NFL Division Three Preview: Promotion and relegation on the line this weekend.
By Fergal O’Brien
With controversy surrounding the format of the national football leagues and the possibility of no league finals taking place, it will be business as usual in division three with four teams fighting it out for promotion to division two this weekend and four teams scrapping it out to avoid the dreaded drop to division four.
NFL Division 3 semi-finals:
Derry v Limerick, Carrick-on-Shannon, Saturday, 4pm – GAAGO
Offaly v Fermanagh, Bord na Mona O’Connor Park, Saturday, 6pm – GAAGO
Derry will be hot favourites to gain promotion in the first of the two semi-finals this weekend. It has been a flawless campaign so far for the Oak Leaf County with three comprehensive wins under their belt thus far away to Longford and against two Ulster rivals in Fermanagh and Cavan. The return of Conor Glass from Australia at midfield and the form of sharpshooter Shane McGuigan up front make Derry a good bet for a return to division two this weekend. However, Limerick are a team making huge strides under manager Billy Lee and must not be underestimated this weekend by their opponents. They were unlucky in losing out to Offaly in Tullamore and have claimed two very good wins away to Wicklow and at home to Munster champions Tipperary. With forwards such as Hugh Bourke and Danny Neville to deal with, Derry certainly will not have it all their own way this weekend.
The second of the two semi-finals looks a really tight affair. Offaly along with Derry have been the form team of this division and take serious momentum into this semi-final. Their bench has been instrumental in claiming three wins so far and could be decisive again this weekend in a game which looks like it could go either way. Fermanagh will be a tough nut to crack and will be dogged opponents for the Faithful County this Saturday. Under Ryan McMenamin, they recorded two good wins over Ulster champions Cavan and at home to Longford either side of a bit of a hammering off Derry. Home advantage could be key for Offaly this weekend especially with the bonus of a couple of hundred supporters cheering them on.
NFL Division 3 relegation semi-finals:
Cavan v Wicklow, Pairc Tailteann, Saturday, 2pm – GAAGO
Longford v Tipperary, Glennon Bros. Pearse Park, Sunday, 3.45pm - GAAGO.
Last years’ Ulster and Munster champions are in a dogfight to avoid demotion to division 4 league football in 2022. There has been a definite hangover from last year’s exploits for both counties, which has resulted in a very below par league campaign for both. More sympathy perhaps can be afforded to Tipperary, as they have had to deal with several key players being unavailable such as key man Michael Quinlivan in attack and leader Robbie Kiely at the back. Tipp certainly have the tougher assignment this weekend in facing a Longford side well capable of causing an upset, despite three defeats on the trot. Home advantage may also be crucial for the men from the midlands this Sunday, but Tipperary’s hunger and desire which saw them claim their first Munster title in 85 years may just get them over the line.
In Navan on Saturday, Cavan will be firm favourites to send Wicklow straight back down to division 4. Wicklow have competed well in this division but have lacked that killer instinct to get them over the line in all three of their games. Cavan, like Tipperary, will be extremely disappointed in the position they find themselves in but must deal with Wicklow this weekend before a crack at defending their Ulster crown.