Two defeats from three games leave reigning Allianz League Division 1 champions, Dublin facing a big task to get back in contention for a place in the final in a group with Mayo and Kerry set the pace on six points.
It greatly adds to the interest in the Dublin v Mayo clash in Croke Park on Saturday night as a defeat for Jim Gavin’s men, who have won five of the last six League titles, would leave them with only a slim chance of reaching the final even if they won their last three games.
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 1: HORAN RETURNS TO CROKER TO FACE DUBS
Saturday (7.0): Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park; Tyrone v Monaghan, Omagh.
Sunday: Galway v Kerry, Tuam Stadium, 2.0; Cavan v Roscommon, Kingspan Breffni Park, 2.30
James Horan returns to Croke Park as Mayo manager for the first time since 2014 when his side drew with Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final and will be hoping to mark the occasion with a win over their great rivals.
Mayo, whose last competitive win over Dublin was in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final, have enjoyed their best start to the League for several years, beating Roscommon, Tyrone and Cavan while Dublin have lost two of their opening three games for the first time since 2015. However, they recovered that year and went on to win the title.
Dublin beat Mayo by 2-10 to 0-12 in Round 4 of last year’s League.
Like Mayo, Kerry have made a blistering start and head for Tuam on Sunday looking for a fourth successive win against Galway (two wins from three). Galway beat Kerry in last year’s League (1-14 to 0-14) and in the ‘Super 8’ (1-13 to 1-10). Prior to that, Galway hadn’t beaten Kerry in either League or Championship since 2003.
Tyrone v Monaghan will go ahead in circumstances that neither would have anticipated at the start of the campaign.
Tyrone, who won the Dr McKenna Cup in an impressive pre-season campaign, have lost two (Kerry, Tyrone) and drew one (Roscommon) while Monaghan made a great start with a win over Dublin before losing to Roscommon and Galway.
Monaghan v Tyrone produced three fascinating contests last year, with Malachy O’Rourke’s men edging it 2-1.
They won the League clash by 0-15 to 0-14, the Ulster quarter-final by 1-18 to 1-16, but Tyrone won the biggest game of all – the All-Ireland semi-final – edging home by 1-13 to 0-15.
It’s the clash of 2018 promoted teams in Kingspan Breffni Park, when Cavan (three defeats) take on Roscommon (one win, one draw, one defeat). They met twice in Division 2 last year with Roscommon winning both. They won by 0-15 to 0-13 in Round 6 and by 4-16 to 4-12 in the final.
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 2: TOP V BOTTOM AS MEATH RENEW RIVALRY WITH CORK
Saturday (7.0): Cork v Meath, Pairc Ui Rinn.
Sunday (2.0): Armagh v Tipperary, Athletic Grounds; Donegal v Fermanagh, Letterkenny; Kildare v Clare, Newbridge.
It’s not where Cork expected to be after three games, but instead of being in the promotion places, they find themselves bottom of the table after losing to Kildare and Clare and drawing with Fermanagh. Next up is Meath, who lead the table on scoring difference from Fermanagh and Donegal after winning two of three games.
Cork and Meath have met in the League for the past two seasons, drawing in 2017, while Cork won by four points last year in Navan,Donegal (4 pts) v Fermanagh (4pts) is a re-run of last year’s Ulster final which Donegal won by 2-18 to 0-12. Fermanagh are the only unbeaten team in the group, having drawn two and won one of their three games, while Donegal won their first two games before losing to Tipperary in Round 3.
Kildare and Clare, both of whom are on three points, clash in Newbridge in what will their second League clash in three seasons. Kildare won by a point in Round 6 last year, a win that helped them to promotion to Division 1.
Armagh (2pts) and Tipperary (3pts) didn’t meet last year but had two clashes in 2017 with Tipp clinching promotion to Division 2 with a 3-8 to 0-16 win in the final series of Round 3 games. Armagh took revenge in the All-Ireland qualifiers later in the year, winning by 1-17 to 1-15.
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 3: LONGFORD LEAD THE WAY IN TIGHT PROMOTION RACE
Sunday: Longford v Down, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 2.0; Westmeath v Laois, TEG Cusack Park, 2.30; Louth v Sligo, Venue TBC 2.30; Drogheda; Offaly v Carlow, Bord na Mona O’Connor Park, 3.0
No team on full points and only one (Sligo) without a point after three games underlines how competitive this group is. Longford, who top the table on five points, host Down (four points) in a game that could prove crucial for both in their promotion push.
It will be the first clash between them since the 2016 All-Ireland qualifiers when Longford won 2-24 to 3-17 after extra-time in Newry.
Laois, who came up from Division 4 this year, and Louth, who dropped down from Division 2, are both on four points as they prepare to take on Westmeath (2pts) and Sligo respectively.
Laois beat Westmeath by ten points in last year’s Leinster quarter-final in a game where Paul Cahillane scored 3-2 to the winners. Sligo beat Louth (0-17 to 1-11) in their last League clash two years ago.
Carlow (3pts) and Offaly (1pt) last met in the League in 2015 when Offaly won by a point in Tullamore in Division 4.
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 4: LEITRIM ENJOYING BEST START FOR A LONG TIME
Saturday: Limerick v Leitrim, Kilmallock, 3.0
Sunday: Antrim v London, Corrigan Park, 1,0; Derry v Wicklow; Maghera, 2.0; Wexford v Waterford, Innovate Wexford Park.
Leitrim’s impressive run – three games, three wins – has been one of the eye-catching developments so far, leaving Terry Hyland’s men leading the table on scoring difference from Derry as they prepare to take on Limerick, who have won two of three games.
