Division Two North Round one preview
By Darragh Walsh
After a long-awaited return, Gaelic Football is back on our screens this weekend with the opening round of the Allianz league. All eyes will be fixated on the division 1 fixtures with the big hitters returning to action with Kerry and Galway’s faceoff providing great excitement for the opening weekend. However, televised fixtures in division 2 north will be worth a watch with some fascinating fixtures cropping up on the opening weekend.
Fixture: Mayo vs Down
Throw in: 14:00 Saturday 15th May
Venue: Elverys McHale Park, Castlebar
Referee: Fergal Kelly
Watch on: Gaa Go
Saturday evening sees beaten All-Ireland finalists Mayo return to action against Down in McHale Park. Following their relegation last year Mayo will look to quickly return to division 1 but James Horan’s men face a Down side also freshly introduced into division two following their promotion in the 2020 season.
The home side are returning to action for the first time since their All-Ireland defeat to Dublin in December. Despite their relegation to Division 2, 2020 was a successful season for Horan’s team which saw them end a barren run of no Connacht title since 2015 and an All-Ireland final appearance. However, 2020 saw the retirement of a key group of players that were key to Mayo’s success over the past decade with Keith Higgins, Chris Barrett, Seamie O’Shea, Donal Vaughan, Tom Parsons and David Clarke all deciding to hang up their boots. These departures will provide ample opportunity for further development of their young stars. Eoghan McLaughlin, Tommy Conroy and Oisin Mullin all shone in their debut championship seasons with Mullin receiving the young player of the year for his efforts. This Saturday may see the introduction of new faces into the Mayo starting 15 as they look to fill the void that has been left from their retirees.
With Mayo returning to action for the first time since December, Down will brace the field for the first time since their exit from the Ulster championship in November. Down’s year was ended at the hands of Cavan who recovered from a 10-point deficit to reach the Ulster championship final. Following a successful year in getting promoted to Division 2 Paddy Tally’s men will be looking to kickstart their year with a win in Castlebar. Youngsters Daniel Guinness, Pierce Laverty and debutants Peter Fegan and Paddy Murdock all impressed under Tally last year and will all be aiming to seal a place in Tally’s weekly selection for the 2021 season.
A win for the travelling team from Ulster seems unlikely but undoubtedly the contest will be an entertaining one on Saturday evening.
Fixture: Meath vs Westmeath
Throw in: 15:45 Sunday 16th May
Venue: Páirc Tailteann
Referee: Brendan Cawley
Watch on: Gaa Go
Meath return to Division two after a one-year stint in division one and face their neighbours Westmeath in the opening round of action. With both teams looking to fight for promotion this year, the contest promises to be entertaining.
Meath return to Division two after an unsuccessful year in the top division which saw them wait until the final weekend to register a draw and their only point on the table. Meath’s Thomas O’Reilly led the Royal County’s forward line throughout the 2020 campaign and was rightly named in Andy Mcentee’s 40-man panel that was released Wednesday morning. Mcentee will be looking to start the year on a high when neighbours Westmeath visit on Sunday afternoon.
Westmeath narrowly missed out on promotion to the top table of Gaelic football in the 2020 season finishing two points behind the promoted counties. Manager Jack Cooney has refreshed his backroom team with the additions of Ken Robinson who was involved with the Dublin ladies four in a row winning backroom team along with Westmeath legend Cathal Mullen. Cooney has also announced Kevin Maguire as his new captain for the 2021 season. The Caulry native will aim to gain promotion this year and achieve what they narrowly missed out on and what better way to start their season than with a victory over their neighbours.