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Monaghan and Cavan set for crucial Division Two clash

Monaghan's Cora Courtney is looking forward to the derby clash with Cavan

Lidl National Football League Division Two: Monaghan v Cavan (tomorrow, Eire Og, Smithborough, 12noon)

MONAGHAN and Cavan was due to be the curtain-raiser before the Farney men’s meeting with Mayo, but it has now been switched to Smithborough.

Since Cavan’s rise to the senior championship ranks following their All-Ireland intermediate win in 2013 they sides have met five times in the championship including the 2016 Ulster final and a 2018 All-Ireland senior relegation play-off. Monaghan have won all five games and last time the gap was six points, 2-15 to 0-15.

They have not, however, met in a league game until now. Cavan had chances to join Monaghan in Division One in recent years but missed out on promotion and following Monaghan’s relegation from the league’s top tier last year the meeting of the neighbours has finally presented itself.

It really will be an intriguing battle. They both have two wins from three so far in the league, are joint second along with Tyrone and Meath on six points behind as yet unbeaten league leaders Kerry. Cavan have a slightly better scoring difference of six. Monaghan have struggled in recent years with a significant player turnover and a number of different managers which has culminated in their relegation from Division One after two and a half decades and saw them in a dogfight to save their senior championship status, which they duly did.

Under manager Ciaran Murphy this year they have welcomed back a number of players including Ellen McCarron, who missed the defeat to Meath two weeks’ ago through injury and Laura McEnaney while Grainne McNally and Therese Scott are also back in the Monaghan colours. Those players, along with the McAnespie - Aoife, Ciara and Eimear and Courtney sisters – captain Cora and Rosemary – and the exciting young talent in Aisling McAnespie, Garland twins Amy and Lauren, Maeve Monaghan, Hannah Sherlock, Jayne Drury and Jennifer Duffy who have come through the underage ranks, have given Monaghan and new lease of life and they are firmly in the mix of the title hunt.

Cavan have been on a more upward trend reaching two division two finals, although with the way the All-Ireland senior championship was organised in recent years they have too had to battle like Monaghan to save their senior status and that was after taking Ulster champions Donegal to extra-time in last year’s provincial semi-final. 

Cavan come into this game with back-to-back wins over Armagh and Wexford putting their opening day defeat to Kerry firmly behind them and captain Neasa Byrd hopes the momentum will take them past Monaghan for a historic first win.

“We are really looking forward to it. It’s a massive game, so much depends on it. We are level on points in the table but just ahead on goal difference and the win will put either team in a very good position. It’s massive for both teams,” said the Crosserlough player.

“Our paths might not have crossed that much but when we do meet it is a big deal. Like any sport, you want to beat your neighbours. At underage with Cavan I was lucky that my group was quite successful and I have enjoyed wins over Monaghan but the older girls have not had that, they have always been beaten by the Monaghan teams they have come up against.”

Byrd, who turned 23 just last week, recalls playing Monaghan in the Ulster final and seeing what it takes to be a top team.

“They are an excellent team. 2016 was my first year playing senior football for Cavan and we reached the Ulster final against Monaghan that year and I think we lost by five or six points and I remember thinking that this is where we have to get to. I picked up Cora Courtney to mark and I was amazed by her. I was only 18 at the time and knew I had a lot to do to be as good as her,” she said.

“But I think in the last four years Cavan have come a long way. We took Donegal, the Ulster champions to extra-time in the Ulster semi-final last year, and we had our chances to win that.

“Monaghan have so much experience having played in Division One but I think it’s time for Cavan to turn around these results and win one.”

Monaghan captain Cora Courtney is expecting another physical battle with Cavan tomorrow and with the stakes so high every inch that can be gained will be crucial.

"It’s a first league meeting so it will be interesting," said Courtney. "Cavan were close to getting out of Division Two but we have landed ourselves in it and we are two teams among many looking to get out of it and a win on Sunday is vital for both teams in pursuit of that. If either team lose another match you could say their chance is gone to get to a league final."

Courtney said Meath really asked questions of them and they hope to put into practice what they learned from that defeat.

