Lidl NFL Division 1 Previews - Sunday, April 3rd
Galway v Cork
Tuam Stadium, 2pm
THIS is the Lidl National Football League Division 1 match that is the most anticipated this weekend as these two heavyweights go toe to toe in a huge game.
Galway have flattered to deceive this year as they looked great in the early rounds before losing out by the minimum to Mayo in a game that they controlled. That Mayo match was a huge moment in their season as they lost their captain and star forward, Tracey Leonard, to a long-term injury.
That loss to Mayo was followed by another to Kerry but they then travelled to Armagh and came away with a huge win. The loss of Leonard has meant that others have had to step up and none have done so more than her Corofin club mate, Roisin Leonard, who was also outstanding in the O’Connor Cup with UL.
Cork are in very unfamiliar territory as the defending champions are on the verge of being knocked out in the group stages. Their disastrous start to the season saw losses to Mayo, Kerry and Dublin in their opening four fixtures.
Cprk have since claimed two victories but they still need two wins from their remaining two fixtures and hope that results elsewhere go their way.
Ephie Fitzgerald has been unable to call on several of Cork’s retired heroes and there are still question marks over the future of legendary forward Valerie Mulcahy who is yet to play in 2016. However, any team that can call on stars like Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley, Bríd Stack, Deirdre O’Reilly, Ciara O’Sullivan and Marie Ambrose can simply not be written off.
The bottom line is that Cork must win and when this has been the case in the past they have delivered. However, Galway have been a team that have always put it up to the Rebellettes so they will prove a very tough nut to crack in Tuam Stadium.
Armagh v Dublin
Athletic Grounds, 12pm
Dublin have already secured their passage through to the semi-final stages of the Lidl National Football League but there will not be any let up as they are set to meet a side that could well be their semi-final opponents when they travel to Armagh.
Armagh are not yet assured of their place in the semi-finals so a win this weekend will be important for Ronan Clarke’s charges. Aimee Mackin has returned to full fitness in what is a significant boost but to date their issues have been in defence where they must tighten up against an excellent Dublin attacking unit.
The strength in depth of the Dublin panel is the envy of every other county and it ensures that there will be no complacency as competition for places will see players performing to the best of their abilities. Noelle Healy has been fantastic since moving to the middle of the field as Lyndsey Davey has returned to her favoured position in the half forward line. Injury to Sinead Goldrick means she may not line out this weekend but Dublin will be able to call on high calibre replacements.
Monaghan v Kerry
Monaghan still retain a slim chance of reaching the knock-out stages of Division 1 but those chances hinge on securing a victory this weekend as they host the Kingdom.
It has been a poor campaign to date for Paula Cunningham’s Monaghan team but that was to be expected as the team are very much in transition with a raft of retirements. However, despite the loss of so many players there is still a huge amount of talent available with star players like Sharon Courtney, Grainne McNally, Therese Scott, Ellen McCarron and the McAnespie sisters still in the starting 15. Now is the time for Monaghan to rediscover their form.
Kerry have been an enigma this year as they have mixed the great (defeating great rivals Cork) with the not-so-great (a hammering at the hands of Dublin). Kerry’s great strength has been at home where they have been perfect but this weekend they will need to record their first away win if they hope to reach the semi-finals.
Tyrone v Mayo
Mayo are already through to the semi-finals and travel to Killyclogher with the luxury of being able to experiment with their line up and give fringe players a chance to impress. It is all too different for Tyrone who sit bottom of the table and needing a win to give themselves a chance of staying up.
Tyrone have had some chastening experiences throughout their campaign to date as they have lost all of their games and have a score difference of -108. They have struggled to get anything going to date which is understandable for a team that has been totally overhauled this year as they have lost many of the players that have backboned their side since their All Ireland Final appearance in 2010. Tyrone have since returned to the intermediate grade and are planning for that championship season this summer.
Mayo have been the surprise package this season as they have swept through all comers to maintain a 100 per cent start to the season despite having played teams like Dublin, Cork and Galway. Expect some changes to the Westerners line up but it will be business as usual.