Leitrim beat Limerick by double scores (2-18 to 1-9) in last year’s League clash in Carrick-on-Shannon, but this is a much tougher proposition as Billy Lee’s men have a much improved defence this year.
Indeed, they have conceded the lowest (2-28) of any team in the group in the opening three rounds. Leitrim are top scorers on 4-45 so it promises to be an intriguing contest.
Derry, who are aiming for a quick return to Division 3, face Wicklow (two wins from three games) in what will be the first League clash between the counties since 2005 when the Ulster men won by 2-16 t0 1-7. Antrim were among the pre-season fancies to be in the promotion hunt, but instead find themselves at the bottom of the table with Waterford. Both have lost all three games so far. Antrim head for Ruislip to take on London (one win, two defeats), having beaten the exiles by four points in last year’s League.
Wexford were stunned by London in the last round and now need to beat Waterford to stay in contention for a quick return to Division 3. It’s a tricky assignment for the Model men as Waterford’s confidence will be raised by the memory of their one-point win over the Model men in Innovate Wexford Park in last year’s All-Ireland qualifiers.
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE: RESULTS AND FIXTURES
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 1
Round 1: Monaghan 2-13 Dublin 1-13; Galway 0-13 Cavan 0-11; Kerry 0-11 Tyrone 0-7; Mayo 1-8 Roscommon 1-7.
Round 2: Dublin 1-15 Galway 0-7; Roscommon 1-12 Monaghan 0-13; Kerry 0-16 Cavan 0-13; Mayo 2-13 Tyrone 0-10.
Round 3: Kerry 1-18 Dublin 2-14; Mayo 1-13 Cavan 0-11; Roscommon 1-10 Tyrone 1-10; Galway 1-9 Monaghan 0-11.
Round 4: Feb 23: Dublin v Mayo; Tyrone v Monaghan; Feb 24 Galway v Kerry; Cavan v Roscommon.
Round 5: Mar 2: Tyrone v Cavan; Mayo v Galway; Mar 3: Roscommon v Dublin; Kerry v Monaghan.
Round 6: Mar 16: Galway v Roscommon; Monaghan v Cavan; Dublin v Tyrone; Kerry v Mayo.
Round 7: Mar 24: Cavan v Dublin; Mayo v Monaghan; Roscommon v Kerry; Tyrone v Galway.
Final: Mar 31
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 2
Round 1: Donegal 0-16 Clare 0-13; Fermanagh 0-8 Cork 1-5; Kildare 0-14 Armagh 1-11; Meath 0-15 Tipperary 1-8.
Round 2: Kildare 1-10 Cork 0-10; Donegal 1-13 Meath 0-14; Tipperary 2-5 Fermanagh 2-5; Armagh 1-3 Clare 2-10.
Round 3: Fermanagh 0-8 Kildare 0-6; Clare 3-13 Cork 1-10; Meath 2-13 Armagh 0-13; Tipperary 3-9 Donegal 0-13.
Round 4: Feb 23: Cork v Meath; Feb 24: Armagh v Tipperary; Donegal v Fermanagh; Kildare v Clare.
Round 5: Feb 2: Tipperary v Cork; Donegal v Armagh; Feb 3: Meath v Kildare; Fermanagh v Clare.
Round 6: Mar 16: Clare v Meath; Cork v Donegal; Kildare v Tipperary; Armagh v Fermanagh.
Round 7: Armagh v Cork; Donegal v Kildare; Meath v Fermanagh; Tipperary v Clare.
Final: Mar 31
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 3
Round 1: Carlow 1-11 Sligo 0-7; Longford 1-8 Louth 0-9; Westmeath 0-13 Offaly 0-12; Laois 2-15 Down 1-12;
Round 2: Longford 1-6 Offaly 0-9; Louth 3-8 Laois 1-9; Westmeath 1-10 Carlow 2-7; Down 1-12 Sligo 1-10.
Round 3: Down 0-10 Westmeath 0-9; Longford 1-11 Carlow 0-9; Louth 2-10 Offaly 2-8; Laois 2-18 Sligo 2-10
Round 4: Feb 24: Longford v Down; Westmeath v Laois; Louth v Sligo; Offaly v Carlow.
Round 5: Mar 2: Carlow v Louth; Down v Offaly; Laois v Longford. Mar 3: Sligo v Westmeath.
Round 6: Mar 16: Longford v Sligo; Louth v Westmeath; Offaly v Laois; Carlow v Down.
Round 7: Mar 24: Down v Louth; Westmeath v Longford; Sligo v Offaly; Laois v Carlow.
Final: Mar 30
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 4
Round 1: Derry 1-10 Antrim 1-9; Leitrim 3-15 Wexford 0-11; Limerick 0-11 London 0-10; Wicklow 1-7 Waterford 0-9
Round 2: Derry 0-19 London 1-9; Limerick 1-13 Waterford 0-10; Leitrim 1-16 Wicklow 1-12; Wexford 1-10 Antrim 0-9.
Round 3: Leitrim 0-14 Antrim 1-10; London 2-10 Wexford 0-8; Derry 2-12 Waterford 1-8; Wicklow 2-8 Limerick 1-6.
Round 4: Feb 23: Limerick v Leitrim; Feb 24: Antrim v London; Derry v Wicklow; Wexford v Waterford.
Round 5: Mar 2: Wicklow v Wexford; Mar 3: Waterford v Antrim; Leitrim v London; Limerick v Derry.
Round 6: Mar 16: Antrim v Wicklow; London v Waterford; Wexford v Limerick; Derry v Leitrim.
Round 6: Mar 24: Derry v Wexford; Leitrim v Waterford; Limerick v Antrim; Wicklow v London.
Final: Mar 30