The National Football and Hurling League seasons begin on Saturday.
Round 1 of the National Football and Hurling Leagues throws up some fascinating fixtures. All Ireland Football Champions Dublin will make the trip up to Clones to take on Monaghan, while All Ireland Hurling Champions Limerick travel east to take on Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford at Innovate Wexford Park. Coverage of both of these games will be shown this Sunday 27th January on TG4.
NFL Division 1 – Monaghan v Dublin (Throw-in @ 2pm live on TG4):
The last two league meetings between these sides have been crackers. Last year saw the Farney men pull off a shock one-point victory over the Dubs in Croker, courtesy of a last-minute winner from Fintan Kelly. In the previous year in Clones, Dublin overturned a six-point deficit to win by three, despite Jack McCarron scoring 1-09. Jack McCaffrey came off the bench to score the decisive late goal that day.
Fintan Kelly with the winning point for Monaghan, and what a score it is! pic.twitter.com/UVLZOVSSPw
— The GAA (@officialgaa) March 25, 2018
Dublin will be keen to avenge last year’s defeat in Croke Park. The game itself was a dead rubber, but I still feel that under Jim Gavin, losing any game doesn’t sit well with the Dubs. The All Ireland Champions have essentially fielded a third-string team for the O’Byrne Cup and still made the final. We can expect to see some of the big names back on Sunday.
Monaghan have also been experimenting, with a mix of youth and experience playing in the McKenna Cup. I expect Malachy O’Rourke to give chances to a few young players. The likes of Barry Kerr, Barry McGinn and Stephen O’Hanlon have seen plenty of game time in the McKenna Cup so I expect these three to play some part on Sunday.
In the last number of years O’Rourke has been managing the game time of All Star forward Conor McManus. If McManus doesn’t start, I think Monaghan will really struggle for scores.
“Footballer of the Year” Brian Fenton, Ciaran Kilkenny and James McCarthy will miss this game. Fenton and Kilkenny have extended their trip abroad following the Dubs’ team holiday, while McCarthy is ruled out with a leg injury.
Even with this news, I still think that the Dubs will win this game. With the expected return of some of their established stars, along with some fringe players trying to impress, I feel they will have too much quality for the Farney men.
Verdict: Dublin @ 4/11
NHL Division 1A – Wexford v Limerick (Throw-in @ 2pm. Deferred coverage on TG4 from 3:40pm):
This is a tricky opener for the All Ireland Champions.
As favourites to be relegated from Division 1A, Wexford will know it is imperative for them to get off to a good start, especially at home.
Even though this is only the first round of the league, this feels like a game of great importance for both sides. With this division being so competitive, a win for either team should set them up nicely for the rest of the league. On the flip side, a defeat would see either team immediately under pressure.
It will be a big indication of Limerick’s hunger if they can follow up last year’s success with a positive league campaign. They have an excellent young team and if they can match the desire they showed in 2018, they could be a real force for years to come.
The middle-third battle for this game should be intriguing. Limerick will be hoping that captain and centre half-back Declan Hannon and the talented Cian Lynch can carry on their fine form from last year, whilst Wexford will be looking to joint-captains Matthew O’Hanlon and Lee Chin to stamp their authority on this game.
I fancy Limerick to shade this one. Wexford will throw everything at them, but I think John Kiely’s charges will have enough quality to get over the line.
Verdict: Limerick @ 8/15
Mayo v Roscommon Verdict: Mayo @ 1/3
Kerry v Tyrone Verdict: Tyrone @ 11/10
Galway v Cavan Verdict: Galway @ 2/5
Clare v Donegal Verdict: Donegal @ 4/11
Fermanagh v Cork Verdict: Draw @ 15/2
Kildare v Armagh Verdict: Armagh @ 5/4
Meath v Tipperary Verdict: Meath @ 8/13
Down v Laois Verdict: Down @ 4/6
Carlow v Sligo Verdict: Carlow @ 4/5
Louth v Longford Verdict: Louth @ 7/5
Offaly v Westmeath Verdict: Westmeath @ 8/13
Waterford v Wicklow Verdict: Waterford @ 6/4
Antrim v Derry Verdict: Derry @ 2/7
Leitrim v Wexford Verdict: Wexford @ 11/8
London v Limerick Verdict: Limerick @2/5
Tipperary v Clare Verdict: Tipperary @ 4/6
Kilkenny v Cork Verdict: Kilkenny @ 6/5
Dublin v Carlow Verdict: Dublin
Galway v Laois Verdict: Galway
Waterford v Offaly Verdict: Waterford