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Calling the shots

 

NFL DIVISION ONE FINAL

KERRY v MAYO

(Sunday, Croke Park, 4pm)

Another chance for Kerry and Mayo to get a look at each other and, in truth, the rest of the neutrals around the country will be glad to get a look at a final without Dublin there, albeit only a league decider, the first time that has happened since Jim Gavin took over as manager.

As much as these two aspire to take Dublin’s crown this year, encounters between the two have been fierce over the last half-decade. Going back to that All-Ireland semi-final replay in Limerick, Kerry and Mayo have been going at things with a fury.

Mayo’s win after a replay in the All-Ireland semi-final in 2017 was expected and it was perhaps the moment when the Kerry footballing public began feeling unconvinced about manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice, such was their lack of speed and youth.

With Peter Keane in as the new manager and with all his experience of the youth system in Kerry, it has been no surprise that he has given youth its chance, but their positive results have been more impressive than surprising. They have Sean O’Shea putting his hand up as a candidate for player of the league, while David Clifford made his return to action against Roscommon last weekend.

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Mayo have gone back to James Horan to restore them to former glories. They produced a brilliant performance to snatch a win over Kerry, played brilliantly in Omagh to defeat Tyrone while their league opener was a character building victory over Roscommon, before they upset Kerry’s 100% record in round six of the league.

Horan too has been giving youth its opportunity and the Mayo youngsters have responded positively.

Mayo’s recent league form — that blip in rounds four and five excepted — cannot be ignored here.

VERDICT: Mayo

NFL DIVISION TWO FINAL

DONEGAL v MEATH

(Today, Croke Park, 5pm)

Playing their football in league Division Two this spring will have done no harm to Declan Bonner’s ambitions.

After all, Donegal won the Ulster title last summer after relegation, and he has a number of young players who are rapping at the door to replace certain elements of the Donegal team who are ageing.

In recent weeks, the return of Frank McGlynn, Leo McLoone, Michael Murphy and Neil McGee to the dressing room will have sharpened minds as they look ahead to the summer and an Ulster Championship opener against Fermanagh.

It will not sit easy with Donegal and Bonner that Rory Gallagher’s men came to Letterkenny and won that league encounter, though Donegal will console themselves that they were suffering from multiple injuries on the day.

Most importantly, Michael Murphy is now fully back and should play the full game here as he seeks to get to the pace required for Championship. The club-only month of April will also bring on his match sharpness.

Meath were counted by Bonner as the best team that they had faced in Division Two, although they needed a late goal to get the win.

There can be no denying the delight that Meath football people have taken out of getting back up to Division One and there would be significant hope that they can be the side to mount a challenge in Leinster. Andy McEntee is a shrewd manager, but Donegal just may have the depth of quality to swing this.

VERDICT: Donegal

NFL DIVISION FOUR FINAL

DERRY v LEITRIM

(Today, Croke Park, 3pm)

A prediction for this game.

Knowing that Mickey Harte will be keeping a tight eye, Derry will play as orthodox a game as possible here. Given that Leitrim are not particularly defensive minded and were the third-highest scoring team across all four divisions — Derry were highest — this should make for an entertaining evening in Croke Park.

There’s no way you can mention the rare visit to Croke Park for Leitrim without sounding patronising, but there will be a lot of goodwill for them and their manager Terry Hyland, who in pulling Cavan into respectability from a relegation-threatened Division Three outfit, never got the credit he deserved. Derry have the players in a straight shoot-out to edge home.

VERDICT: Derry

HOGAN CUP SEMI-FINAL

ST MICHEAL’S ENNISKILLEN v

ST COLMAN’S CLAREMORRIS

(Today, Pearse Park,

Longford, 1.30pm)

St Colman’s have got here the hard way, in beating last year’s champions Rice College in the Connacht semi-final, and then defeating St Gerard’s College, Castlebar in the final on March 15 by a single point, 0-15 to 1-11.

The same can be said of St Michael’s, however, who accounted for a good St Patrick’s Maghera side on the way to beating Omagh CBS in the MacRory Cup final.

VERDICT: St Micheal’s

PAUL McGIRR CUP FINAL

ST COLMAN’S NEWRY v

ST MARY’S KNOCKBEG

(Today, Kinnegad, 2pm)

AN extra-time win over St Gerard’s of Castlebar was required by St Colman’s to reach this final.

They cannot underestimate their Carlow opponents, who took out Kerry side Killorglin in their semi-final, but that extra-time win could stand them in good stead. 

VERDICT: St Colman’s


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