GAA National Football Leagues: Round 3

Seán O'Shea kicks a brilliant point from a sideline ball in the league encounter with Tyrone.

Éanna Atkinson looks forward to Week 3 of the Allianz National Football Leagues

The National Football League season continues on Saturday.  

Round 2 threw up some surprise results including four draws in the National Football Leagues. With the hurlers getting a fortnight break, this week we put all our attention on the big ball.

This Saturday evening, Dublin will be hoping to make it back-to-back victories when they travel down to Tralee to take on Kerry. This game will be shown live on RTÉ2 at 7pm. On Sunday, Galway travel up to Inniskeen to take on Monaghan. This game will be shown live on TG4 at 2pm.

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NFL Division 1 – Kerry v Dublin (Throw-in @ 7pm, live on RTÉ2, on 09/02)

After Dublin’s comprehensive victory over Galway last weekend in Croke Park, they now seem to be getting into their stride.

James McCarthy and Jack McCaffrey got their first minutes in the National League, so the Dubs are slowly getting back to full strength. Cormac Costello was brilliant last Saturday night, kicking six points. He will be hoping he can finally nail down a starting place this year in that star-studded forward line. He will have a job on his hands however, considering “Footballer of the Year Nominee” Ciarán Kilkenny has still to come back into that team.

Kerry have beaten two Ulster teams in their first two games but with the Dubs coming to town, this is without doubt their biggest test so far.

Seán O’Shea has been in fantastic form for the Kingdom. Of the 27 points that Kerry have kicked so far, O’Shea has remarkably accounted for 18 of them. Given his form, I have no doubt he will very much be on Jim Gavin’s radar and the young Kenmare sharp-shooter should be in for a more difficult night this Saturday. He is exceptional from placed balls but I don’t expect him to score nine frees like he did against Cavan.

Kerry are obviously heavily reliant on O’Shea up front at the moment. This is down to the fact that David Clifford and James O’Donoghue are both injured and missing from their full forward line. Whenever they get these two back, they have arguably the best full forward line in the country, with Clifford and O’Donoghue in the the two corners and Paul Geaney at number 14. But getting these three on the field at the same time seems to be a real issue for the Kingdom.

Given Kerry’s lack of firepower, I can see the Dublin backs handling them quite well.

Against Galway, their hard work out the field forced the Tribesmen to kick long and early with Dublin’s defenders attacking the ball at pace impressively. Jonny Cooper, Eric Lowndes and Michael Fitzsimons were particularly good at beating their men to the ball on the night.

I expect a good crowd to turn out for this fascinating fixture and that should give the Kerry players a good lift. However, I feel that the Dubs can pull away from them in the final quarter and cover the -2 Handicap.

Verdict: Dublin -2 (Handicap) @ 10/11

NFL Division 1 – Monaghan v Galway (Throw-in @ 2pm, live on TG4, on 10/02)

After Monaghan’s heroics in Round 1 against the Dubs, they didn’t follow this up in Round 2 against Roscommon. They will be disappointed with the defeat to the Rossies, but to be fair, Dr. Hyde Park is never an easy place to go.

Both of these sides have registered one win each, having won their opener and then losing in Round 2. This really emphasises the importance of this game for both teams. Whoever comes out on top will be looking up the table, leaving the losers in real danger of facing the drop to Division 2.

The Farney County had put themselves in a great position after their shock win over the All Ireland Champions. However, their defeat last weekend, has to an extent, undone their hard work. This is now a must-win game at home to Galway. I feel that the fact that the match is in Inniskeen is a big advantage to Monaghan.

This will be an unfamiliar pitch for the Tribesmen, and Monaghan registered a very impressive victory over Kerry at this venue in last years league campaign. They will be without the suspended Stephen O’Hanlon after he was sent off in the dying minutes against Roscommon. He has only been used from the bench so far, so Monaghan should have enough quality without him.

Galway were poor against Dublin in Croker. They were in the game at half-time but their second half performance was very tame. As I said in last week’s preview they are really missing Damien Comer as their focal point in the full forward line, as I think he would be a very effective option for the offensive mark.

I think Monaghan are in a better place at the moment than Galway, even with their below par performance last Sunday. So like Dublin, I think they can cover the -2 Handicap and get back to winning ways.

Verdict: Monaghan -2 (Handicap) @ 11/10

NFL

Division 1

Mayo v Cavan Verdict: Mayo -3 (Handicap) @ 8/11
Roscommon v Tyrone Verdict: Roscommon +3 (Handicap) @ 4/7

Division 2

Fermanagh v Kildare Verdict: Kildare @ 8/15 
Clare v Cork Verdict: Clare @ 5/6
Meath v Armagh Verdict: Armagh + 3 (Handicap) @ 4/9 
Tipperary v Donegal Verdict: Donegal -2 (Handicap) @ 5/6

Division 3

Down v Westmeath Verdict: Down @ 8/11
Carlow v Longford Verdict: Carlow @ 8/13
Offaly v Louth Verdict: Offaly @ 4/6
Laois v Sligo Verdict: Laois @ 1/3

Division 4

Leitrim v Antrim Verdict: Leitrim @ 1/2
London v Wexford Verdict: Wexford @ 2/7
Waterford v Derry Verdict: Waterford +8 (Handicap) @ 1/2
Wicklow v Limerick Verdict: Draw @ 7/1

 



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