1. Changed Cork head to 2013 conquerors Dublin
Cork bowed out of the 2013 championship at the hands of Dublin last August and that five-point defeat was a watershed moment for the county’s footballers. An experienced hardcore of their side left the pitch as Cork seniors for the last time that night and manager Conor Counihan called time on his tenure in the aftermath.
Tomorrow night Cork return to the venue to face the same opposition under the guidance of a new manager and a vastly changed team. Brian Cuthbert is now in charge and the starting team he has named contains only seven survivors from last year’s line-up.
Four players starting tomorrow were not even on the 2013 panel – Noel Galvin and John Hayes brought back into the fold this year while Alan Cronin and Conor Dorman are fresh recruits who won Sigerson Cup medals last weekend. It will be instructive to see how a changed Cork outfit fare.
2. Points desperately needed in Castlebar
It’s only round 3 in Division 1 yet points are of paramount importance at Elverys MacHale Park on Sunday. Both Mayo and Kerry dwell at the bottom of the table after suffering defeats in their two games to date. James Horan and Eamonn Fitzmaurice will be particularly keen to avoid a third successive loss.
Considering the difficult ties that loom ahead for both sides, this is a game of great significance. On home soil Mayo will be expected to deliver. For Kerry they will hope to be boosted by the availability of their Dr Crokes crew and avoid a repeat of last year’s tie at the venue where they failed to score for the last 40 minutes of the game.
3. Kildare try to reverse losing streak against Tyrone
Kildare were glad to see the back of Tyrone in 2013. They slumped to a six-point loss at home to Mickey Harte’s side in the regulation phase of the league before being defeated 2-15 to 2-11 in last April’s semi-final in Croke Park.
And then it was at the hands of Tyrone once more that Kildare’s championship journey ended, a 1-11 to 0-12 qualifier loss on a baking hot July night in Newbridge. Exorcising their Red Hands ghost would be a nice boost for Jason Ryan’s squad.
4. Donegal renew acquaintances with Monaghan
Donegal’s hopes of doing three-in-a-row in Ulster were scuppered last July by a ferocious performance by a well-drilled Monaghan side. The setback occurred in the midst of a difficult 2013 campaign for the Jim McGuinness-managed team.
The signs are more encouraging in 2014 as they have looked extremely strong on their winning away days so far against Laois and Galway. Monaghan have moved well also, crushing Meath last time out in Clones. It adds up to an intriguing encounter in Letterkenny as the teams get set to renew acquaintances.
5. Meath and Galway need to respond
The start of the league yielded a torrent of scores with Meath’s high-scoring encounter with Galway encapsulating the trend. There was much to admire in the attacking play of both teams as they conjured up 7-27 between them.
Admittedly there were defensive concerns on both sides and those manifested themselves in round two. Galway lost out by seven points at home to Donegal and Meath were thoroughly despatched by Monaghan by 12 points in Clones.
They both now need a respons. Galway are in danger of being cut adrift at the bottom of the table if they suffer a third successive league loss when away to Laois tomorrow night. Meath are at home to Armagh and want to restore their confidence after that chastening experience against Monaghan.