Lidl Ladies NFL previews: Cork open title defence against Kerry
27 January 2017
Avid Cork fan Timmy Jonty celebrates.
The Lidl Ladies National Football Leagues return this weekend with the action taking place throughout the country this Sunday. Cork will defend their Lidl NFL Division 1 title when they meet Kerry in Mallow on Sunday. The derby matches continue with Mayo and Galway locking horns in their opening round and Armagh will travel to their Ulster rivals, Donegal in their opener. Dublin will begin their new era when they welcome Monaghan to Naomh Mearnóg this Sunday.
2017 Lidl National Football League Round 1 Fixtures (all taking place on January 29th unless otherwise stated)
2017 Lidl National Football League Division 1
Donegal v Armagh, Convoy, 2:00pm (C. Dourneen)
Donegal will want to build on an encouraging 2016. Although they relinquished their Ulster title they went on to record a great win over Galway before being narrowly defeated by Dublin in their Quarter Final. This will be their first Division 1 match since 2014 following their promotion last year and they will be keen to make a statement of intent with Armagh providing the opposition. Geraldine McLaughlin should be available for Donegal and her fitness and form will be vital if they are to finish in the top 4. Armagh have a new management team and a new lease of life under the highly rated Sean O’Kane. They will have to plan without Sinead Kernan but with the likes of the Mackin sisters there is plenty of cause for optimism. This will be one of the most competitive campaigns seen in the Division in recent years so a good start will be vital but even more so for Donegal who need to make the most of home advantage.
Cork v Kerry, Mallow, 2:00pm (J. Mullins)
The champions will return to action with their very familiar Munster foes providing the opposition. The Rebellettes suffered a disrupted start to 2016 as they began life without Eamonn Ryan; however, Ephie Fitzgerald took the reins and Cork finished the season with all available silverware added to their collection. There is always a feeling that Cork are vulnerable in the early rounds of the League especially with question marks still hanging over the future of several of their established stars. Kerry will want to take full of advantage of any uncertainty in the Cork ranks and show again that they are the county that are most consistently able to defeat the Rebellettes. Graham Shine takes over at a Kerry side that have been close to achieving a breakthrough for several years and there are hopes that this could be the year for the Kingdom but a lot of that hope will be dependent on their display in Mallow.
Dublin v Monaghan, Naomh Mearnóg, (J. Murphy)
Dublin have had close brushes with success in recent years but they have yet to lay their hands on any national silverware since their Division 2 win in 2011. Gregory McGonigle’s successful rein has come to an end and in his place has come Mick Bohan who will hope to clear that final hurdle for Dublin. Cork have shown in the past that targeting the League pays dividends later in the season so expect Bohan to follow suit. Some changes are expected in the Dublin line up but they have retained much of the group that has contested the last 3 TG4 All Ireland finals. Monaghan started their 2016 campaign extremely slowly as they just avoided relegation recording only 1 win along the way. However, Paula Cunningham then revitalised the team and they enjoyed a fantastic campaign last Summer winning the Ulster championship along the way. Cunningham remains in charge and will hope that she can continue to improve this talented Monaghan squad.
Mayo v Galway, Swinford Amenity Park, 2:00pm (G. Chapman)
The second big derby match of the day sees local rivals Galway and Mayo meet in Swinford. Mayo were brilliant under Frank Browne in 2016 narrowly missing out on a TG4 All Ireland final after a late winner for Dublin. Cora Staunton is yet to decide her future and much will depend on her decision as it is likely that her Carnacon teammates Yvonne Byrne and Martha Carter will follow suit. Browne will continue to introduce new talent like Niamh Kelly who had a big impact in 2016 as he hopes to go one better then reaching the Division 1 final as they did last year. Galway will begin their new season under a third different manager in 3 years. Stephen Glennon has been able to persuade Barbra and Lucy Hannon, Emer Flaherty and Sinead Burke back into the panel along with Irish Soccer international Dora Gorman. However, they have lost the services of the brilliant twin sisters, Nicola and Louise Ward who have been their best players in recent years. Glennon will be pleased to have Mayo in the opposition so he can assess his new charges in an intense encounter that could go either way.
2017 Lidl National Football League Division 2
Laois v Kildare, Annanough GAA, 2:00pm (D. McEnery)
Kildare will be on a high after winning the TG4 Intermediate All Ireland final last September but their pre season has been disrupted with the news that William O’Sullivan left his post as manager of the team. Laois have struggled in recent years but their spirited showing against Cavan in the TG4 championship encounter last year has many hoping that a return to better times could be just around the corner.
