Tuesday 20 February 2018

Today's Allianz football league games (2.30 unless stated)

Dermot Crowe

Division 1:Armagh v Kerry Athletic Grounds

The return of Paul Galvin is put on hold but he may see some action, having been included in the subs for an encounter which has produced sparks since Armagh's emergence and assaults on the old orthodoxy.

A league match in March isn't going to impact appreciably on the long-term evaluations of either county but it's an attractive fixture. Kerry, though unsettled at midfield where Anthony Maher gets a run, will feel their form is starting to come round, helped by the exploits of their gifted captain Colm Cooper (pictured). Notably, Aidan O'Mahony and David Moran have been omitted, while Marc ó Sé is suspended. Tom O'Sullivan is parachuted in after declaring himself ready for another, and probably final, season. Armagh, after another Crossmaglen triumph, come off a good win in Mayo.

Verdict: Kerry

Dublin v Mayo

Croke Park (TG4)

Dublin, top of the league and unbeaten, have found a steady consistency and composure that has long eluded them. Other pleasing traits include finishing games strongly and holding their nerve in a tight finale.

Their strength in depth has also been in evidence, with smart use of the bench, and while they rode their luck in the last round, there is a confidence about them now, especially in Croke Park, and a single-mindedness that renders this a big ask for Mayo. The imprecise finishing which damned Monaghan is likely to hamper Mayo too, who have to match Dublin's work-rate to have any chance. Another defeat will leave James Horan's side fighting for air, with Cork next up in Castlebar and a final-round tie in Monaghan.

Verdict: Dublin

Galway v Cork

Pearse Stadium

Relegation looks unavoidable for Galway heading into a match against the All-Ireland champions and league title holders, Cork, who dispatched Down with a late goal blitz a week ago. Galway's last defeat was their fourth in a row so the teams could not be more diametrically opposed in terms of form.

The home team is in experimental mode, with Gary Sice reverting to defence, Greg Higgins named in the middle beside him, and Paul Conroy being tried at full-forward. How Galway measure up to Cork will offer some value to the spectator and a measure of where they stand against the benchmark team of 2011. A hard day's work in store.

Verdict: Cork

Division 2

Antrim v Sligo

Casement Park, 1.30

Sligo and Antrim, who made the journey from Division 3 in 2010, will have known from the outset that this was likely to have a major bearing on their prospects. At home, and a marginal advantage in the table over their rivals and on struggling Meath, Antrim might be expected to win. But Sligo won't fear the assignment and surely have one big game in them.

Verdict: Sligo

Kildare v Meath


Meath's league form is a source of concern, the most recent sample being a dispiriting defeat by Donegal. Today brings them up against a team whose mobility and power exposed their frailties last summer and one likely to be boosted by the return of John Doyle and James Kavanagh in starting roles. Kavanagh's goal against Meath in the championship showed how much he has advanced as a forward, a finish reminiscent of Peter Canavan for delicacy and poise. Meath have quality forwards too, and good footballers, but they badly need to rediscover what it once meant to pull on that green jersey.

Verdict: Kildare

Division 3

Louth v Limerick


A critical game for Louth's promotion aspirations in a tightly congested division after their three-match winning run ground to a halt against Offaly. Limerick's season is now about finding a decent form groove and avoiding relegation. They'll fancy a crack but Louth, with backs to wall and facing siege, know there is no room for further slippage.

Verdict: Louth

Offaly v Tipperary


Major lift for Offaly football in the last round with a win in Louth, which throws them right into the promotion mix. Another win here will add substance to their claims but they will know not to expect anything other than a torrid Tipp challenge.

Verdict: Offaly

Westmeath v Waterford

Cusack Park

Dessie Dolan (pictured) returns to add punch to the Westmeath attack as they try to improve on a tally of three points from four games. Waterford have never beaten Westmeath in the league and lost their last encounter in 2006 by 22 points. The gap has narrowed since then and this is a golden chance to make some history.

Verdict: Waterford

Wexford v Cavan

Wexford Park

Wexford won't lack motivation after going down badly in this fixture last year and have to go back to 1980 for their last league win over Cavan. Their form has been good enough to believe they can end that sequence.

Verdict: Wexford

Division 4

Clare v


éire óg, Ennis

Roscommon football morale will need a lift after St Brigid's loss on St Patrick's Day and they may have some of that fleet back in action for a must-win match in Ennis. Clare, whose chances of promotion have probably gone, should provide stern resistance but they need to be more disciplined.

Verdict: Roscommon

Kilkenny v Wicklow


Kilkenny's latest ordeal may be relieved to some degree by Wicklow's decision to rest key players, knowing that they will win. That doesn't stop their replacements being mad to catch Micko's attention, that is if he can manage to keep his eyes open for the duration of this fixture.

Verdict: Wicklow

Leitrim v Fermanagh


Fermanagh have had a dismal start to the year, with two losses and a draw in their opening four league matches leaving them in the wrong half of the table. They have an easier run-in though. Both counties have a reputation for being greater than the sum of their parts.

Verdict: Fermanagh

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