For the first time in three weeks we have a full weekend of both NFL and NHL fixtures.
We have some huge matches to look forward to this weekend in both codes.
Dublin v Mayo in the football and Tipperary v Kilkenny in the hurling, are the stand-out fixtures for me. We have seen some classics down through the years involving these four counties.
This Saturday evening, Dublin welcome the in-form Mayo to Croker. This match will be shown live on eir Sport 1.
While in the small ball, Kilkenny travel across to Semple Stadium to renew their old rivalry with Tipperary. This game will be shown live on TG4 on Sunday.
NFL Division 1 – Dublin v Mayo (Throw-in @ 7pm, live on eir Sport 1, on 23/02):
If Dublin want to retain their National League crown, they quite simply have to win this game. After defeats to Monaghan and Kerry in their opening games, they cannot afford another slip up.
This will be another massive test for Jim Gavin’s men as Mayo come to the Capital on Saturday evening with a 100% record.
Given their rivalry over the past decade, both of these teams would love to get one over on each other this weekend. Mayo would take great satisfaction in ending Dublin’s chances of winning another National League title. While likewise the Dubs, will be keen on adding to their dominance over their old foes in recent years, by ending Mayo’s unbeaten league run.
Despite their indifferent form, Jim Gavin certainly won’t be hitting the panic button just yet. However, he will be eager to get a win this Saturday, because if they don’t, it will be the first time in his six years in charge that they won’t have reached the league final.
In a year where the Dubs are going for the historic ‘Five in a Row’, I reckon Jim Gavin would be hoping things would run as smoothly as possible during the National League, but this has not materialised thus far.
The Dubs are known for coping very well without key players, due to the strength of their panel. In the last number of years, star players like Diarmuid Connolly and Jack McCaffrey have been unavailable, but they still couldn’t be stopped.
However, one player that I feel the Dubs are missing this year is Ciarán Kilkenny. He has not appeared yet, and is a vital cog in the wheel at number 11. If he could return on Saturday evening he would be a massive boost.
Mayo have been very impressive thus far. They are three from three and playing some great football, back under the stewardship of James Horan. Nobody has impressed me more this term than newcomer Fionn McDonagh. He is an old-style wing half forward who loves to run at teams and he has shown he can contribute to the scoreboard also.
Great finish by Fionn McDonagh for Mayo’s second goal pic.twitter.com/S54JukcPUB
— The GAA (@officialgaa) February 3, 2019
I know it is hard to back against a team as good as Dublin but Mayo do look like a decent value bet to finally get their first win over the Dubs since 2012 @ 10/3. The safer option would be to go with Mayo with a five-point head start as at the very least I think Mayo can make this a close game.
Verdict: Mayo +5 (Handicap Betting) @ 8/11
NHL Division 1A – Tipperary v Kilkenny (Throw-in @ 2pm. Live on TG4, on 24/02):
Tipperary and Kilkenny enter Sunday’s game on the back of identical results.
They both won their first game and showed great promise in doing so. However, since then they have both faltered somewhat, and lost their last two games.
This makes this encounter very interesting indeed, as both teams will see this as a must-win, if they have any designs on winning a league title this year.
Kilkenny who are still without their Ballyhale contingent, fell to a nine-point defeat to All-Ireland Champions Limerick last time out. Although Limerick recorded a comprehensive victory in the end, Brian Cody can once again take positives from defeat.
The first half of that game was nip and tuck with the under-strength Cats more than holding their own. However, the game turned on its head just before half-time when Limerick hit them with two quick-fire goals.
This effectively ended the game as a contest, but typical Kilkenny, they kept going until the very end and Cody will be pleased by that. Kilkenny welcomed back Walter Walsh last Sunday which is another positive for them.
One aspect of last Sunday’s game between Kilkenny and Limerick that Tipp will also be looking to exploit, is Kilkenny’s frailties in the full-back line. Aaron Gillane and co absolutely cleaned them out in there, and Gillane himself weighed in with nine points.
Liam Sheedy will be hoping that his potent full-forward line led by captain Seamus Callanan can make hay on Sunday.
I feel that playing at home in Thurles is a big advantage to Tipperary and I fancy them to get back to winning ways this Sunday.
Verdict: Tipperary @ 1/2
Cork v Meath Verdict: Meath @ 4/6
Armagh v Tipperary Verdict: Armagh @ 1/2
Donegal v Fermanagh Verdict: Donegal -3 (Handicap Betting) @ 5/6
Kildare v Clare Verdict: Clare +3 (Handicap Betting) @ Evens
Limerick v Leitrim Verdict: Leitrim @ 1/2
Antrim v London Verdict: Antrim -4 (Handicap Betting) @ 8/11
Wexford v Waterford Verdict: Wexford @ 1/3
Derry v Wicklow Verdict: Derry -7 (Handicap Betting) @ 10/11