Westmeath v Cavan, TBC, 2:00pm (K. Phelan)
This is possibly the tie of the round as two of the favourites for promotion meet in the opener. Westmeath will want to make up for the disappointment of losing last year’s final but they will know that one of the biggest challenges that they will face comes this weekend against a Cavan team that will be determined to make it into the top division.
Clare v Waterford, TBC, 2:00pm (S. Mulvihill)
There will be a lot of interest in this clash as Waterford finally return to Division 2 of the League. Last Summer they knocked Armagh out of the championship to prove that they will have a big say in Ladies Football in the future. Clare were disappointed not to win the TG4 Intermediate Championship final but there is no doubt that the talent and commitment is there to take them back into the senior ranks. Clare have home advantage and with the level of competition in the division they will be determined to make that advantage count.
Tyrone v Sligo, Healy Park Omagh, 2:00pm (D Callaghan)
Tyrone are in unfamiliar territory after spending much of the last decade in Division 1. However, they will see this Division 2 campaign as an opportunity to rebuild. If they hit the ground running this weekend then you can expect them to be near the top of the table next April. Sligo are a well drilled and very disciplined unit. They will be expected to make life very difficult for opposition teams and especially at home. A trip to Omagh is not the ideal opener for this good Sligo team but they are more than capable of producing a good result.
2017 Lidl National Football League Division 3
Wexford v Tipperary, St. Patrick’s Park, 2:00pm (N. McCormack)
Wexford have been a strong team in recent years but they have received a significant boost as the great Kerry midfielder of recent years, Bernie Breen, has transferred to the Model County. Breen may be available this weekend and should she be that will transform this Wexford team into real contenders. Tipperary are undoubtedly the favourites for the title and with Shane Ronayne at the helm there is no doubt that they will be prepared for any challenges. Although there are injuries to key players like Aishling Moloney they should still be a strong contender. The addition of Breen and having home advantage for Wexford means that Tipperary will have to work very hard if they are to get the points.
Offaly v Roscommon, Cappincur, 2:00pm (A. Gallagher)
Offaly and Roscommon are teams that know each other very well having met in league and championship in recent years. There is very little to choose between these two teams but both will want to be in the shake up for promotion. Roscommon will be disappointed after their Championship campaign last Summer so they will be determined to make up for that disappointment in Cappincur.
Down v Meath, Ballykinlar, 2:00pm (M. Farrelly)
Down and Meath are two teams that would have expected to be playing at a much higher level than in Division 3. However, the rebuilding for both counties begins now with promotion being a must for these two sides. Although this is the first round, a loss for either side could be a huge dent to their aspirations. Home advantage could be key for Down but they will be very wary of the Royal challenge.
Leitrim v Limerick, Ballinamore, 2:30pm (K. Corcoran)
Leitrim have been the nearly team in this division for the past few years but they have not yet taken that final step. Limerick will want to make sure that they put up a good showing following their promotion in 2016. In years gone by this fixture has been a tale of two forwards as Áine Tighe goes head to head with Dympna O’Brien. The absence of O’Brien from the line up this weekend could tip the scales in favour of the hosts.
2017 Lidl National Football League Division 4
Antrim v Longford, Queen’s University (The Dub), 2:00pm (D. Carolan)
The last time these two sides met was in Croke Park last September with Longford emerging as the victors. Longford have since added James Daly as their manager and will have set their sights on promotion as their minimum requirement this season. Antrim will be without the services of their former captain and talisman, Claire Timoney, so they may take time to adjust.
Carlow v Louth, TBC, 2:00pm (B. Redmond)
Louth will travel to Carlow as overwhelming favourites with John O’Leary managing them this year. They will take nothing for granted against Carlow but it would be a surprise if O’Leary doesn’t start his tenure with a win.
Fermanagh v Derry, Brewster Park, 2:00pm (K. McKeever)
This all Ulster tie will be interesting as Fermanagh adjust to life in the new surrounds of Division 4. Derry will be game opponents but they may struggle against Fermanagh.
Kilkenny v Wicklow, Dunmore, 2:00pm (K. Delahunty)
Kilkenny will make a welcome return to Ladies Gaelic Football after a few years of an absence. Their first game is at home to a Wicklow side that will be hoping to achieve promotion this season. This is a big ask for Kilkenny but the experience of playing a team of Wicklow’s class will stand them in good stead for the rest of the season.