Sunday 19 January 2020

Today's Allianz football league previews

(2.30 unless stated)

Dermot Crowe

Division 1, Cork v Dublin, Páirc Uí Chaoimh



Dublin's capitulation against Mayo sees the team half demolished -- seven changes -- with the explicit message that the basics of knuckling down are not some a la carte option on the menu but a staple diet of any high achiever. If the league removes the blur in focus for Dublin, it will have done enough. In the meantime, they are likely to lose again here.

Cork have dressed big, naming a strong outfit, and their own capricious form demands a good finish at home to a team like Dublin, who took the All-Ireland title from them last year. They also need a draw to ensure they reach the semi-finals and stay on target for a third successive league title. They're well capable of that.

Verdict: Cork

Donegal v Armagh

Ballybofey

Armagh could make the semi-finals and could yet go down, whereas Donegal's primary concern is survival. Having come up from Division 2 last year, that would amount to a decent spring's work but they must labour without Michael Murphy and no team relies so much on one man.

There are concerns over the availability of Colm McFadden (injury) and Patrick McBrearty (AFL trials) as well, but Murphy's loss robs them of a mammoth influence and match-winning performer.

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In contrast, Armagh have increased options. Three of the Crossmaglen team that recently won the All-Ireland club title, Jamie Clarke and Aaron and Tony Kernan, warm the bench. Armagh have picked up important results when needed and can do so again today.

Verdict: Armagh

Kerry v Mayo

Austin Stack Park, Tralee

If Kerry are to give some of the fringe players credible exposure, then this is an ideal opportunity to do so. Kerry will top the group irrespective of today's outcome and face a team with plenty to play for and coming off the back of a confidence-boosting win. The selection reflects Kerry's comfort zone and several players that make Kerry tick are missing.

Those players are not far away if needed but this has to be a gilt-edged opportunity for Mayo to take early command and earn a valuable win. With five teams vying for three places, that would seal a place in the semi-finals. Against Dublin last weekend there was the natural tendency to wonder about the opposition's frame of mind but Mayo's conquering of their old Achilles heel -- abject finishing -- was hugely impressive. Trying to follow on from that, even against a weakened Kerry, is still a big test. And Mayo are too easily fattened by expectation.

The return of Colm Cooper, after a well-earned rest, gives the game an extra layer of appeal.

Verdict: Mayo

Laois v Down

Portlaoise

PádraiG Clancy returns to play full-forward for Laois who need to win to avoid the drop. Down's form has picked up after the hiding from Cork and they can win this and advance their claims for a place in the semi-finals.

Laois are propping up the table but only two points separate the eight teams from bottom up. A win and Laois will survive regardless of how the game in Donegal works out as they will have had a better head-to-head record over their fellow strugglers. Down, freed of those burdens, enjoy the greater fluency.

Verdict: Down

Division 2

Galway v Kildare

Pearse Stadium

Galway can overtake Kildare with a win which makes this one of the final day's more inviting duels. Kildare to outgun the improving hosts.

Verdict: Kildare

Meath v Louth

Páirc Tailteann

Louth's record against Meath isn't encouraging but the Royals find themselves in a similar predicament, facing the threat of relegation. Having lost the last four games, Meath should be sufficiently demented to thwart their neighbours once more.

Verdict: Meath

Tyrone v Monaghan

Healy Park

Four Tyrone changes might signal some hope for those relying on a surprise result but two of those include the return of Stephen O'Neill and Owen Mulligan. It has been an assured and perky campaign from Tyrone and a riposte to those who were writing their obituary after the heavy defeat by Dublin in Croke Park last year. Monaghan could survive in defeat and may have to.

Verdict: Tyrone

Westmeath v Derry

Cusack Park

Westmeath are stuck at the foot of Division 2 but join a list of four counties on four points. A win could see them survive and it would not come as a shock given Derry's form to now. With the Garrycastle players back, their prospects increase but Derry get a hesitant nod.

Verdict: Derry

Division 3

Cavan v Antrim

Kingspan Breffni Park

Antrim are in experimental mode given the lack of any tangible gain on offer. Cavan have greater purpose.

Verdict: Cavan

Longford v Wexford

Glennon Brothers Pearse Park

With nine changes to the Wexford team and promotion secured, Jason Ryan is already looking ahead. Longford, the form team, should maintain their unbeaten run.

Verdict: Longford

Sligo v Roscommon

Markievicz Park

Meaningless final fixture for both.

Verdict: Roscommon

Tipperary v Offaly

Semple Stadium

Tipperary are already doomed but Offaly can survive if they win and Cavan lose.

Verdict: Offaly

Division 4

Carlow v Fermanagh,

Dr Cullen Park

Should be an away win for promoted Fermanagh.

Verdict: Fermanagh

Clare v Kilkenny

Cusack Park

Clare will win well but their key game comes next weekend in Aughrim.

Verdict: Clare

Leitrim v Waterford

Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada

Neither team has much left to play for.

Verdict: Waterford

London v Wicklow

Ruislip, 1.30

Wicklow to take their promotion quest to the last day.

Verdict: Wicklow

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