Cork the League specialists as Tipp aim to upset the apple cart
By Jackie Cahill
On the weekend when the Ladies Gaelic Football Association will vote in a new President-elect, focus on the field of play is very much on the quest for prized spots in the Lidl National League Finals, and the battle against relegation.
There’s a full schedule of fixtures down for decision across the four Divisions on Sunday, which also marks International Women’s Day.
Division 1 champions Cork will take a massive step towards another Final appearance if they can overcome Donegal in Ballyshannon.
If Cork claim a fifth straight win to maintain their 100 per cent record, and Mayo drop points against Westmeath, the Leesiders will be through to the April 19 decider.
Galway, last year’s runners-up, would move closer to a potential repeat Final meeting with Cork if they beat Tipperary at Tuam Stadium, while Mayo will keep alive their hopes of a top-two finish if they can get the better of Westmeath in Swinford.
TG4 All-Ireland Champions Dublin, with four points from four games, face a huge task if they’re to book a place in the Final for the second time in three seasons.
The Sky Blues make the trip to Dungarvan to take on Waterford, who are also on four points, and that fixture is also down for a 2pm start.
The stand-out fixture in Division 2 is the meeting of first against second, as pace-setters Kerry entertain Monaghan at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney.
Meath and Armagh, who are in third and fourth, will be hoping to make up some ground on the front-runners when they meet at the Athletic Grounds.
Down and Kildare will be hoping to maintain 100 per cent records in Division 3, and the Leitrim v Limerick tie in Division 4 will be streamed live on the LGFA’s Facebook Page.
Sunday March 8 - all games 2.00 unless stated.
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 1 - Round 5
Donegal v Cork, 1pm, Ballyshannon
For hosts Donegal, the three remaining rounds are all about survival.
Defeat against Westmeath in Round 4 has left Maxi Curran’s charges anchored to the foot of the table, and in need of points to avoid the drop.
If the situation remains the way it is for remainder of the group stages (Westmeath and Donegal on three points), Donegal will go down on the head to head rule.
For holders Cork, the picture is much rosier. Four wins from four outings has them sitting pretty at the head of affairs – and a fifth straight victory would see Ephie Fitzgerald’s side through to the Division 1 Final on April 19, should Mayo drop points in their game against Westmeath.
There are four changes on the Cork team, including three in attack, as Donegal make three switches to the team that lost to Westmeath.
Donegal (v Cork): D McElhinney; A.M. Logue, E Gallagher, D Foley; N Carr, R Rodgers, N Boyle; N McLaughlin, E McGinley; A Boyle Carr, G McLaughlin, K Ward; N Gordon, E McCrory, C Sharkey.
Cork (v Donegal): C Moore; S Kelly, M Ambrose, A Kelleher; L O’Mahony, M Duggan, A Hutchings; M O’Callaghan, B O’Sullivan; O Farmer, Á O’Sullivan, E Kiely; S O’Leary, S Noonan, O Finn.
Galway v Tipperary, Tuam Stadium
Galway were the League and Championship bridesmaids last year but they’ve rallied in 2020, and have three wins from four outings in Division 1.
The Tribeswomen took the scalp of Dublin last time out and that result has them on course for another Final appearance, with Mayo three points behind in third.
Galway can strengthen their grip on a top-two placing with victory over Tipperary at Tuam Stadium, but the visitors will travel in good spirits.
Draws with Dublin and Waterford, and victory over Westmeath, have Tipp in mid-table and on course for top-flight consolidation again.
A win on the road here, and the Premier County could think about squeezing into a Final place, although there would be plenty of work still to do.
There’s a switch between the sticks for Galway, while Tipperary are unchanged.
Galway (v Tipperary): L Diskin; C Crowe, S Lynch, S Molloy; C Cooney, F Cooney, L Coen; S Divilly, A Davoren; A Trill, O Divilly, L Noone; L Hannon, T Leonard, R Leonard.
Tipperary (v Galway): L Fitzpatrick; E Moore, L Spillane, E Cronin; M Curley, B Condon, S Lambert; L Dillon, C Kennedy; O Winston, E Morrissey, R Daly; K Davey, A Moloney, N Hayes.
Mayo v Westmeath, Swinford Amenity Park
Mayo have the chance to keep their hopes of a Final place alive with victory at home to Westmeath.
Mayo will also hope that Tipperary can do them a favour against Galway – and the race could yet boil down to the final round of fixtures, when Galway host Mayo.
Mayo have won two and lost two of their four fixtures this season, and they’ll look to bounce back from an eight-point loss to Cork last time out.
Mayo led that one at half-time, but Cork came from behind with a powerful second half performance to claim the points in Mallow.
Mayo have opted for six changes in personnel as manager Peter Leahy continues to run the rule over his panel, while Westmeath have opted for three changes in personnel after a crucial victory over Donegal last time out.
That win has taken Westmeath above Donegal at the bottom of the table – and it could prove enough to keep them up again after the Lake County flirted with relegation last year.
Mayo (v Westmeath): L Brennan; N O’Malley, N Moran, Ciara McManamon; K Sullivan, É Ronayne, C Whyte; A Duffy, S Cafferky; F Doherty, L Cafferky, M Reilly; E Brennan, R Kearns, M McHale.
Westmeath (v Mayo): L McCormack; R Dillon, K McDermott, L Power; F Coyle, F Claffey, A Roche; J Maher, V Carr; A Dolan, L Archibold, L McCartan; T Dillon, S McCormack, J Draper.
Waterford v Dublin, Fraher Field, Dungarvan
Dublin’s loss to Galway on home soil in Round 4 was a massive dent to their hopes of making the Division 1 Final.
The Sky Blues already had a lot to do to make up ground on the leaders, but they’re even further behind the 8-ball now.
