Down v Mayo
In the only Saturday night game Mayo travel to Down in a game that both sides need to win. Down were extremely unlucky not to have come away with the two points in last week’s game against Cork, but for a last minute goal they would have earned their first points in the division. Mayo appeared to be in the driving seat midway through the second half of their clash against Dublin but they could not handle Bernard Brogan and the rest of the Dublin full forward line and lost to the 14 man Dubs.
Both teams are in a relegation battle but they are also in a battle for the fourth place semi final spot. Down will be in the relegation battle for the remainder of league, having zero points means even a win or two should have them looking over their shoulder for the duration of the league. A Mayo win in Newry would see them pull away from the drop and push towards the semi final battle. Mayo could make themselves very comfortable in the division with a win. The Connacht champions have competed well in all 3 games in the league and despite results will be in a confident mood heading north. Down will take plenty of encouragement from their performance against Cork but they have to be wary of the way in which they lost affecting them.
Down beat Mayo in last year’s league but were on the other side of a 12 point defeat when the sides met in the All Ireland Quarter Final last August. The gap won’t be that big this time but the outcome will be the same.
Donegal v Kerry
Donegal play Kerry in another relegation battle and also another repeat fixture of one of last year’s All Ireland Quarter Finals. Like Mayo v Down, one team have one win, that being Donegal, while the other, Kerry, are pointless. A Kerry loss will make relegation hard to avoid while a win for Donegal will have them looking up instead of Down in the table.
There was a marked improvement in Kerry’s performance in their loss in Kildare. They will be looking for another improvement against the All Ireland champions.
Donegal were involved in a tough and physical encounter when they lost to Tyrone last week. Jim McGuiness experimented with Mark Mc Hugh at wing back and Neil Gallagher at full forward in that game and is looking at creating more options and developing his squad for the Summer as opposed to results in the league. He will be more than aware however, that a win here will make the league more comfortable for his side in the relegation battle. A win over Kerry is always a boost to a team too.
This game will be a difficult one for an experimental Kerry side and Donegal should have too much to spare.
Kildare v Dublin
Kildare have adapted to life in Division 1 very well with 3 wins from 3. Dublin have also started their campaign well with 3 wins. The winners of this table topping clash will all but guarantee their place in the semi finals at this early stage. The losers should join them barring a major collapse in the remainder of the league.
The key to how this game will go will be if Kildare can contain Bernard Brogan. He scored 1-10, 1-4 from play, against Mayo last week and is both the division’s and league’s leading scorer with 1-23 from 3 games. If Kildare can curb his influence do Dublin have a Plan B? They do have an abundance of forward talent but nobody scores as consistently as Brogan. Jim Gavin will be looking for a bigger spread of scores from his team.
With both team almost assured of place in the semi finals this game is more about team and squad development as well as striking a psychological blow ahead any future clash in the Leinster championship.
Tyrone v Cork
Cork got their first league win with a last minute goal against Down in Newry last week. Tyrone have a 100% record so far and struck a big psychological blow to their Ulster championship opponents Donegal last week.
Tyrone will all but guarantee their place in the semi finals with a win. Cork are presently involved in both the relegation and semi final battle.
The Red Hand county appear to be taking the league a lot more seriously than other teams in the division. They seem further along in their preparation for the season than Cork and this coupled with their home advantage should see them maintain their 100% record.