Preview: Weekend’s Allianz Football Leauge action:
Allianz Football League Division 1
Saturday 18th February
Mayo v Kerry, Hastings MacHale Park, 7.30pm (TG4)
Kerry got their first win of the campaign last time out against Monaghan and what should be worrying for their rivals is that they’ve still looked potent despite not starting any of their 2022 All-Ireland Final sextet of forwards.
Their absence has given Donal O’Sullivan a chance to shine in his maiden League campaign and he has grabbed it with both hands. He’s kicked 1-4 from play in two matches and looks a serious find for the kingdom.
It’ll be interesting to see how he fares now against a Mayo defence that traditionally gives away nothing cheaply. Another big performance today will suggest he’s a real option for the championship.
As for Mayo, they’ve gotten off to a fairly encouraging start under new manager Liam McHale, with two draws from two games against Galway and Armagh. The latter draw was a disappointing one, though, as the Connacht team surrendered a five-point lead in the closing minutes.
The positives for Mayo have been how at home Conor Loftus has looked at centre-back and well Aidan O’Shea performed at full-forward against Armagh, but they really need a fit again Cillian O’Connor to come good because their attack could do with his class.
Sunday, February 19
Galway v Tyrone, Tuam Stadium, 1.45pm (TG4 deferred/Live on TG4 App)
This is game Galway will feel they need to win after taking just a single point from their first two matches against Connacht rivals Mayo and Roscommon.
They only managed to score an average of 11 points in each of those two games, and sharpening up in attack must be their priority for the rest of the campaign.
It’ll be interesting to see how prodigal sons Peter Cooke and Ian Burke can help in this regard now that they’ve returned to the panel.
Padraig Joyce’s other main mission for this League will be to find adequate replacements for the injured Kieran Molloy and emigrated Liam Silke in his defence, and that’ll be a tricky task because they were two of the team’s best players last year.
After a very disappointing defeat to Roscommon in their first match, Tyrone bounced back impressively with a decisive win over Donegal in Round 2.
They don’t have the same squad depth now that they did when winning the All-Ireland two years ago, but any time they can field a full-forward line of Darren McCurry, Cathal McShane, and Darragh Canavan as they did against Donegal, they’re still capable of beating anyone.
Monaghan v Donegal, Clones, 1.45pm
Monaghan last played in Division 2 in 2014 but their supporters will be starting to worry about the team’s ability to stay up this year after two defeats from two matches against Armagh and Kerry.
They were well-beaten last time out by a Kerry team featuring just five starters from their All-Ireland Final winning team, and struggled to make much impact in attack where the absence of Jack McCarron and Conor McManus dulls their edge.
With Division 1 looking so competitive this year, a home match against Donegal already looks like one that Monaghan can’t afford to lose.
As for Donegal, they got a dose of reality in their last match against Tyrone after such a heartening Round 1 victory over Kerry.
The transition from defence to attack was something they struggled with a lot against Tyrone, so getting more of a grip around the middle third will be a priority against Monaghan.
Roscommon v Armagh, Dr Hyde Park, 1.45pm (TG4)
Roscommon are off to a flier under new manager Davy Burke with two wins from two.
They’ve looked like a very well-drilled, tactically astute team thus far, defending tenaciously in numbers and then counter-attacking at pace to great effect.
Their physical conditioning has been impressive too, enabling them to finish strongly against both Tyrone and Galway.
Diarmuid Murtagh has really caught the eye so far with a 1-4 scored to date, but so too has newcomer Ben O’Carroll who hit 1-2 on his debut against Tyrone and then came off the bench to score a brace against Galway.
Burke said he was keen to find unearth a few new players in the League, and O’Carroll certainly looks like a good find.
This will be another good test of where Roscommon are right now because Armagh have started the season impressively too with a win over Monaghan and gutsy draw last time out against Mayo.
What makes Armagh such a dangerous team is they pose a range of attacking threats. Rian O’Neill is the main man in attack, but others like Rory Grugan, Conor Turbitt, Andrew Murnin, Aidan Nugen, and Tiernan Kelly are all capable of contributing too.
Both these teams arguably need to improve at midfield if they’re to really challenge for silverware this year, so that battleground will be interesting on Sunday.
Allianz Football League Division 2
Saturday, February 18
Derry v Meath, Owenbeg, 5pm (RTE2/RTE Player)
This top of the table clash should be a cracker as both teams have impressed thus far in the competition with two wins from two apiece.
Meath, especially will have been happy to hit the ground running under new manager Colm O’Rourke. They play an attacking brand of football with six out and out forwards that leaves them vulnerable at times defensively, but also gives them a lot of firepower as seven goals in two matches attests to.
