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Allianz football league previews (2.30 unless stated)

Division 1, Donegal v Cork , Ballybofey, 2.0



It was a busy week in Donegal with their longest-serving forward Michael Hegarty retiring and the heir to the throne, Patrick McBrearty, being invited to a second AFL trial in London during Easter week.

The Ulster men were really disappointing against Laois. For this tussle, Jim McGuinness has Michael Murphy, Colm McFadden, Eamon McGee, Martin McElhinney and Christy Toye all available again which should inject life into his team after a listless start to 2012.

Those big men will be needed today against a physically imposing Cork side. Ballybofey is not an easy place to go and win. Cork know they will have to work hard to find any space in attack but they are around long enough at this stage and have title aspirations.

Verdict: Cork

Down v Kerry

Páirc Esler

No Gooch, but Eoin Brosnan has returned to the camp for this one and it's just as well because Kerry weren't at the races against Armagh.

Down's injury woes are clearing, meanwhile. Ambrose Rogers, Conor Garvey, Brendan McArdle and Kevin McKernan all returned to the fold last week, while Paul McComiskey is expected back next month. It's been a mixed start for James McCartan's men but they are starting to settle, and though they need to work hard on their defence, they might be hungrier for a result here.

Kerry look to be placing Declan O'Sullivan nearer to the goals with Darran O'Sullivan coming through the centre. They need to settle back into a pattern, and re-establish Kieran Donaghy as the target man in their attack.

Down have never feared playing Kerry. The bookies think Kerry have the edge but we disagree.

Verdict: Down

Division 2

Westmeath v Galway

Cusack Park

The Midlanders have had a poor start and Pat Flanagan could do without the negativity that surrounds him at the moment.

Many players in his plans have either opted for hurling or emigrated and the team has found Division 2 a serious step up. At a recent county board meeting, it was even stated the team is in "serious crisis".

Even though John Heslin comes straight back into the side after his stint in the AFL, they'll struggle to lift the gloom, one suspects, against Galway. Alan Mulholland has made plenty of changes for this clash as he gives his squad members some game time but they still look a pretty strong side.

Westmeath, without the Garrycastle contingent, are finding scores hard to come by. Galway, on the other hand, are firing an average of 1-12 and Mulholland's young side looks to be capable of mounting a serious push for promotion.

Verdict: Galway

Louth v Tyrone

Drogheda

Louth won't lack confidence after beating Westmeath and drawing with Galway, but you sense they may need a goal or two today to keep on track.

Tyrone are flying it and sense there is a route to summer glory ahead if they work hard enough and inject more mobility into their ranks. They know how to eke out a goal when it's most needed and that should stand to them today in what could be a tight tussle. Remember, they travelled to Drogheda a few years back for the qualifiers and were tested to the limits. Today, however, their fitness should keep their 100 per cent record intact.

Louth's Darren Clarke is in great form but his ankle injury has to be a big worry for the team.

Verdict: Tyrone

Division 3

Longford v Roscommon

Glennon Brothers Pearse Park

Glenn Ryan's charges face their first serious test today after easy wins over Offaly and Cavan. They will hope that Brian Kavanagh, Paul Kelly, Francis McGee and Martin Brady all last the full 70 against a Roscommon team that welcomes back Karol Mannion and the Kilbride brothers (Senan and Ian) into the squad following their exploits with St Brigid's.

Cathal Cregg has also returned after the Sigerson Cup and this gives manager Des Newton a real boost.

On paper, Roscommon should have the edge but at home Longford will be extremely tough to beat.

Verdict: Roscommon

Wexford v Tipperary

Wexford Park

Tipperary could feel the brunt of Wexford's loss to Sligo today in what could be a low-scoring affair. Wexford have worked on their defensive play over the past couple of weeks, knowing that while they have a healthy scoring ratio, the concession of soft scores has been a major concern.

This is a must-win game for Jason Ryan and even though Tipp are out of a comprehensive training camp, you'd imagine the home side will still have too much for them.

Verdict: Wexford

Division 4

London v Carlow

Ruislip, 1.0

London's Pádraig McGoldrick scored 1-4 against Limerick but is not fully fit so it won't help the cause. Lorcan Mulvey returns after serving a one-match suspension. They were poor against Fermanagh but they'll definitely have targeted a win today.

Conor Lawler and Darragh Foley were both in action for Carlow's under 21 side during the week and although they have another big match against Westmeath looming, they should still have their minds on the job.

Verdict: Carlow

Clare v Limerick

Cusack Park

Limerick could be caught on the hop here. They had chances to kill off Fermanagh away from home when they were ahead but lost their grip on the game for a period in the second half and couldn't break the Ulster men down after that.

Limerick will have no fear of their neighbours and should be pretty resounding favourites. But they're struggling for scores and there's a chance for Clare in their own backyard.

Verdict: Clare

Wicklow v Waterford

Aughrim

Over the last few weeks Wicklow have had valuable workouts against Offaly and Westmeath, losing the first by three points and winning the second by seven, while on another weekend manager Harry Murphy took his players to the Curragh Camp for an army assault course and team-bonding exercise.

This is their first serious game of the league and in a group where they can really only afford one defeat, expect them to emerge victorious today.

Waterford have also put serious work in over the past few weeks and welcome the O'Gormans back to the fold but they could struggle for goals and it's hard to see them scoring enough points to pinch an away win.

Verdict: Wicklow

Kilkenny v Fermanagh

Freshford

Fermanagh have made a great start under Peter Canavan, winning their first two games in this division against Clare and London, and lead the group on scoring difference from Limerick. They will add to that tally significantly this afternoon.

Verdict: Fermanagh

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