"We knew what to expect from Meath in terms of football but we couldn’t deal with their physicality. The weather was bad for both teams so that is not an excuse but they dealt with it better.

"A defeat keeps your feet on the ground. We had two good wins before that but when it came to Meath it was a step up in physicality. They were much bigger and stronger and we know Cavan are similar in terms of that so we have looked to how we can deal with teams like that and adapt to that."

Lidl National Football League Division One: Westmeath v Donegal (tomorrow, St Loman’s Park, Mullingar, 2pm)

DONEGAL can take a huge step to ensure their top tier league status with victory over struggling Westmeath in Mullingar tomorrow.

The Ulster side is just two places above winless Westmeath with one win from their three games so far and level on points with Waterford. With three games remaining after this weekend’s rounds just one more win would all but guarantee yet another year in Division One.

Westmeath have lost to Cork, Galway and just last weekend to Tipperary, losing by two points. Before that game they shipped a heavy at the hands of Galway but put in a much improved performance with Tipp struggling to see off their Connacht opposition. They will rue some poor shooting in the first half with the wind advantage but having not conceded any goals, compared to five in the game before, and they displayed the stubbornness that Donegal defender Emer Gallagher is only too wary of.

“I always think that Westmeath are a team you fear. They haven’t had any wins yet and in a much more difficult situation than us but we need the win to make sure we are safe.

“They are a fantastic team, have a great unity and understanding of one another and a great work-rate. They are a team you cannot take for granted as on their day if things go well for them and not for us they can win,” said Gallagher.

It has been a mixed start to 2020 for Maxi Curran’s charges but perhaps not all that surprising given the turnover in personnel and new faces having to learn fast against some of the best ladies footballers in the country.

Donegal started off with defeat to Mayo but snatched a late victory over Waterford in round two before losing to Galway in Letterkenny two weeks’ ago in a game they certainly was there for the taking. They started strong in the first half but let Galway back into it to level matters at the break with six unanswered points and going into the final quarter the sides were still level only for yet another strong finish from last year’s beaten league and All-Ireland finalists.

“We were disappointed not to be in the lead at half-time against Galway. We felt we were in control in the first half, had a lot of possession but we let them back in and the team they are they will take their chances and they were level at the break with us.

“Even with 15 minutes to go we were still in it but they finished strong again. We have a lot of young players still learning and adapting to senior football and what they will gain from that, from playing against players like Roisin and Tracey Leonard is massive and you learn very fast,” surmised Gallagher.

“Our young players are progressing game to game and it’s very positive as we work towards the championship. I think the league is about that for a lot of teams. Most important is staying in division one because that is where you learn and develop and then it is about finding new players, giving them the experience of playing against the top teams so that when it comes to the championship they are ready,” she added.

Division Two: Kerry v Tyrone (Tomorrow, Fitzgerald Stadium, 11am)

IT’S an early start for Tyrone’s ladies footballers who face Kerry in Killarney tomorrow morning hoping to build on recent results and inflict a first defeat on league leaders Kerry.

This is one of two double headers arranged between the LGFA and GAA for this weekend with Kerry’s men playing their Allianz Division One game with Meath afterwards.

Gerry Moane’s side have put their opening day defeat to Meath firmly behind them with impressive victories over Armagh and Clare to put them right in contention for a top two finish. With the league entering its second half now there will be a lot of jostling for positions in the coming weeks and with Cavan and Monaghan, who are also two of the four teams in a share of second place in the table, the points on offer are crucial.

Both Armagh and Cavan, although they lost to Kerry, tested the Kingdom who did enough to hang on in the end and Tyrone will certainly have noted that. 

Kerry have an uncanny ability to score goals and in their three games so far have hit the back of the net 11 times so Tyrone, if they are to plot their opponent’s downfall, will need to be on top of their defensive game. They know how dangerous sharpshooter Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh is but Kerry also have Niamh Ni Chonchuir, Hannah O’Donoghue and Emma Dineen to grab the scores as well.

This game could be a shootout between the forwards. Niamh O’Neill has been in outstanding form for Tyrone so far this season and equally she will be on Kerry’s radar.  Niamh Hughes has been an excellent playmaker for her side while Siobhan Sherrin, Emma Brennan and Caitlin Kelly as well as Chloe McCaffrey are all more than capable of taking their scores.

