By Odhrán Crumley
Two Ulster derbies, a repeat of last years All Ireland Final and a Kerry heading to Roscommon all over one weekend. It really is horses for courses amongst the elite dining at the top table, in this years league.
CAVAN VS DONEGAL, SAT 7PM, BREFFNI PARK
Cavan travelled all the way to Omagh last weekend to find upon their arrival that Storm Doris had flooded the pitch. This meant the Breffni men had their break extended to three weeks by default.
Donegal welcomed Dublin to Ballybofey, the Tir Chonaill men ensured McCool Park remained a fortress as a last gasp Michael Murphy free earned a share of the spoils with the reigning champions. For the record the men in green and yellow haven’t been beaten at the venue since 2010.
This week sees to Ulster rivals go head to head with both points a must to ease relegation talk. Cavan are a different proposition in the compounds of Breffni Park and gave Dublin their full of it for fifty minutes before their inexperience told. They face a relatively inexperienced Donegal side with a host of young players learning on the job, with varying levels of success. Last weekend it was 19 year old Jason McGee who stood up kicking 1-2 against the reigning All Ireland Champions in a man of the match display.
Both sides play a defensive style of football therefore, it is expected that scores will be at a premium. Cavan still await the return of arguably their star man Cian Mackey who has returned to the fold after a retirement u-turn. Donegal still gave players like Michael Murphy, Neil McGee and Patrick McBrearty to call upon despite a host of retirements.
In games of this magnitude it may come down to a matter of who wants it most. One things for sure in these Closter phobic, tight defensive games, a goal will almost certainly win it. CAVAN BY 1.
DUBLIN VS MAYO, SAT 7PM, CROKE PARK
Less than six months on from last years replayed decider Dublin and Mayo will collide at the same Jones’ Road venue. Although this time two points are the prize for the winner and not Sam Maguire.
Dublin travelled north last weekend, after a series of pitch inspections they had a game. The underfoot conditions where less than perfect for the men from the capital, with bog like conditions proving detrimental to their slick attacking football. Despite this they will have felt unlucky to leave Ballybofey with only a share of the spoils.
Mayo comprehensively dismantled Connacht rivals Roscommon last Saturday with a Cillian O’Connor goal from the spot three minutes into the second half killing the game as a contest. If previous meetings are anything to go by this game will go right down to the wire.
Both sides are actively in the running for a league final spot and a win this weekend would enhance such chances. One would rightly presume that a another cracking contest should ensue, the return of Diarmuid Connolly could raise Dublin to another level for the campaign and be enough to get them over the line. DUBLIN BY 3.
TYRONE VS MONAGHAN, SAT 7PM, HEALY PARK
The Healy Park pitch was deemed unplayable by referee David Gough one hour before kick off last Sunday. The Omagh venue will play host to another all Ulster derby this weekend with the visit of high flying Monaghan.
The Farney Army travelled to Killarney last weekend and repeated their heroics from 2016 leaving with both points, leaving them sitting pretty at the top of the table. They will travel full of confidence after overturning Mayo and Kerry on their own patch and in the knowledge that they won with relative ease here in 2015.
Tyrone will welcome back the influential Mattie Donnelly who missed the Dublin clash with concussion. Last weekend’s postponement gave the Red Hands an extended break. They have named the same starting fifteen that was due to start last Sunday’s clash.
Both sides play a sleek counter attacking brand of football thanks to extremely mobile central units. The introduction of Jack McCarron to the Monaghan men has proved to be quite the revelation. The forwards presence and natural scoring ability not only takes the pressure off, of Conor McManus he allows O’Rourke to deploy Kieran and Darren Hughes at midfield in one of the most mobile and formidable midfield units in the country.
Tyrone have had their own problems in front of goal in their two opening games. A series of missed chances coupled with a late Dublin resurgence meant the Ulster champions left Croke Park with only one point instead of all two.
In what is expected to be another tight contest, where every score will be crucial, Mickey Harte’s men will not be able to afford as many misses this time out. The defensive unit in force is probably the hardest to yield scores from in the country. This will play to their advantage. TYRONE BY ONE.
ROSCOMMON VS KERRY, SUN 2PM, DR HYDE PARK
The Rossies will be hoping to repeat last year’s heroics and claim another famous win over the Kingdom as they scrap for the illusive points to ensure they will dine at the top table in 2018.
Kerry were out hustled by Monaghan last time out left to rue missed goal chances, against a side who has held a hoodoo over them the last number of seasons.
McStay and co will expect a huge response from his side following last weekend’s one sided loss to rivals Mayo. Kerry are still in the hunt for the much needed points.
Dr Hyde Park is never a happy hunting ground for visiting teams. Both sides will look for response after losing last time out. The bookies are never too far wrong and they expect an easy away win, I am inclined to agree with this verdict. KERRY BY 5.