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Red Hand can edge Derry tie

DERRY v TYRONE

(Celtic Pk, Tonight 7.30, live Setanta Ire)

NO Sean Cavanagh, Stephen O'Neill, Philip Jordan, Brian Dooher or Owen Mulligan in the Tyrone line-up, while Ryan McMenamin and Davy Harte are on the bench. A chance, then, for their neighbouring foes to lay down a spring marker? Perhaps, especially as there's no better team than Derry to dazzle early doors only to deceive come the summer. Then again, the Oak Leafers have their own selection woes without injured trio Paddy Bradley, Enda Muldoon and Niall McCusker.

Among their most intriguing selections is the relocation of Mark Lynch to centre-back, but James Kielt and, especially, Eoin Bradley may have to carry most of the scoring burden.

Tyrone registered some freakishly high scores in the McKenna Cup before losing last Sunday's final to Donegal. The loss of O'Neill (with a dislocated elbow) will have more damaging short-term consequences, but they get our hesitant vote here.

ODDS: Derry 7/4, Draw 15/2, Tyrone 4/7

VERDICT: Tyrone

MONAGHAN v CORK

(Scotstown, Tomorrow 2.30)

Cork only lost two competitive games throughout 2009. No prizes for guessing the second defeat (September ring any bells?) but their one earlier setback came in -- you've guessed it! Pardon our ignorance/cynicism, but maybe that's why the Leesiders now return, not to Clones, but Scotstown, scene of a crushing seven-point defeat last March.

That wasn't the true Cork -- as seen by their subsequent Division Two final cruise past Monaghan. And with nine of their All-Ireland final line-up on board, they tick just enough boxes.

ODDS: Monaghan 13/8, Draw 15/2, Cork 4/6

VERDICT: Cork

MAYO v GALWAY

(Castlebar, Tomorrow 2.30, deferred TG4)

Let's cut to the chase. Forecasting Mayo/Galway ties is among the most futile pursuits on the planet. Form guides and all the rest are an irrelevance. Tomorrow will be close -- or maybe not. Either way, it won't matter if/when the sides renew real battle in June.

Galway are without Pádraic Joyce, Barry Cullinane, Matthew Clancy and Fiachra Breathnach. Michael Meehan doesn't make the starting 15 but presumably is ready to be sprung, having returned with a goalscoring cameo off the bench against GMIT last Sunday.

Mayo are also without Pat Harte, Alan Dillon, Conor Mortimer, Aidan Kilcoyne and Barry Moran. All eyes will be on corner-forward debutant Enda Varley and centre-forward Seamus O'Shea, older brother of Aidan.

Now, time to toss that coin...

ODDS: Mayo 6/5, Draw 7/1, Galway 20/21

VERDICT: Galway


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