FL previews: Kingdom to edge Dubs under Saturday night lights

January 24, 2020

Dublin and Kerry renew their rivalry in the Allianz Football League at Croke Park.

The Allianz Football League is about to swing back into action with Saturday night’s showdown between Dublin and Kerry the showpiece on opening weekend. Here are our previews:


Saturday, January 25th

FL Division 1 round 1

Donegal v Mayo, MacCumhaill Park, 7.15pm - eir Sport

Holders Mayo head north to Ballybofey for the opening round of their league title defence against Division 2 champions Donegal.

The Westerners may have Tom Parsons back in their pack but Chris Barrett, Seamus O’Shea, Cillian O’Connor and Lee Keegan are all expected to miss the early rounds of this competition.

Manager James Horan has opted to hand out debuts to Oisin Mullin, Jordan Flynn, Bryan Walsh and Ryan O'Donoghue.

Donegal too have injury problems, with star forward Paddy McBrearty, Jason McGee, Stephen McMenamin and Oisin Gallen all expected to miss out on the Ulster champions’ first outing in Division 1 since 2018.

Verdict: Draw

Dublin v Kerry, Croke Park, 7.15pm - eir Sport/RTE2

The biggest clash in Gaelic football returns to Croker on Saturday night and there’s plenty that will fancy Kerry to tear up the script on Dublin here.

The Dubs have been under new rule in the form of Dessie Farrell six weeks now and will look to pick up where they left off at the end of 2019, overcoming their old rivals at headquarters.

With his squad holidaying, Farrell was forced to experiment in the O’Byrne Cup against Longford in his first game in charge and is set to field a more familiar line-up on Saturday night.

Kerry recently named David Clifford as their captain for the new season and, needless to say, would love nothing more than to start 2020 with a bang in the capital.

Verdict: Kerry

FL Division 2 round 1

Armagh v Cavan, Athletic Grounds, 7pm

This Ulster derby hits the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night and it’s Kieran McGeeney’s Armagh side that are fancied to avenge their provincial championship semi-final defeat (after a replay) from last summer.

The Orchard men showed some promising early signs for 2020 in the McKenna Cup before going down in a classic (3-18 to 3-15) to eventual winners Tyrone and they’ll no doubt be coming out all guns blazing when Cavan come to visit in this Division 2 opener.

Breffni boss Mickey Graham has lost the services of ace attacker Dara McVeety and All Star nominee Conor Moynagh for the league, while Killian Clarke has ruled himself out for the season’s entirety, leaving him without three of his best for this campaign.

Verdict: Armagh

FL Division 3 round 1

Derry v Leitrim, Celtic Park, 5pm

A repeat of the Division 4 final will see Derry looking for the same outcome of their meeting with Leitrim last spring.

The Oak Leafers are now under the management of former Fermanagh boss Rory Gallagher, who will look to pit his wits against Terry Hyland as both men aim to get life in Division 3 off to a flier for their respective teams.

Verdict: Derry

Cork v Offaly, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 6pm

Cork may have lost out to Limerick in the McGrath Cup final recently but performances previous to that in the competition have promised even more improvement from the Rebels this season.

Offaly boss John Maughan was left disappointed by his side’s performance against Longford in the O’Byrne Cup final and they undoubtedly face a tough trip to Leeside in Round 1.

Verdict: Cork

FL Division 4 round 1

Carlow v Wicklow, Netwatch Cullen Park, 7pm

Carlow slipped down to Division 4 last year and are fancied to book an opening win when Davy Burke's Wicklow visit them on Saturday night.

Verdict: Carlow

Waterford v Limerick, Fraher Field, 7pm

Limerick head for Dungarvan after making the perfect start to 2020 by capturing the McGrath Cup and should get the job done against their neighbours.

Verdict: Limerick


Sunday, January 26th

FL Division 1 round 1

Tyrone v Meath, Healy Park, 2pm

Tyrone fans will not have been pleased to learn that ace attacker Cathal McShane landed in Australia this week as he looks to secure a Category B rookie contract in the AFL.

The All Star attacker will be a huge loss to the Red Hands should he make the permanent move Down Under, while team captain Mattie Donnelly is looking at another four months on the sidelines after undergoing surgery.

