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Dublin: 12 °C Friday 18 April, 2014

6 talking points before this weekend’s Allianz football league action

Friday night lights, Kerry’s home comforts and more…

Will James O'Donoghue and Kerry have something to smile about on Sunday?
Will James O'Donoghue and Kerry have something to smile about on Sunday?
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

1. Friday night lights

THE GAA WEEKEND throws in early when Armagh and Down meet this evening. Friday night fixtures have been tried before in the league, and most notably in the Leinster Championship last summer, and all eyes will be on the turnstile figures in the Athletic Grounds.

Director-General Paraic Duffy has indicated that the Championship experiment is likely to be a once-off event because players do not have adequate time to prepare after a working day, nor can they be compensated if they take a holiday day but the proximity of Armagh and Down makes tonight’s game slightly more viable.

Is it fair on the players? And will people come out to watch?

2. Kerry look for home comforts

Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s first term as Kerry manager got off to a stuttering start with four straight defeats in the league last season, and they don’t want a repeat this time around.

If a few close calls had gone their way against Dublin the result might well have been different but instead the Kingdom face Derry on Sunday looking to avoid a second straight defeat.

Their next two games are away to Mayo and at home to Tyrone — two of the league’s ‘tougher’ opponents — and a losing habit could be hard to break.

3. Tyrone seek revenge, Mayo seek points

You can be sure that Mickey Harte will have his players primed when Tyrone host Mayo in Omagh on Sunday, a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland semi.

The Red Hand let a seven-point lead slip against Derry last week while Mayo very nearly snatched a comeback draw in their shootout against Kildare, only for Paddy Brophy to deny them at the death with a wonderscore. Plenty for both sides to work on in defence so.

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INPHO/Cathal Noonan

4. A foothold for Westmeath?

There’s no denying the gulf in class between Divisions 1 and 2, and promoted Westmeath will be favourites for the drop in most peoples’ books.

But they showed last week that they will be no pushovers, matching Cork in the first half before their challenge petered out after the break.

Losing John Heslin to injury was a big blow and it doesn’t get any easier this weekend for manager Paul Bealin, facing his native Dublin in Mullingar.

5. Comeback for Colm O’Neill?

Three cruciate injuries threatened to end Colm O’Neill’s career far too soon but the Ballyclough man is set for his return to action and is named among the Cork subs for Sunday’s game against Kildare.

It has been a long, hard road to this point but O’Neill is still only 25 and there is every chance that he can return to the form that saw him win an All-Star in 2012.

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INPHO / James Crombie

6. Promotion pushes

After this weekend, counties will have a three-week break until the next round of football league action on 1/2 March. That’s plenty of time for reflection and any of the teams who start with a perfect two from two will consider themselves live promotion candidates.

Wexford and Cavan in Division 3, and Tipperary, Leitrim and Clare in Division 4 all caught the eye last week. Who can build on their strong start?

Stephen Cluxton tries to school his students in a GAA ‘Crossbar Challenge’

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