Saturday 20 January 2018

Today's Allianz football and hurling league previews

Dermot Crowe

Allianz NFL (2.30 unless stated) Division 1: Monaghan v Kerry


Having won in Armagh, Kerry embark on another northern expedition, with championship killjoys Down still on the roster.

They are at liberty to rest Eoin Brosnan, Tomás ó Sé, Donnacha Walsh and Colm Cooper, compensating with a full recall for Paul Galvin and Declan O'Sullivan also returning. Even with Bryan Sheehan and Tom O'Sullivan unavailable, the visitors possess enough raw talent, especially from midfield up, to forge another win.

Monaghan have at times been bright and energetic but are themselves in perilous straits. The gravity of the predicament should rouse them; to win though they will have to produce something special and their cause is not helped by injuries.

Verdict: Kerry

Mayo v Cork


Mayo gave a passable impression of rubber-drunk defending against Dublin, reviving memories of past horrors at headquarters, before knuckling down and restoring some semblance of dignity.

Part of that recovery is credited to Dublin's complacency but there can be justifiable applause for the performances of some of the Mayo forwards. Alan Freeman (pictured) can add a new dimension to their attack, while fellow sniper Jason Doherty appears to have similar virtues. Really good forwards need to be bold. If they win this, or get a draw, it would mean avoiding a final-round relegation rumble in the Monaghan jungle. Cork are more complete but it doesn't look like an easy set of points.

Verdict: Cork

Armagh v Galway

Athletics Grounds

Five straight defeats won't have done much for Galway confidence but they may take something from their last reversal, at home to Cork; it contained a degree of promise and a midfield that might have a future. Added to that is the news that Michael Meehan will be back for the championship, based on a recent upbeat diagnosis, while Pádraic Joyce and Gareth Bradshaw are likely to be fit for selection. Galway have lacked teeth in attack, scoring just one goal in the league so far. This game looks beyond them and they'll be banking on the championship for salvation. Armagh welcome back their Crossmaglen players including the richly talented Jamie Clarke.

Verdict: Armagh

Division 2

Donegal v Antrim


Jim McGuinness has wrought positive changes in Donegal's play, varying the style and essentially getting more out of the cast with a cerebral and disciplined approach. Antrim need something after losing to Sligo. Their frustrating campaign appears set to continue, ending in a tumble back to Division 3, while Donegal, who they meet in the championship, are moving in the other direction.

Verdict: Donegal

Tyrone v Kildare


Having started their campaign with two defeats, Tyrone seem to be finding some of their old form. Three straight wins have given them momentum and pushed them back into promotion contention along with a clutter of teams that includes Kildare. The form of Rob Kelly against Meath was a major boost for the Lilywhites but this is a hard ask in a promising match likely to be in dispute right to the last whistle.

Verdict: Tyrone

Derry v Meath

Celtic Park

Some positive news for Meath with Kevin Reilly and Graham Reilly returning from injuries, while Stephen Bray is due back from honeymoon, but Jamie Queeney is out for the rest of the league. Meath's form has not recovered enough to make this a confident wager. They have lost their last seven away league games and are bottom of Division 2 but they showed spirit in the defeat to Kildare and will be encouraged by traces of Derry inconsistency.

Verdict: Meath

Sligo v Laois

Markievicz Park, 1.30

Sligo grabbed a lifeline with their recent win in Casement Park and this is not beyond them to conquer and secure their residency in Division 2. The standard of Laois performances has been higher though. They need to get back on track after recent defeats.

Verdict: Laois

Division 3

Limerick v Westmeath


Limerick's form has altered significantly on the early season and at home they should be able to carve out a win and leapfrog their opponents on the table.

Verdict: Limerick

Waterford v Offaly


Offaly are better positioned on the table but prospects of defeat for relegation-threatened Waterford may put a hole in the Faithful's promotion hopes.

Verdict: Waterford

Tipperary v Wexford

Semple Stadium

Wexford have been beaten just once. A win here would have them preparing for a higher standard of living next year. Yet Tipp at home will be a handful.

Verdict: Tipperary

Division 4

Longford v Leitrim

Pearse Park

Setback for Longford in Ennis with wasteful shooting the main regret. Atonement in store.

Verdict: Longford

Roscommon v Kilkenny


Kiltoom's scoreboard operator is strongly advised to have an early night.

Verdict: Roscommon

Carlow v London

Dr Cullen Park, 1.0

Carlow's mixed form has ruled them out of promotion contention. This is expected to be a confident home win.

Verdict: Carlow

Fermanagh v Clare

Brewster Park

With player agitation in Fermanagh, this offers Clare a chance to profit from their misfortune. On the back of a win over Longford, they may manage it, but their score totals aren't encouraging and neither is their away form.

Verdict: Fermanagh

NHL Division 1

(2.30 unless stated)

Galway v Tipperary

Pearse Stadium, TG4

Galway, after subduing Kilkenny, added to their reputation as a more resilient force with a win in Parnell Park based on a fraction of the home team's possession. Cyril Donnellan (pictured) looks like he has spent time in the ball alley, certainly on the evidence of the last two outings, and even with injuries they can maintain their winning streak here with Joe Canning on the brink of his comeback. Tipperary don't look overly perturbed at the prospect of missing out on a league final. Performance and a winning habit is still priority though and they'll take beating.

Verdict: Galway

Offaly v Waterford


Offaly will feel some of the burden lifted off their backs after beating Wexford, and probably relegation, so they may hurl with a greater fluency from here on. For all that, Waterford are entitled to be favourites, even minus John Mullane. If they win they may dedicate it to the late Andy Fleming, the last survivor of the 1948 vintage, who, ironically, was born in Belmont around 20 miles from today's venue.

Verdict: Waterford

Wexford v Cork

Wexford Park

Wexford's league record against Cork isn't too hot and they enter this with the demeanour of relegated men walking. A gutsy performance can be visualised, on their home ground, and Cork have made nine changes but they don't look capable of bridging the gap to where their opponents are operating.

Verdict: Cork

Division 2

Down v Antrim


An Ulster derby (the only one arguably!) in which Down, trounced by Clare and rebounding smartly to defeat Laois, may fancy their chances of an upset. But Antrim look the sturdier.

Verdict: Antrim

Limerick v Kerry

Kilmallock, 1.0

Kerry's spirits are likely to be on the floor after a heavy beating from Clare. This may not be on the same scale.

Verdict: Limerick

Division 3B

Donegal v Louth


Louth have treated their hurling seriously this spring. Another step towards higher ground.

Verdict: Louth

Roscommon v Fingal

Fingal have conceded a walkover to Roscommon.

Division 4

Cavan v Fermanagh


Fermanagh shouldn't be stretched.

Verdict: Fermanagh

Longford v South Down

Longford Slashers

Longford after a battle.

Verdict: Longford.

Tyrone v Leitrim


Tyrone should have enough to win.

Verdict: Tyrone

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