45
Laois, on a high after beating Antrim, will give Limerick a second serious test within two weeks. Ultimately, though, the home side should be steered to a close win by the quartet of Richie McCarthy, Seán Tobin, James Ryan and Donal O'Grady. Verdict: Limerick
Wicklow v Derry, Aughrim, 12.45
Meath v Armagh, Navan, 12.45
Kildare v London, Newbridge, 12.45
Donegal v Fingal, Letterkenny
Sligo v Monaghan, Enniscrone
Louth v Mayo, Dowdallshill
South Down v Leitrim, Liatroim
Verdict: South Down
Longford v Cavan, Longford Slashers
Tyrone v Fermanagh, Dungannon
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