Armagh ladies must oust Waterford to book League semi-final berth
Lidl National Football League
Armagh v Waterford (Sunday, St Paul’s Lurgan, 1pm)
PROMOTION chasing Armagh and Waterford clash in the penultimate round of Division Two on Sunday, with both sides knowing victory will secure a semi-final place.
Four teams – Armagh and fellow Ulster sides Tyrone and Cavan and Waterford are battling it out for the remaining three places in the last four, as leaders and undefeated Tipperary are already guaranteed a knockout spot. These five teams are all playing at least one of the semi-final hopefuls over the last two rounds and it will go down to the wire to see who misses out.
Waterford produced a stunning 15 point second half turnaround against Cavan last weekend to defeat their opponents by 12 points and will come into this game on a high, on four straight wins after putting their opening round defeat to Tyrone behind them.
Armagh recorded a third straight win with a nine point victory over Laois at the weekend, Aimee Mackin with a hat-trick of goals and with the two times All Star winner in blistering form, Waterford will be only too aware of the damage she can cause.
They are without Caroline O’Hanlon, who is on Commonwealth Games duty with the Northern Ireland netball squad and Louise Kenny, who is out with a knee injury she picked up playing for St Mary’s from the O’Connor Cup weekend.
The sides haven’t met recently, their last encounter in the senior championship two years ago with Waterford emerging victorious in the All-Ireland preliminary round qualifiers and when they last encountered one another in the league Armagh denied them the Division Three title.
Joint managers Lorraine McCaffrey and Fionnuala McAtamney are only too aware of the dangers posed by Waterford.
“From hearing about previous games against Waterford, they are a very good side and there have been some great battles between the sides. I was surprised at their result against Cavan last weekend but there are not in second place in the table for nothing and they will be tough opposition,” said McCaffrey.
“We are fortunate in that our fate is very much in our own hands and we know it is as simple as winning on Sunday will see us qualify for the semi-finals. We are just focusing on ourselves as that is all we can do.”
Despite winning by nine points against Laois and scoring 3-12, Armagh wasted a lot of chances and should the same happen again against Wateford, McCaffrey knows they will be punished.
“We need to improve on our performance against Laois from last weekend.
“We were not as clinical as we would have liked and although we won, we felt the scoreboard did not reflect our dominance. Waterford will punish us if we don’t be clinical and take our chances on Sunday,” she said.
“We started off the league missing that from our performance but in the last few games, having worked on that between games, we were much more clinical and that was lacking against Laois again.
“Having said that, we never felt from the sidelines that we were going to lose the game and you do get days like that but you need to try and fix that the next day out.”
Mayo v Donegal (Saturday, Swinford, 2pm)
DONEGAL are one of the Division One inform teams at the minute and they are close to back-to-back semi-final appearances.
They do, however, have a tricky final two games and first up is Mayo away tomorrow with defending champions Cork in the final game. Going with the formbook, Donegal should be too strong for Mayo and victory in Swinford will seal their knockout spot in what has been a pretty decent beginning to Maxi Curran and Damien Devenney’s reign.
Mayo still have an outside chance of finishing in the top four and were given a boost midweek when they were awarded the points from their earlier league game with Kerry, who fielded ineligible players.
Monaghan v Dublin (Sunday, St Tiernach’s Park, Clones, 1.30pm)
ALL-Ireland champions and Division One league contenders Dublin are the visitors to Clones on Sunday for Monaghan’s penultimate league game.
The Farney defeated Westmeath last Sunday to pick up three valuable league points and put some daylight between them and Westmeath and Kerry at the bottom. The Kingdom had three points deducted from them for fielding ineligible players against Mayo in what had been the only game they had won. Monaghan are virtually safe in Division One for another year but that will not be fully confirmed until the final games are played.
Dublin lost to Galway last weekend but are well placed to make the semi-finals and Monaghan will be hoping they do not face a backlash from the Jackies.
Laois v Tyrone (Sunday, Stradbally, 2pm)
TYRONE are in yet another must-win game this weekend, this time away to Laois, if they are to remain in the hunt for a Division Two semi-final berth.
With Cavan playing bottom placed team Sligo, the final league standings look to be going down to the final round with Cavan and Tyrone facing one another and quite possibly one of those pair missing out on a knockout spot.
Laois’ victory over Tyrone last year played its part in the Red Hands missing out on a semi-final place and Gerry Moane and his side will be out to make sure that does not happen again.
They will not be taking them for granted as Laois are targeting the points to keep some distance between them and bottom placed Sligo with just three points separating them.
Cavan v Sligo (Sunday, Kingspan Breffni Park, 12noon)
CAVAN should get back to winning ways against Division Two’s bottom side Sligo on Sunday and put simply, they need to if they are to keep their semi-final hopes alive.
They need to win this one and their final round fixture with Tyrone if they are to finish in the top four.
Last weekend they saw Waterford overturn a three point deficit to emerge comfortable winners and turnaround is something that will have disappointed James Daly and his players. After scoring a point early in the second half, they failed to register another score after that while Waterford notched up 3-6.
Down v Wexford (Downpatrick, 2pm)
DOWN have already qualified for the Division Three semi-finals and they finish up their final league game against title and promotion favourites Wexford tomorrow.
Wexford, who have played a game less, are so far undefeated from their five games, but if there is one thing about this Down team it is that they do not know when they are beaten.
Just last weekend they came back from the brink of defeat in injury time to Kildare to win by a point. Wexford are another step up in opposition and you would expect them not to let such a lead, if they had one, slip but this is a Down team brimming with confidence and being at home too they will not fear the league leaders.
Carlow v Antrim (Saturday, Carlow IT, pm)
ANTRIM must win away to Carlow if they are to keep their hopes of a top four finish and a semi-final berth alive. Carlow sit one place and one point above the Saffrons on seven points and both are just outside the top four.
A win for Seamus McKenna’s charges would move them above Carlow and possibly into fourth place depending on how Fermanagh do against Limerick. That would leave them in the perfect position, with a game in hand, to come against Derry, of grabbing one of the last semi-final places.
Limerick v Fermanagh (Sunday, Askeaton, 2pm)
FERMANAGH make the difficult trip to Limerick for a vital clash as both teams fight it out to finish in the top four.
The Erne County have the slight advantage in that they still have a game in hand while for Limerick, this is their final game and the three points will seal their semi-final berth. However, should they lose that knockout spot will not be guaranteed as Antrim or Carlow could still pip them.
A Fermanagh win would guarantee Emmet Curry’s side a top four finish but it’s never easy playing Limerick on their home turf and this is a game that really could go either way.
Derry v Kilkenny (Sunday, Steelstown, 2pm)
DERRY will be keen to pick up their first league points when they host fellow bottom side Kilkenny on Sunday.
Both sides have failed to win a game yet this season and there is a lot of pride at stake as both look to get off the mark. The Oak Leaf side, having home advantage and simply by the fact they should be too strong for their opponents, will be favourites but at the same time will be taking nothing for granted.