Down midfielder Stephen Kearney
With the penultimate round of games in Division 2 of the National Football League games down for decision this Saturday and Sunday, it promises to be an intriguing weekend for one reason or another for all eight counties involved.
Tipperary travel to Páirc Esler in Newry to take on Down in what is expected to be a huge test for the visitors in their quest for promotion. While Tipperary will be hoping for a victory to maintain their push for promotion, Down on the other hand now find themselves in a relegation dogfight and badly in need of points.
Last weekend Down were described by Tipperary manager Liam Kearns as “the unluckiest team not to be up on eight points (they have four as it stands).” The Tipp manager as said “I thought they should have beaten Cavan and I thought they should have beaten Clare.”
The Mournemen will be 100% focused for the Tipp game on Sunday knowing that their final game will be away to Meath a week later, another team fighting for Division 2 survival.
Tipperary’s away record in the League during Liam Kearn’s tenure as manager has been excellent. In nine away games over three seasons Tipp have lost just once (in March 2016, to Longford by 1-17 to 1-11). During that year, his first at the helm, Tipp drew three times on the road to Limerick, Westmeath and Sligo.
Tipperary went through the whole of Division 3 last year unbeaten with wins over Laois, Offaly and Armagh - and so far in Division 2 this year are also unbeaten against Cork and Clare. That is a seriously impressive record by any standards.
Sunday’s game in Newry will be another huge test for Tipp. The bookmakers have the Premier County starting as favourites but a lot will depend on what the attitude will be towards this fixture though.
In a post-match comment after last Sunday’s win over Louth, Kearns admitted that he didn’t think Tipp were ready for Division 1 just yet and said a lot more work was needed to be done. He qualified that by saying “It is up to the players now and if they win the two games we will be going up to Division 1 so we will just have to wait and see, added Kearns.
If Tipp decide to “have a go” then they are capable of getting the right result.
CORK V CLARE
The intriguing weekend kicks off on Saturday night with the Cork v Clare game. Defeat for either will be a disaster. Cork, having already lost twice in the league know that another slip up will see the pre-campaign favourites staying in Division 2 for next year. Clare are also hovering close to the water-line with four points. ‘The Banner’ won’t want to be putting all their eggs in the one basket and depending on gaining points from an already-relegated Louth in Ennis the following Sunday. It is unlikely though they will be getting anything from this visit to Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday night.
ROSCOMMON V CAVAN
Perhaps the game of the weekend in the Division is the clash in ‘The Hyde’ of Roscommon and neighbours Cavan.
Only two points separate them at the top of the pile and victory for either will be massive.
Should the Breffni boys, unbeaten to date, prevail they will secure promotion. However, Roscommon with home advantage know that promotion for them is also a real possibility with home advantage in both their last two games, against Cavan and Cork to come the following week.
It promises to be a huge game but Cavan will be all-out for victory knowing that Tipperary are next on the agenda and having lost to Tipperary at home in the Championship qualifiers last year won’t relish having to depend on that game for points. Cavan are giving the nod to secure promotion in this one.
LOUTH V MEATH
The meeting of neighbours Louth and Meath in Drogheda is a do-or die game with both currently occupying the bottom of the table.
Pointless Louth are hanging by a thread to their Division 2 status with only an outside mathematical chance of survival that will depend on victory in this one.
‘The Royals’ also need to win and anything other than a victory will almost certainly see them also dropping down to Division 3 for next year.
Having watched both over the past few weeks against Tipperary in Thurles, Meath certainly look the better side and should get the win they require here and end Louth’s one season in this Division.