By Odhrán Crumley
Week three in the top tier and once again the top sides in the country will pit their wits against each other in the search of points to stay amongst the elite. Tyrone and Dublin have set the early pace playing out a draw last time out. The usual pattern which typifies the competitive nature of the division where anyone can beat anyone should continue.
MAYO VS ROSCOMMON, SATURDAY 7PM, CASTLEBAR
A pivotal all Connacht derby for both Mayo and Roscommon, a win would see last year’s All Ireland runners up move away from safety while another Roscommon loss would make relegation seem inevitable. Roscommon travel to Mayo in search of their first points after losing to Tyrone and Donegal respectively. Mayo return to the scene of their opening day loss at the hands of another Ulster side Monaghan, they bounced back a week later taking both points from Kerry despite playing the final quarter a man down.
Roscommon will target the derby game as potential two points. Mayo won the reverse fixture last March by four points in a dreadful day in a rain soaked Dr Hyde Park. One has to expect that the men in green and red will pick up their second win of the spring series. MAYO BY 4.
DONEGAL VS DUBLIN, SUNDAY 2PM, BALLYBOFEY
Dublin will travel north top of the pile after a late Dean Rock free rescued a point from the jaws of defeat last time out in Croke Park. This time though surroundings won’t be as comfortable as the travel to Ballybofey a venue where the Tir Chonaill men haven’t lost a game since 2010.
The game is somewhat overshadowed by the news that Neil Gallagher has announced his inter county retirement a mainstay in the Donegal team for over a decade. A host of the 2012 All Ireland winning team have now departed leaving a young Donegal team battling on. The young side battled hard to get their first points away in Roscommon last time out. The expectation is that this young Donegal team will struggle and its games like this they will learn an awful lot from. Yet, the experienced Dublin bolstered by the return of Diarmuid Connolly should have too much for the Donegal men. DUBLIN BY 3.
KERRY VS MONAGHAN, SUNDAY 2PM, KILLARNEY
Monaghan famously grabbed a famous win in Killarney in last year’s reverse fixture to ensure their safety before the final round of games were played. This time they go to meet a Kerry team still on the hunt for points. The Farney Army inspired by Conor McManus won away at Mayo in the opening round of fixtures before playing out a dour seven all draw with Ulster neighbours Cavan. Kerry travelled to Donegal in Round One and winning by three after making a series of changes. Last time out however they were hit by injury in falling to a home loss against Mayo.
This should prove to be an entertaining contest with an array of talented forwards on show, if it does turn out to be a shootout it’s hard to see past the Kingdom. KERRY BY 2.
TYRONE VS CAVAN, SUNDAY 2:30PM, OMAGH
Mickey Harte’s side will feel like they left both points behind them in an impressive draw away at Dublin. A series of wides and playing most of the second half contributed to Dublin earning a share of the spoils. Overall though it has been a strong start for the Red Hands with three points on the board.
An interesting sub plot see’s former Tyrone player Mattie McGleenan return to manage against his native county. Cavan got the better of the Tyrone side in the McKenna Cup opener in a feisty game in Breffni Park. The Breffni Blues can now expect a backlash from their Ulster neighbours, both sides are familiar with each other in what will be their sixth meeting in a year.
Cavan are boosted by McKiernan’s return while Tyrone’s Mattie Donnelly is expected to return after suffering from concussion. Expect another tight, hard hitting contest to ensue, typical of Ulster football. TYRONE BY 2.