Ryan Byrne/INPHO Mayo's James Carr and Galway's Sean Kelly.
Galway-Mayo rivalry and Dublin aim to make amends: Allianz Football League talking points
Four huge games in store this weekend in Croke Park.

1. Galway-Mayo rivalry

The next instalment of the Galway-Mayo rivalry awaits us on Sunday. Last summer’s championship meeting saw Galway win by a point. January’s Allianz Football League opener in Castlebar finished all square. Mayo were the clear pace-setters for much of the league but Galway had a powerful closing kick as they fashioned wins over Monaghan, Armagh and Kerry in their last three games.

Both teams have major ambitions for 2023 but an Allianz Football League title would be savoured by Kevin McStay and Padraic Joyce. The two counties have lost the last three All-Ireland senior finals between them, national silverware would be progress with Mayo claiming this crown in 2019, while Galway must go back to 1981.

2. Dublin aim to make amends

The scenario that was widely expected in the second tier materialised – Derry and Dublin bagged the promotion spots on offer. After Dublin’s surprise relegation last year, Dessie Farrell will welcome their swift return to the top level. They had just the one misstep, the Round 5 tie in Celtic Park against Derry.

The manner of that defeat will have irritated them, five points ahead at half-time before they were gradually reeled in by Derry and caught at the finish line by an inspirational Brendan Rogers point. The renewal of acquaintances in Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division 2 final will suit Dublin, a chance to make amends against Derry and get exposed to high-quality opposition before the championship business commences.

brendan-rogers-with-brian-fenton Evan Treacy / INPHO Derry's Brendan Rogers and Dublin's Brian Fenton. Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

3. Cavan’s response

For Cavan the hard work was done early on in Division 3 of the Allianz Football League. They strung together five wins on the bounce in their first five games to guarantee promotion. Narrow defeats against Antrim and Fermanagh then ensued but the starting team was shuffled around and the Ernesiders certainly had a greater need last Sunday.

After clinching promotion in that last round game, Fermanagh now get set to take on Cavan six days later. Different setting and different stage as Croke Park hosts a final. The response by Mickey Graham’s Cavan team will be telling.

4. A boost for Sligo and Wicklow

The basement division of the Allianz Football League was highly competitive. Laois, Leitrim and Wexford all had realistic designs on promotion, yet it was Sligo and Wicklow who got the job done to nail down the top two places. Both needed to hold their nerve on a tense final day, Sligo prevailing by a point against Leitrim and Wicklow having two goals to spare against Waterford.

Achieving promotion is a significant step forward in the development of both teams, intriguingly both guided by former Armagh and Crossmaglen stars in Oisin McConville and Tony McEntee. They now get to enjoy a Croke Park runout and the opportunity to lift a trophy.

tony-mcentee Ryan Byrne / INPHO Sligo manager Tony McEntee. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

5. Championship draws near

A dominant theme for all these Allianz Football League finals is the scheduling as championship draws near. Sligo head to Ruislip next Saturday 8 April, while Mayo and Wicklow have big games on Sunday 9 April. Fermanagh and Derry meet on Saturday 15 April in Ulster, Cavan commence their run on Saturday 22 April. Galway and Dublin round it all off with their openers on Sunday 23 April. Will these Allianz Football League finals provide a boost as they turn their focus to the provinces?

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