Cork v Donegal
Donegal make the length of the country trip to take on Cork in Pairc Ui Rinn on Saturday evening. Both teams go into the game with 2 wins and 2 losses and the winner of this will take a huge step towards making the semi finals. These two sides played an entertaining All Ireland semi final last year with Donegal coming out on top. The first half was very tight and it was Donegal’s customary third quarter push which won the game for them. It could be argued that Cork’s lack of competitive games in last year’s championship also went against them.
Cork have won their last 2 games, both away games in Ulster against Down and Tyrone and will hope to complete the Ulster hat-trick in front of the home support on Saturday. They have the look of a side that are getting into some form and also one that have caught up with the pack in fitness terms as they were run ragged by Dublin and Kildare in their opening two games, that could also be due to due to hard training at the time. They impressively They will be motivated to beat Donegal after last year’s All Ireland semi final as well as the fact that a win would go a long way towards a semi final spot plus almost guaranteeing survival in the division.
Donegal have looked good in part in the league but have the look of a team building towards championship and not focusing too much on winning the league. They have experimented a lot and Jim McGuiness has said his priority is looking at new players and new styles of play rather than making the semi finals. They dismantled Kerry by 10 points in their last game with Michael Murphy again impressing.
Whoever wins this one will be set up in pole position for a semi final position.
Mayo v Kildare
For the third Saturday in a row Mayo will be in Saturday night action, this time with a home game against Kildare. Both sides have had differing starts to the campaign with Mayo only having one win from 4 while Kildare have won 3 of their opening 4 games.
Kildare started impressively in winning their opening 3 games but were truly outclassed by Dublin last week. These are the tests that Kieran Mc Geeney will hope to learn from operating in the highest division, but the fact that this lesson was harshly dealt to them by their Leinster rivals may leave a damaging mark on them for the year ahead.
It appears that Kildare were ahead of other team in division in terms of fitness at the start of the league. They had a good O Byrne Cup, winning it, and had more work done than their opening opponents Donegal and Cork, while Kerry are not the Kerry we are used to in this years league. The gap may have closed over the past few weeks and this advantage in fitness the Lilywhites had will not be so telling in the remainder of the league.
Mayo are one of the teams that started training later than others, they were on holiday in Miami in January, and had a club scene that did not finish until December. This lack of work done has told in part in some of their games, especially against Dublin when they ran out of legs. Mayo have been competitive in all 3 games they have lost so James Horan should not be unduly worried, although he did express his concern this week that Mayo are “not where we want to be”. They are embroiled in the relegation fight and need to start winning now or else Division 2 will be where they find themselves next season.
Mayo have struggled for goals, they have created opportunities but rather than take a shot at a goal they have elected to fist over the bar when through on goal. Calmness is needed when situations like this are presented.
Despite the differences in both sides league campaigns, Mayo should be confident of taking the two points in this encounter. Mayo need to win more and a big performance can be expected in front of the home crowd. That coupled with the effect of Kildare’s drubbing last weekend, should be enough to see Mayo win.
Dublin v Tyrone
Dublin have been in fantastic form in this year’s league winning all four games so far. They destroyed Kildare in their last outing by 13 points and have one foot in the semi finals. Under Jim Gavin there has been more of an emphasis on attacking, demonstrated by the 2-20 they scored last weekend. They have a score difference of plus 23 showing their dominance so far.
Tyrone lost their first game of the league at home to Cork last weekend. Tyrone have done well in their return to the division and Mickey Harte will be happy in the knowledge that his team is benefiting from playing top opposition every week, something that will stand to them in the championship. This game will be very difficult for them but an opportunity to learn a bit more about themselves.
Kerry v Down
Down have been something of a bogey team for Kerry through the years and they will be looking to deliver a knockout blow to the Kingdom in this years league on Saturday night.
Kerry are pointless after 4 games and need to win this weekend to keep their hopes of staying in Division 1 alive. Kerry will be stronger in the championship when they get their big names back but there is pressure on Eamonn Fitzmaurice to get some performances in the league. This game provides that opportunity.
Down recorded their first points last weekend when beating Mayo and will travel to Killarney with confidence after a win and a good performance in their loss to Cork in Week 3. In Donal O Hare Down have the third highest scorer in the league. The Mourne men will be hoping he can continue his form in this relegation battle.
This should be the game where Kerry deliver a performance and pick up their first points of the league.