Seán O’Brien looks ahead to this weekend’s Allianz Football League games
After a three-week break, the Allianz Football League resumes for a hectic period in which all counties will play five games between this weekend and April 3rd.
Allianz Football League Division 1: Down, Kerry, Mayo Facing Big Tests
Saturday (7pm): Dublin v Monaghan, Croke Park;
Sunday (2pm): Cork v Roscommon, Pairc Ui Rinn; Donegal v Mayo, Ballybofey; Down v Kerry, Pairc Esler.
Cork and Roscommon have won one and lost one so far, leaving them in mid-table ahead of their clash in Pairc Ui Rinn. This will be the first Allianz League clash between the sides since 2008 when Cork won by two points in a Division 2 tie.
Played 2, Lost 2. That has been the disappointing experience for Down, who came up from Division 2 this year, Kerry and Mayo, which makes their Round 3 games next weekend really crucial. Down play Kerry in Newry while Mayo travel to Ballybofey to take on Donegal.
Donegal top the table on scoring difference after beating Down and Cork by a combined total of 27 points, whereas Mayo have a points difference of -11 after losing to Cork and Dublin. Mayo and Donegal drew in last year’s Allianz Football League but the Connacht men enjoyed a comfortable victory (2-13 to 0-11) in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Down, the lowest scorers in the group so far, host Kerry, who have also made a disappointing start. The last Allianz League clash between the counties was in 2013 when Kerry won 0-11 to 1-5.
Dublin have made a great start to their bid to win the Division 1 title for a fourth successive year, beating Kerry and Mayo without conceding a goal. Monaghan, whom they play in Croke Park on Saturday, have also made an excellent start, beating Roscommon and Down. Malachy O’Rourke’s squad played Dublin twice in last year’s Allianz Football League, losing a Round 7 group game by 1-22 to 1-11 and the semi-final by 0-17 to 0-16. Dublin also beat Monaghan (2-22 to 0-11) in the 2014 All-Ireland quarter-final.
Allianz Football League Division 2: Ulster Sides…Top, Middle And Bottom!
Saturday (7pm): Armagh v Fermanagh, Athletic Grounds;
Sunday (2pm): Derry v Galway, Celtic Park; Meath v Cavan, Pairc Tailteann; Laois v Tyrone, O’Moore Park.
Ulster have the top two (Derry, Tyrone) and the bottom two (Cavan, Armagh), plus fifth-placed (Fermanagh). It’s a worrying situation for Armagh, who came up from Division 3 this year, and Cavan as a third defeat would leave them in serious trouble.
Armagh host Fermanagh, who also came up from Division 3 this year. The counties met twice in Division 3 last year, with the group game finishing level (1-10 each) while Armagh won the final (0-16 to 0-11). Cavan travel to Navan to take on Meath, who beat Armagh and lost to Fermanagh in the first two rounds. Meath beat Cavan by 0-14 to 0-12 in last year’s Allianz League.
Derry have made an excellent start under new manager, Damien Barton and will be hoping to continue their run with a home win over Galway, who won one and lost one so far. Galway beat Derry by six points in last year’s All-Ireland qualifiers while the last League clash was in 2013, which Galway won by three points.
Tyrone, who beat Cavan and Galway in the first two rounds, travel to Portlaoise to take n Laois, who lost to Galway and beat Armagh. Tyrone and Laois last met in the Allianz League in 2011 (Division 1), with Mickey Harte’s men winning by 1-12 to 0-11.
Allianz Football League Division 3: Kildare Set The Pace: Westmeath Struggle
Sunday (2pm): Longford v Kildare, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park; Offaly v Sligo, Tullamore; Westmeath v Tipperary, Cusack Park; Limerick v Clare, Newcastlewest.
Kildare and Westmeath dropped into Division 3 for this season but their efforts to gain promotion at the first attempt have taken different directions after two rounds. Kildare are the only county on full points in the group, while Westmeath are the only team without a point.
Kildare head for Longford, whom they beat by 2-24 to 0-11 in last year’s All-Ireland qualifiers, while Westmeath host Tipperary, who have taken three of four points from their first two games.
It leaves Tipp in second place on the table, a point ahead of Clare, Longford, Offaly and Sligo. Clare beat Limerick by two points in last year’s Munster quarter-final while Limerick beat the Bannermen by eight points in last year’s Allianz League. Offaly have won one of two after coming up from Division 4 while Sligo have also won one of two.
Allianz Football League Division 4: Antrim, Louth, Wicklow Lead The Way
Sunday (2pm): Antrim v Leitrim, Corrigan Park; Carlow v Waterford, Netwatch Cullen Park; Louth v Wicklow, Drogheda; Wexford v London, Innovate Wexford Park (1.0)
Louth and Wicklow, who are both on four points along with Antrim, clash in Drogheda while the Ulster men host London. Louth, who dropped down from Division 3 this year, have made a good start in their promotion bid, as have Wicklow who also won their opening two games, despite scoring only 0-23 (0-13 v Wicklow and 0-10 v Leitrim).
Antrim are also going well and now take on Leitrim, who have lost their opening two games by a point each. Waterford have also lost their opening games narrowly while Carlow have won one and lost one.