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Big Preview: Allianz Football League Round 1

A game-by-game rundown with previews and predictions of the first round of the Allianz Football League.

Saturday 26th January

Allianz FL Division 1 Round 1

Mayo v Roscommon, MacHale Park, 7pm – eir sport 2

Fresh off the back of their FBD League triumph, many will watch on with interest to see what Anthony Cunningham can bring to the Rossies’ set up for 2019. Having been promoted to the top tier of the league last season, one would imagine that retaining that status with a mid-table finish would count as a successful campaign. Mayo, for many, despite their poorest championship season in some time last year, retain their status as the most likely David character to topple Goliath come September.

But their league record is not particularly impressive, and they did well to remain in the top flight last season. An ever-popular Connacht clash that will bring in a large crowd to Castlebar, regardless of the recent ticket price-hike.

Verdict: Roscommon

Allianz FL Division 3 Round 1

Down v Laois, Pairc Esler, 7pm

One team relegated, another promoted. The Moore men will fancy their chances of claiming an away win, but Down have been on a southward spiral for some time and it’s difficult to see them relinquishing anything too easily for their first home game of 2019. The addition of county legend Benny Coulter to Paddy Tally’s backroom team is a boost, and the Mourne county won’t be short of motivation.

Verdict: Down

Allianz FL Division 4 Round 1

Waterford v Wicklow, Fraher Field, 7pm

An important game for both, given that at this point in time they are around the same level. Home advantage is a positive for Waterford, who claimed a famous victory over Wexford in the qualifiers last year. But Wicklow will be keen to make amends for a poor league last year and will be looking to start 2019 with a bang.

Verdict: Wicklow

Sunday 27th January

Allianz FL Division 1 Round 1

Kerry v Tyrone, Fitzgerald Stadium, 2pm

The headline act will bring in a big crowd to Killarney this Sunday. Kerry had a poor league last year, which is something they will be looking to rectify, winning three out of their seven games. Tyrone, coming to within six points of Dublin in the big finale, may well find their focus is on the horizon, and will not relish the thoughts of a long trip down south into the lion’s den. Kerry will be without the Dr. Croke’s men, and the time has come for a new generation to step up to the plate, with Tim Keane the obvious man to aid that process given his experience at minor level.

Tyrone have made their intentions clear following on from their Dr. McKenna Cup triumph at the weekend, and have their own Clifford-esque youthful trick up their sleeve in the form of young Darragh Canavan. A tricky one to call, the men from the Red Hand may just sneak two points here.

Verdict: Tyrone

Monaghan v Dublin, Clones, 2pm – TG4

Dublin’s only loss came at the hands of the Farney Army in last years’ league campaign. A repeat would be monumental for Monaghan, and welcoming the Dubs to Clones will make them feel confident of causing another upset. Dublin, however, will have other ideas in mind and will want to put a statement down to kick-off the league.

Verdict: Dublin

Galway v Cavan, Pearse Stadium, 2.30pm

Galway stole the show in last year’s league campaign, going unbeaten, only losing to Dublin in the Division 1 final. Cavan, promoted from Division 2, face an uphill task and meeting this physical Galway side in Pearse Stadium is an extremely tough entry into the top tier. Mullinalaghta’s Mickey Graham is the new Cavan boss, but another David versus Goliath type miracle may just be beyond this Cavan side.

Verdict: Galway

READ | The 2019 Gaelic Football Power Rankings

Allianz FL Division 2 Round 1

Clare v Donegal, Cusack Park, 2pm

Clare are a constantly improving force and welcome Donegal, relegated from Division 1 in 2018, all the way down to Cusack Park on Sunday. The Ennis ground is a notoriously difficult place to play, which Clare will hope might balance the tie their way enough to leave with a victory. Donegal narrowly lost out to Armagh in the McKenna Cup warm-ups, which on the basis of the final looks fondly upon the Ulster side, who are capable of taking a win back to Ballybofey.

Verdict: Donegal

Fermanagh v Cork, Brewster Park, 2pm

The Ernesiders are up from Division 3 and welcome Cork to Brewster Park, in what’s sure to be a difficult match up for the Rebels. With the quality of Seamus Quigley to boast, Fermanagh will fancy themselves to kick-off life in Division 2 with a win. Cork football has been under the microscope for all the wrong reasons, and Fermanagh could be in prime position to punish Ronan McCarthy’s side.

Verdict: Fermanagh

Kildare v Armagh, Newbridge, 2pm

This is teed up to be a fantastic match in Newbridge on Sunday. Kildare were abysmal in the league last year, but had a terrific turnaround in the summer, knocking off Mayo along the way in the qualifiers. Armagh won Division 3 in decent fashion and acquitted themselves well in last weekend’s McKenna Cup final. Kieran McGeeney’s side are finally beginning to show spurts of progress and a winning start to Division 2 is crucial to a good league.

Verdict: Armagh

Meath v Tipperary, Pairc Tailteann, 2pm

Two sides who have experienced opposing trends in recent years and two sides who finished in the middle of the Division 2 pack last year. Meath are far from the threat of old, while Tipperary have established themselves as a very decent contender capable of mixing it with most teams. 2018 was a slightly down year for Tipperary however, and Meath – as unpredictable as they can be – should enjoy home advantage to get their league off to the right start. It should be a great game with plenty of scoring.

Verdict: Meath

Allianz FL Division 3 Round 1

Carlow v Sligo, Netwatch Cullen Park, 2pm

Carlow’s rising captured the hearts of many during 2018 and host Sligo in their first outing in Division 3. Sligo might not uproot many trees in Connacht, but may have their eyes set on an improvement on last year’s 5th place finish in this division. They’ll make it very tough for the Barrowsiders.

Verdict: Sligo

Offaly v Westmeath, O’Connor Park, 2pm

Managerial merry-go-rounds haven’t helped Offaly, who host a Westmeath side that have had their moments over the years. The latter will hope to establish Division 3 supremacy early on and should have the better of the Faithful county, albeit in a close one.

Verdict: Westmeath

Louth v Longford, Drogheda, 2.30pm

Louth sank rather than swam in Division 2 last year and failed to register a win in championship action. Longford bounced through the winter after Mullinalaghta won the Leinster football title, and that sort of momentum should continue to carry through into the league.

Verdict: Longford

Allianz FL Division 4 Round 1

Leitrim v Wexford, Pairc Sean MacDiarmada, 2pm

Wexford were relegated from the division above and visit Leitrim, who had a fantastic championship win against Louth in 2018. Two counties that are scant in football resources, it’s close to a toss up as to who can get the better of who here, but home advantage should help Leitrim over the line in a close one.

Verdict: Leitrim

London v Limerick, McGovern Park, 2pm

Unfortunately, Limerick’s football fortunes play second fiddle to that of the hurlers. They gained a decent hurler though, in Na Piarsaigh’s Ronan Lynch, and he adds a bit of x-factor to an otherwise depleted unit. They should have more than enough for London and get off to 2019 with a win under their belts.

Verdict: Limerick

Antrim v Derry, Corrigan Park, 2pm

Derry will be seeking to bounce straight back after an abysmal 2018, a once fearsome football unit landed in the basement of the football league. Despite home advantage, Antrim are unlikely to be able to muster enough of a challenge to halt them, despite a very decent campaign in 2018 with four wins.

Verdict: Derry

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