It’ll be very interesting to see if they can punch the same holes in a very organised Derry defence, or whether they’ll be found out against a well-organised counter-attacking team.
Sunday, February 19
Clare v Kildare, Cusack Park, Ennis, 2pm
It’s been a very disappointing start to the campaign for a Kildare team that would have had high hopes of promotion. They performed well when losing to Dublin by just a point, but were poor last time out against Cork when they fell to a heavy 13-point defeat to Cork.
They failed to score for the first 28 minutes of that match and need to be much more clinical in attack against Clare if they’re to come away with a result.
That won’t be easy against the Banner County who are always a hard nut to crack at home and have performed quite well so far this year with a win over Louth and a four point defeat to Meath.
They’ll hope to have captain Eoin Cleary back after he missed that game with illness.
Louth v Limerick, Ardee, 2pm
Louth have found out the hard way that you get nothing easy in Division 2 Football. They performed well against both Clare and Derry in their first two matches, but came away with nothing from both of them.
One area they need to work on is retaining possession from their own kick-outs, because the frequency with which they coughed it up against Derry was a decisive factor.
If they better master that transition, then they have enough firepower in the shape of Sam Mulroy, Conor Grimes, and Dáire McConnon to trouble most teams, and will fancy their chances against a Limerick team that lost their opening two matches by an average margin of 11 points.
Cork v Dublin, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 3.45pm (TG4)
After an opening round defeat to Meath when they conceded some soft goals, Cork bounced back impressively by trouncing Kildare last time out.
They’ve a lot of firepower in their team with players like Stephen Sherlock, Brian Hurley, and Cathail O’Mahony, but getting the balance right between defence and attack is sometimes an issue.
This match will give them a good idea of the areas they still need to work on, because Dublin look very determined to bounce back to Division 1 as quickly as possible after wins over Kildare and Limerick.
After looking out of sorts against Kildare, Con O’Callaghan found his groove against Limerick and will be looking to build on that here.
Allianz Football League Division 3
Saturday, February 18
Tipperary v Antrim, FBD Semple Stadium, 6pm
It’s been a tough start to the campaign for Tipperary and Antrim who have both lost two matches from two.
The Saffrons, at least, showed some improvement in Round 2 when they ran Down to a single point, whereas Tipperary regressed, losing heavily to Cavan. Whoever loses this one will find themselves very much in the relegation picture.
Sunday, February 19
Fermanagh v Down, Ederney, 1pm (BBC iPlayer
Down have started the season impressively under new manager Conor Laverty with two wins from two. Team-spirit seemed to be an issue in recent seasons, but it was very much in evidence last time out as they came from behind to beat Antrim.
Fermanagh got their campaign off to a flier with a big win over Longford but were pipped by Offaly last time out. There were still some positives to take from that game though, and they’ll believe their greater defensive nous could see them take another scalp here.
Cavan v Longford, Kingspan Breffni, 2pm
Table-toppers Cavan have looked good so far this year with two wins from two and a +15 scoring difference. Prodigal son Dara McVeety has been especially impressive in a centre-back role, scoring three points from there last time out against Tipperary.
This could be a tough game for a Longford team who have already fallen to heavy defeats against both Fermanagh and Westmeath.
Westmeath v Offaly, TEG Cusack Park, 2pm
This match is likely to have an impact on the promotion picture. Offaly have two wins from two thus far but Tailteann Cup champions Westmeath looked very impressive in their last game against Longford having lost their first against Cavan.
With forwards like Luke Loughlin, Ronan O’Toole, and John Heslin in good form, Offaly will find their offensive power hard to resist.
Allianz FL Division 4
Saturday, February 19
Wicklow v London, Aughrim, 1pm
With both teams on one point after two games, a win here is needed to propel them into the promotion picture.
London pushed table-toppers Leitrim all the way in their last round, and if they can repeat that form they’ll fancy their chances of getting a first win of the campaign.
Sunday, February 19
Sligo v Waterford, Markievicz Park, 1pm
It’s been a tough start to the season for Waterford who lost their first two matches by a combined margin of 20 points. Sligo bounced back from an opening round defeat to Laois with a convincing win over Wicklow and will expect to continue that upward trajectory.
Carlow v Laois, Netwatch Cullen Park, 2pm
Laois have impressed thus far in the campaign with convincing wins over Sligo and Wexford. If Evan O’Carroll repeats the form he showed in that latter game, they should make it three from three against Carlow.
Wexford v Leitrim, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 2pm
Leitrim have started the season very strongly with two wins from two. Ace attacker Keith Beirne has been on absolute fire and could be the decisive influence on this game too.