Saturday 25 November 2017


Dermot Crowe

Division 1

Donegal v Kerry, Ballybofey 2.0

Some colour returned to Kerry's cheeks in Kildare last weekend but the collection of points is a growing imperative. They will do well to break their duck here. Donegal come off a chafing loss to Tyrone, their honour slighted. Michael Murphy is free to resume and at home they are all the harder to beat. Kerry may need to beat Cork to stay up, provided they can defeat Down next weekend.

Verdict: Donegal

Kildare v Dublin,

Croke Park 2.0

Much anticipated after an absorbing O'Byrne Cup final, won after extra-time by Kildare, who, like Dublin, are unbeaten since. Bernard Brogan has rediscovered the form shown in 2010 and Jim Gavin has a stream of coltish bidders for every line. The only glitch is a renewed strain of indiscipline. Some exciting young talent is emerging in all-white too, so an intriguing evening in store.

Verdict: Dublin

Tyrone v Cork,

Healy Park 2.30

Tyrone, in their irrevocable way, are starting to give off the scent of a serious summer challenge. The recall of Seán Cavanagh has been a factor while some of their new faces have made smart impressions, Niall Morgan in goal not least. Cork dug out two vital points in Newry but might struggle to pilfer something here.

Verdict: Tyrone

Division 2

Longford v Galway,

Pearse Park 2.0

Longford have been playing a lot better than their basement position implies. Brian Kavanagh's loss is keenly felt and he might have made the difference in three narrow defeats. There hasn't been too much from Galway to back them with roaring confidence and they'll need to show character, as Longford won't be lacking in that department.

Verdict: Galway

Louth v Wexford,

Drogheda 2.30

Louth have been showing promising form and could be better placed, while Wexford's football hasn't been entirely persuasive. Louth can improve their promotion prospects.

Verdict: Louth

Westmeath v Laois,

Mullingar 2.30

Westmeath have been the surprise front-runners, rescuing a valuable point in Galway in the last round and fighting back from a seemingly hopeless position in round one. But Laois may end their run.

Verdict: Laois

Division 3

Sligo v Cavan,

Markievicz Park 2.0

The home team has not been in good form, the away team has. That can swing but we trust it won't today.

Verdict: Cavan

Wicklow v Antrim,

Aughrim 2.30

Some glimmer of hope for Wicklow after a draw in Roscommon and they will fancy this. Possible Antrim slip.

Verdict: Wicklow

Roscommon v Meath,

Dr Hyde Park 2.30

Frustrating loss of a point last weekend for Roscommon but nothing compared to Meath's poor show in Navan. Soul-searching times for the Royals.

Verdict: Roscommon

Division 4

Limerick v Carlow,

Gaelic Grounds 2.30

Limerick in pole position with Carlow having suffered a setback.

Verdict: Limerick

Leitrim v Offaly,

Carrick-on-Shannon 2.30

Contrasting experiences last weekend. Offaly can bounce back.

Verdict: Offaly


Division 1A

Tipperary v Kilkenny, Thurles 2.0

Tipperary followers have been wincing at the prospect of playing Kilkenny since offering little more than a ghostly apparition at Páirc Uí Rinn. These freakish lows can often lead to redemptive strikes and Kilkenny can expect more inconvenience than Cork had to handle. This is Tipp's first time in their company since the All-Ireland semi-final and all its connotations. Early in the year but time for the Premier to decide, in the words of Stephen Fry, what they're for.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Waterford v Cork, Dungarvan 2.0

Waterford caused an early surprise winning in Clare and always enjoy – well, in the relatively recent past at least – a crack at Cork. This is a Cork walking on air after the obliteration of Tipperary but not likely to be lulled by one bumper evening's play. They learned of the fool's gold nature of league form in the final last year. They can win again.

Verdict: Cork

Clare v Galway, Ennis, 2.0

Clare will be wound up after a poor start and should produce a more irreverent and energy-packed performance against their neighbours. It will give Galway problems and they have upset the maroon tribes in the past against the odds. As recently as July 2011 Galway went through them with ridiculous ease in the championship and how much that Clare defence has learned to deal with goal threats will be revealed today. Both are better now, Galway a good deal better.

Verdict: Galway

Division 1B

Antrim v Dublin, Casement Park 2.0

The return of Conal Keaney underlines how much Dublin missed him last year; his hurling was on a different level to everyone else against Offaly. They still need a clinical edge, less premeditation and more off-the-cuff hurling. Verdict: Dublin

Offaly v Wexford, Tullamore 2.0

This is usually a close affair, Offaly showing the better form in the opening round. They weren't hectic but they fought on. Wexford have been expecting more than they've been delivering.

Verdict: Wexford

Limerick v Carlow,

Gaelic Grounds 12.45

Gutsy display by Carlow against Wexford but this is not a welcome follow-up. Limerick will be eager to lift their performance after a scare from Antrim. They could open up.

Verdict: Limerick

Division 2A

Wicklow v Kildare,

Croke Park 12.15

No, you didn't misread: it's Croke Park. Kildare look better dressed for the occasion.

Verdict: Kildare

Westmeath v Derry,

Mullingar 12.45

Derry's tale of woe regarding 13 absentees from last year's Ulster final squad didn't deter 12 of them playing in their landslide win over Wicklow.

Verdict: Westmeath

Laois v Kerry,

Portlaoise 2.0

Good win for Kerry in first round but this should be beyond them.

Verdict: Laois

Division 2B

Roscommon v Armagh,

Athleague 1.0

Verdict: Roscommon

London v Down,

Ruislip 1.0

Verdict: Down

Meath v Mayo,

Trim 2.0

Verdict: Meath

Division 3A

Louth v Fermanagh,

Dowdallshill 1.0

Verdict: Louth

Tyrone v Donegal,

Omagh 12.45

Verdict: Donegal

Monaghan v Fingal,

Inniskeen 2.0

Verdict: Fingal

Division 3B

Leitrim v Longford,

Ballinamore 12.45

Verdict: Leitrim

Irish Independent

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