Captain Neamh Woods and Emma Jane Gervin need to have big games in the middle sector especially up against Lorraine Scanlon and Anna Galvin while in defence the experience of the likes of Niamh McGirr, Emma Mulgrew, Slaine McCarroll and Christiane Hunter will no doubt be called upon.

Tyrone will be underdogs but they won’t fear Kerry and will know they have nothing to lose going into this game especially after coming out on top in the corresponding final round fixture last year.

Division Two: Wexford v Armagh (Tomorrow, St Patrick’s Park Enniscorthy, 2pm)

ARMAGH can keep the pressure on the teams at the top of Division Two with a win over struggling Wexford tomorrow.

Anything else will put a huge dent in their hopes of chasing down a top two finish and realistically with two defeats from their three games so far they cannot afford to lose any more. With four of the top five playing one another, Armagh have a real chance to put themselves back in with a shout of making the league final.

It looks like, even at this midway stage, the game between Clare and Wexford, who prop up the bottom of the table below Armagh, will decide who avoids relegation and a win for Armagh tomorrow will ensure they don’t need to worry about what is going on below them.

Division Three: Down v Roscommon (Tomorrow, St Mary’s Burren 3G, 2pm)

THE unbeaten start to the season for one of these teams should come to an end this weekend as Down and Roscommon go head-to-head – unless they draw!

The Rossies will be another new and tougher test for Down, who so far have been impressive in seeing off Longford, Fermanagh and Sligo – last year’s Division Three finalists – just last week.

Roscommon, who have won both their games, and have one in hand, are one of the main contenders for the league title and know a win is a must to keep up their title and promotion challenge. Down, although they will not want to lose, will not feel under the same pressure and being at home will hope to make that advantage count and as they have proved already this season, they are more than good enough to win.

Division Three: Longford v Fermanagh (Tomorrow, 2pm)

FERMANAGH are still on the lookout for a first win of their Division Three campaign and hope to give Longford a run for their money tomorrow afternoon.

Longford sit just above Fermanagh in the table with Sligo below them so this is a huge game for Jonny Garrity’s side, who have lost their first two games while their round three tie against Roscommon fell foul to storms Ciara and Dennis over the last two weekends.

Longford have picked up one point from their three games so far, that coming in a drawn game against Wicklow either side of defeats to Down and Laois, although they will feel last weekend’s defeat to the latter was a game very much for the taking after dominating for periods before a late Laois goal denied them a share of the spoils.

Division Four: Carlow v Derry (Tomorrow, Carlow IT, 2pm)

DERRY hope to turn their season’s fortunes around against Carlow but know they will be up against it.

So far Paul Hasson’s side are without a win from their first three games while Carlow, who had a bye in round 3, have won one and drawn one. They started out with a one point win against Limerick while they grabbed a draw, thanks to two Clíodhna Ní Shé points, against Offaly.

Derry’s performance in terms of what the scoreboard read in the last game was much improved against Offaly, whose ability to grab goals proved decisive.

Hopefully though, the Oak Leaf players can take some confidence from that game as they continue to rebuild and look for their first league points.

With the odd number of teams in Division Four, Antrim have a bye this weekend.

Fixtures

Tomorrow (2pm unless stated)

Division 1: Cork v Mayo (Cloughduff), Dublin v Galway (Parnell Park), Waterford v Tipperary (), Westmeath v Donegal (St Loman’s Mullingar 3G)

Division 2: Kerry v Tyrone (Fitzgerald Stadium, 11am), Clare v Meath (12noon), Monaghan v Cavan (Eire Og, 12noon), Wexford v Armagh (St Patrick’s Park, Enniscorthy)

Division 3: Down v Roscommon (St Mary’s Burren 3G), Longford v Fermanagh, Kildare v Laois (Hawkfield Kildare Centre of Excellence), Wicklow v Sligo (Aughrim)

Division 4: Carlow v Derry (Carlow IT), Limerick v Offaly (Staker Wallace GAA Club, Kilbreedy East), Louth v Leitrim (Cooley), Antrim - bye

 

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