All that considered, Mickey Harte’s men still strolled to another McKenna Cup success this month and are strong favourites at 4/11 for Meath’s visit to Omagh on Sunday.

The Royals have one or two injury concerns also, with star forward Mickey Newman set to miss out on the league campaign, but are plenty capable of testing the hosts at Healy Park in this opener.

Verdict: Tyrone

Galway v Monaghan, Pearse Stadium, 2.30pm

After losing to Tyrone in the McKenna Cup final last weekend, Monaghan have called back their big guns for Sunday’s trip to Salthill.

Rory Beggan is back between the posts for Seamus McEnaney’s side while there are also starts for Ryan McAnespie and Karl O’Connell in defence, with Kieran Hughes and Dermot Malone named in the forwards.

Talisman Conor McManus is expected to start on the visitors’ bench while on the opposite side the in-form Shane Walsh leads Galway’s attack at full-forward.

Having recently been named Tribesmen captain, Kilkerrin-Clonberne sharpshooter Walsh has been in sensational scoring form in this early part of the season and will take some watching from the Monaghan defence in Round 1.

Verdict: Galway 

FL Division 2 round 1

Westmeath v Clare, TEG Cusack Park, 2pm

This one could well go down to the wire in Mullingar as both these sides look for early points in what is sure to be a tight race all-round in Division 2.

Westmeath boss Jack Cooney will be without stars Kieran Martin and Ger Egan in this opener as both recover from injury, while Paddy Holloway and Jamie Gonoud are thought to be fit to participate this weekend.

Keelan Sexton is back in the Clare squad after missing out on last summer’s championship when he moved to the US and, along with David Tubridy, provides another lethal weapon for the Banner men up front.

Verdict: Draw

Roscommon v Laois, Dr Hyde Park, 2pm

Roscommon slipped back down to Division 2 last season and will be keen for an immediate return to the topflight.

In his second year as Rossies boss, Anthony Cunningham has said that he expects the division “to be really tough” and called on the county’s fans to turn out in force for Laois’s visit to ‘the Hyde’ on Sunday.

The O’Moore men are under new rule in the form of ex-Kerry midfielder Mike Quirke and the four-time All-Ireland winner will no doubt be keen to tear up the script against the Connacht champions and mark a perfect start.

Verdict: Roscommon

Kildare v Fermanagh, Newbridge, 2.30pm

When the two met last year it was the Ernesiders that edged a 0-8 to 0-6 win after a drab affair in Enniskillen.

Since then, there are new men at the helm on both sides and Jack O’Connor’s Kildare are hotly fancied to get their league campaign off to a winning start.

Ryan McMenamin’s Fermanagh side head for Newbridge looking to upset 7/2 odds and take an early scalp in the second tier division.

Verdict: Kildare

FL Division 3 round 1

Longford v Louth, Glennon Bros Pearse Park, 2pm

Longford will be out to continue their winning ways when they welcome Louth to Glennon Bros Pearse Park on Sunday.

The Midlanders claimed the O’Byrne Cup last weekend and will look to the likes of captain Mickey Quinn and Mullinalaghta marksman Rian Brady to sink the visitors’ challenge.

Verdict: Longford

Tipperary v Down, Clonmel, 2pm

Last summer’s qualifier meeting between the two saw Down edge a three-point victory in Newry and manager Paddy Tally would love the same outcome here to get their Division 3 campaign off to a flier.

The Mourne men will be without the services of talisman Caolan Mooney as he recovers from the broken jaw he suffered in an attack earlier this month but, with the other talents, at their exposal the visitors still should have enough to come through in Clonmel.

Verdict: Down

FL Division 4 round 1

Antrim v Wexford, Glenavy, 2pm

Paul Galvin’s Wexford side make the long trip to Glenavy where hosts Antrim will fancy their chances of claiming two early points in the race to get out of the league’s basement division.

Verdict: Draw

London v Sligo, Ruislip, 2pm

Having suffered relegation last season, nothing but a win will do for Paul Taylor’s Sligo side as they head for the English capital for Round 1.

Verdict: Sligo

The Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues are back this weekend and so is the Hogan Stand Match Tracker. Join us on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon for live score and updates from the opening rounds.

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