Wednesday 13 December 2017

Monaghan bidding to secure survival

DERMOT CROWE

Mayo and Monaghan have the stage to themselves at McHale Park today, with all other top-tier matches having been played last night.

Monaghan go into this round principally focused on avoiding a late relegation scrap, only too aware of their last assignment: a trip to Kerry. They have four points and counties usually need six to feel secure. Mayo scored a win in Kerry in the last round and will be buoyant, though knowing Mayo's history, hopefully not too buoyant. They also have a tough conclusion -- away to Cork. A lot at stake then.

In Division 2, Westmeath have mounted some plucky, if fruitless, challenges and lie rooted to the bottom without a point after five matches. They are on a 12-match losing run in the league since winning the Division 2 title in 2008 and look doomed. Today's opponents Down are coming off a surprise defeat and their U21s were well beaten by Cavan during the week. They should get back on track in Mullingar.

Armagh have Tipperary where they will be favoured, but Tipp have given themselves something to play for after beating Meath.

Roscommon have also earned themselves an outside chance of surviving relegation from Division 3 after a gallant victory in Louth last weekend, following on from some promising performances in previous rounds. They will realise that another win could save them. Wexford need the points to stay in the promotion chase, while the fortress-like virtues of Brewster Park appear a thing of the past as Sligo visit in search of points to maintain their interest in moving up in the world. Fermanagh must win or draw to avoid almost certain relegation.

In Division 4, the heat increases with a key match in Fraher Field where Waterford host Wicklow. The visitors have designs on winning promotion and while they have surrendered three points, a win would leave them in a very strong position going into the last match in a fortnight against Kilkenny.

Clare, top of the table, have ridden their luck and face a difficult last three games beginning in Longford today.

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