Dublin will need maximum points from their remaining three group fixtures to stand a chance – and even that may not be enough.
Waterford boast an identical results record to Dublin this season, with one win, two defeats and a draw.
some work to do if they’re to preserve top-flight status.
The same goes for Dublin, as both teams head into this one just one point above Westmeath and Donegal, who face a fight for survival.
Dublin have ace forwards Noelle Healy and Lyndsey Davey in their starting line-up for this one, with Niamh Hetherton also starting, as Waterford opt for two changes in personnel after drawing with Tipperary.
Waterford (v Dublin): K Moroney; M Dunford, R Dunphy, R Casey; M Wall, K McGrath, C McGrath; E Murray, C Fennell; R Tobin, M Boylan, A Wall; K Murray, L Devine, K Hogan.
Dublin (v Waterford): C Trant; M Byrne, N Collins, L McGinley; O Nolan, L Caffrey, É Rutledge; J Dunne, M Ní Scanaill; H O’Neill, C Rowe, N Healy; L Davey, S Woods, N Hetherton.
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 2 - Round 5
Armagh v Meath, Athletic Grounds
With the top two, Kerry and Monaghan, also meeting on Sunday, this is a pivotal round of fixtures in Division 2.
Armagh, currently occupying fourth spot, meet Meath, who are just a point ahead of them, at the Athletic Grounds.
A win for either side would see them right in the hunt for a top two finish with two games remaining.
Armagh hammered Wexford last time out, as Meath drew with Clare in a high-scoring encounter.
Clare v Cavan, Doonbeg
Clare gained a precious point in their last outing with Meath, and it’s a result that could keep them up.
It was Clare’s first point of the season, and sees them clear of Wexford, who have yet to get off the mark, at the bottom of the standings.
Clare will hope that result will kickstart their season, while Cavan will look to bounce back from their four-point loss to Monaghan.
Cavan have won two and lost two of their four games – but a third win would propel them back into the promotion reckoning.
Kerry v Monaghan, 12pm, Fitzgerald Stadium
A Kerry win here could see the Kingdom clinch a Final place in Division 2 with two games to spare.
If the hosts overcome Monaghan at Fitzgerald Stadium, and results elsewhere go their way, the team managed by Declan Quill and Darragh Long will have the chance to atone for last year’s Division 2 Final loss to Waterford.
Kerry are odds on to clinch a Final spot nonetheless but they’ll get a stern test from second placed Monaghan, who have three wins from four games coming into this one.
Monaghan’s only defeat so far this season was a Round 3 reverse against Meath, while Kerry have been flawless in their four games to date.
Tyrone v Wexford, St Enda’s, Omagh
Tyrone are one of three teams locked together on six points, alongside Ulster rivals Armagh and Cavan.
The Red Hands won’t be giving up on the chance of reaching a Final just yet – and they will be hot favourites to clinch a third win from five games against struggling Wexford.
The Slaneysiders have lost all four of their games so far, and have been conceding heavily along the way.
Wexford have three games left to save their skins in Division 2 – and they need to start picking up points quickly to have any hope of avoiding the drop.
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 3 - Round 5
Down v Wicklow, Teconnaught
Down are aiming for a fifth win from five outings – and victory over Wicklow would leave the Mourne County in a brilliant position as they aim for a Division 3 Final slot.
Their opponents are Wicklow, who have suffered just one defeat from four games, but who trail the leaders by seven points.
Down are the highest scorers in Division 3 and they were impressive against promotion rivals Roscommon last time out.
Laois v Fermanagh, McCann Park, Portarlington
Laois host Fermanagh in a tie where victory for either side would almost certainly secure Division 3 football again next year.
Laois are on four points, one clear of the visitors, who will be looking to recover from their defeat to Roscommon last weekend.
Laois were put to the sword by high-flying Kildare in Round 4, but they have the chance to atone for that loss on home soil.
Roscommon v Kildare, Dr. Hyde Park
This is a pivotal game in the race for a top-two finish, as third-placed Roscommon host Kildare at Dr. Hyde Park.
The home side have suffered just one defeat this season, against table-toppers Down, but they can move level with Kildare if they can claim a win here.
Kildare know that a win on their travels, however, will put them within touching distance of a Final slot, and preserve their 100 per cent record.
Sligo v Longford, Quigabar, Enniscrone
At the bottom of the table, this is a game that could have huge consequences come the end of the group stages.
Sligo, bottom and pointless, take on Longford, who have just one point from four games.
The winner here would strike a huge psychological blow to their opponents, and perhaps secure third-tier status for 2021.
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 4 - Round 5
Carlow v Antrim, IT Carlow
The Division 4 table is beautifully poised and this game is an intriguing fixture.
Carlow have a real chance of claiming a top-two finish as they’re currently in third place, one point behind Offaly and two adrift of table-toppers Louth.
Antrim were Division 4 Finalists last year but they’ve found the going tough in 2020, and have yet to get off the mark after losing their first three games.
Derry v Louth, Watty Grahams
Derry are firmly anchored to the bottom of the table on scoring difference – and without a single point after four outings.
Louth, in contrast, are top of the pile with three wins from three, and the 2019 TG4 All-Ireland Junior Champions look like a team on a mission.
A fourth win from four would put the Wee County in a strong position and on course for a Division 4 Final place.
Leitrim v Limerick, Avantcard Páirc Seán MacDiarmada, Carrick On Shannon
This fixture will get the Facebook Live treatment on Sunday, with viewers able to access the game at
Leitrim have two wins from three outings, and are firmly in the promotion picture, while Limerick, on four points, could yet make a push for a top-two finish.
Leitrim have a game less played than Sunday’s visitors, and a win for the hosts would leave Limerick with a mountain to climb.