Tuesday 21 November 2017

Tyrone have the momentum to win survival dogfight


ALL eyes are on Omagh today where a home win will save Tyrone's Division One bacon. A loss, however, could propel them into the second tier and throw Dublin into a league final.

It's intense and the stakes are high. But with continuing doubts over the worth of the Dublin midfield and a number of changes to Pat Gilroy's defence, Mickey Harte's men should be worth a win here. Mind you, if this game had taken place earlier in the year, we'd be tipping Dublin. Looking at recent form-lines, however, the Ulstermen should sneak the points.

Philip Jordan is back in the starting 15 for the first time since last year's championship with Ryan McMenamin moving to corner-back. Meanwhile, Gilroy hands out two NFL starting debuts to Ross O'Carroll and Niall Corkery. With scores hard to come by for Dublin lately, Tyrone might only need to curtail Bernard Brogan to win.

Elsewhere, Mayo could pull off an away win and cement their league final place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Cork trained extremely hard in Bere Island over the Bank Holiday weekend and will try out a number of panellists today. In total, they've made 10 changes to the regular side, so John O'Mahony's men have every chance of maintaining their recent brilliant form.

Kerry look set to play Paul Galvin at centre-back for their relegation clash with Monaghan, a game they should win at home. This is the strongest Kingdom line-up for some time but they're just back from a week-long training trip in Portugal and their sharpness could be in question after a hectic camp.

In the other Division One clash of the day, Galway should keep up their good form with a win over dismal Derry.

Division Two comes down to a winner-takes-all finale between Armagh and Donegal and you'd need a crystal ball, tarot card and a fortune-teller to call this one, especially with Donegal involved.

Letterkenny hosts this and it's bound to have a championship feel to it. As things stand, Armagh have a slight scoring advantage and so a draw would see them join Down in the top flight.

But Donegal will be on a high after their Ulster U21 win and Armagh are without Kevin Dyas and Ronan Clarke which won't help. We take Michael Murphy to catch fire and Donegal to join Down in the final.

And as for Down, well, depending on how seriously they take their game with Laois, they'll keep up their unbeaten run.

Inconsistent Kildare should beat an even more inconsistent Meath while Tipperary should prevail against Westmeath. With both teams already relegated, the result is only a matter of pride. Incidentally, if Westmeath are beaten it will be the second successive league campaign that they've failed to register a win. Worrying times.

Anyone involved in Division 3 will have the calculators at the ready this afternoon. Barring a hiding at Wexford Park, Antrim are as good as up to Division 2. If Wexford beat them narrowly, they could well join them in the final. But Sligo are still in the hunt for that spot and if they beat Roscommon, which is likely, they'll also have a good chance of promotion.

It's tight and complicated at the top and three teams could yet finish on equal points. In that case, previous head-to-head meetings will decide who goes up. If teams have drawn along the way and are still deadlocked by close of business this evening, then scoring difference will ultimately decide who is promoted.

Elsewhere, Offaly should beat Louth and Cavan will have too much for Fermanagh. The minefield that is Division 4 also comes down to the last day where Waterford, Clare and Limerick are all in the hunt. Waterford, unbeaten all season long, have come close to making the leap over the past three seasons and having spent last season in their company, this writer knows the pain they have gone through in missing out on promotion.

Could they finally make the jump today?

Clare manager Micheál McDermott has already lost an All-Ireland club final this year and won't want to suffer another blow with the county team. But with the likes of Liam ó Lionnáin, Wayne Hennessy, Brian Wall and Robert Ahearne in flying form for the Déise, John Owens' side should make it home. They will need to cut down on conceding frees, though, as the lethal David Tubridy will punish everything within shooting range for Clare. A draw would do Waterford. They'd bite your hand off for it right now.

It's likely that Limerick will beat Leitrim to gain promotion and in the other games there will be easy wins for Wicklow and Longford.

Sunday Independent

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