Mayo V Derry
Mayo host Derry in the final week of Division 1 action, a Derry side who have already qualified for the semi finals. Derry have reached the semi finals using mostly the same players in every game and have taken this opportunity to give some other players a start in Castlebar. Initial consensus would be that this hands an advantage to Mayo but hungry players who haven’t played that much make for difficult opponents too. Derry have had a great league campaign to date, exceeding most’s expectations.
Mayo will have been disappointed to have let the two points slip last weekend against Dublin when earning just one in their pulsating draw. However, there are plenty of positives for Mayo who have been on an upward curve every week while rotating their squad and trying new players. Tomorrow sees a new midfield combination of Tom Parsons and Seamus O Shea replacing Aidan O Shea and Jason Gibbons. James Horan has created more depth in his squad, Kevin Mc Loughlin looks to be getting to his 2012 form and they are scoring freely. Of concern will be the amount they are conceding but the personnel are there to tighten things at the back.
If Mayo win tomorrow they will be in the semi finals. They should have at least one more day out in this year’s league.
Tyrone v Dublin
When one things of this game at this venue the infamous ” Battle of Omagh” of 2006 springs to mind. Then, Tyrone where champions and Dublin were trying to make a stand. Now the roles are reversed with the Dubs visiting as All Ireland champions and a Tyrone team looking to reach the peak. There will be no repeat of those scenes but this is a big test and opportunity for Tyrone. It is a game where a win could galvanise a team and bring them forward in bounds, a watershed game.
Tyrone have been hot and cold in this year’s league. Dublin have been similar, not reaching the heights of last year’s league but they are entering this year as All Ireland champions and with a different approach to the league to try and win Sam again.
Both sides will want to make the semi’s and it makes for a compelling clash in Omagh. It will be a big win for whoever, if any, gets it.
Kerry v Cork
Kerry and Cork will both be pleased with their league to date. Kerry had to do without their Crokes players for the opening of the league, Paul Galvin retired and then they lost Colm Cooper for the season to a cruciate injury. They have responded well to those handicaps and their opening three losses to win three in a row and preserve their Division 1 status. Indeed if Mayo and Dublin lose tomorrow they will be in the semi finals with a win or if the finish on 8 points in a three way tie with Mayo, Dublin or Tyrone they would go through on score difference. Kerry have the best defence in the division and some of the most dangerous attackers in the game. Even if they do not make the semi finals they will go into the Summer with confidence from this league campaign.
Cork started the league in great style, winning four from four before coming undone against Mayo in Castlebar. They drew with Tyrone last week at home. Losing in Kerry would signal a downward curve for the Rebels and would show they have work to do when it comes to playing the top sides, something new manager Brian Cuthbert would have known to begin. Indeed, it may be a blessing in disguise as if things were coming too easy then complacency is a risk. They will enter the Summer knowing they still have work to do. They are guaranteed to be in the semi finals which is a plus but a win ahead of that would be good, especially against their biggest rival. It will be a typically close game between Munster’s big two.
Kildare v Westmeath
Both of these sides are already relegated so there will be nothing but pride on the line when they play in Newbridge. Westmeath have been out of their depth in Division 1 with 6 losses from 6 and some big ones at that. Kildare will be more disappointed to be relegated as Division 1 is the company they feel they should be keeping. It all started so will with a win against Mayo on opening day but 5 consecutive losses mean relegation. They loss to Tyrone will be particularly haunting as they had the game all but won but allowed two late goals, one where there was over carrying, and it was a loss that hurt them badly. Once again this league campaign showed they cannot compete with Dublin, losing this time by 10 points. Kildare go into the championship with a lot of work to do and the nagging feeling that irregardless of what they do that they will not beat Dublin.
With not much on the line it difficult to know what kind of game it will be. It will probably be loose and lacking intensity. Kildare are the better team and that may be the deciding factor but Westmeath would like to avoid being swept by every team.