A preview of this weekend’s Ladies Football games

Compiled by Jackie Cahill

THE remaining Final places in the 2023 Lidl National League Finals will be confirmed on a Super Sunday of action.

The teams relegated from Divisions 1, 2 and 3 will also be known at the close of play on Sunday evening.

There are 14 National League games down for decision across the weekend – including two Division 4 semi-finals on Sunday, as Antrim, Fermanagh, Leitrim and Limerick battle for Final slots at Parnell Park on Sunday April 16.

The live TG4 fixture is Cork against Meath from Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday afternoon at 12.45pm, with only pride at stake there, before attention switches to 13 games on Sunday.

On Saturday, there are also three Lidl All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Finals down for decision in the Junior grade.

All of Sunday’s National League ties are available to view via the LGFA’s live-streaming portal.

All games 2pm unless stated 

Saturday March 25 

Lidl NFL Division 1

 Cork v Meath; Páirc Uí Rinn, 12.45pm – Live on TG4 

A dead rubber on the cards at Páirc Uí Rinn in front of the live TV cameras but both sides will be anxious to put on a show nevertheless.

For Cork, the aim is to build on their impressive St Patrick’s Day victory over Kerry, who may have had one eye on the April 15 Final they had already qualified for.

Meath’s squad is slowly taking shape again as the championship looms into focus but the 2022 champions will be keen to finish their League campaign on a positive note.

Four defeats from six outings to date is not the Meath we’ve become accustomed to in recent times.

Cork (v Meath): S Murphy; M Duggan, E Meaney, R Phelan; E O’Shea, S Kelly, D Kiniry; H Looney, S Leahy (capt.); L Coppinger, D O’Sullivan, E Cleary; O Cahalane, E Kiely, C O’Sullivan.

Meath (v Cork): M McGuirk; A Sheridan, M.K. Lynch, K Newe; N Gallogly, S Ennis (capt.), A Cleary; M O’Shaughnessy, A Minogue; M Thynne, A Sherlock, C Smyth; A O’Leary, S Grimes, N O’Sullivan.

Lidl All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools Finals 

Junior A 

Loreto College (Cavan) v St Mary’s, Midleton (Cork); GAA National Games Development Centre, Abbotstown, 3pm 

St Mary’s were famously crowned Senior A champions last year and are now aiming for Junior A glory but they’ll face stiff opposition in the form of Loreto, the current Junior A holders who were also recent winners in 2018.

The GAA’s National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown is the venue for this one as two talented teams prepare to go head to head.

Loreto rattled home eight goals in their semi-final victory over St Attracta’s from Sligo, as St Mary’s saw off the challenge of Moate CS from Westmeath in a keenly-contested last four clash.

Junior B 

Maynooth E.C., Maynooth (Kildare) v St Ronan’s College, Lurgan (Armagh); GAA National Games Development Centre, Abbotstown, 1pm  

Getting the Abbotstown action underway on Saturday are schools from Kildare and Armagh, as Maynooth Education Campus prepare to take on St Ronan’s College, Lurgan, in the 2023 Lidl All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Junior A Final.

Maynooth were runners-up in the C competition last year and now have a shot at redemption in the B grade against St Ronan’s, who were Junior A Finalists in 2016.

Maynooth won a thrilling semi-final against Skibbereen CS from Cork, with extra-time required to separate the sides, as goals proved crucial for St Ronan’s in their 5-8 to 2-14 victory over Galway opponents Presentation College, Tuam.

Junior C  

Dunmore CS (Galway) v Presentation Milltown (Kerry); Fethard Town Park, Tipperary, 6.30pm 

On a weekend when the county’s Senior teams meet in the Lidl National League, ahead of a Final at Croke Park on April 15, the Lidl All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools Junior C Final is also a Kerry v Galway affair as Presentation Milltown pit their wits against Dunmore CS.

Presentation Milltown will hope to keep the silverware in the Kingdom following Mercy Mounthawk’s 2022 win, as Dunmore CS, Senior C winners in 2005, aim to become the first Galway school to win the Junior C title since Coláiste Bhaile Chláir in 2017.

In their respective semi-finals, Dunmore had a narrow one-point win against Cavan opponents Bailieborough, as Milltown notched 8-12 in their victory over Ardee CS from Louth, who registered 5-10 themselves.

Sunday March 26 

 Lidl NFL Division 1 

Donegal v Mayo; Letterkenny  

This is the big fixture in Division 1 at the weekend – a straight winner-takes-all relegation shoot-out.

Mayo have won just one of their six League fixtures to date, and simply avoiding defeat here will be good enough against pointless Donegal, who were Division 1 Finalists in 2022.

Home advantage should be an advantage to Donegal but with a score difference of -58, they’ve suffered some big defeats in the 2023 campaign.

A Donegal win would bring them level with Mayo on three points, and they’d survive on the head to head rule.

Donegal (v Mayo): A McColgan; C Keon, E Gallagher (capt.), N McLaughlin; R Rodgers, A Temple Asoko, T Hegarty; S Twohig, S McGroddy; N Carr, K Long, K Dowds; S White, K Herron, C McGarvey.

Mayo (v Donegal): L Brennan; É Ronayne, D Caldwell, S Lally; T O’Connor, C Needham, K Sullivan (capt.); A Geraghty, S Cafferky; S Walsh, S Howley, F McHale; L Cafferky, R Kearns, T Needham.

Galway v Kerry, Tuam Stadium  

There may be some shadow boxing on show at Tuam Stadium, with both counties already qualified for the Division 1 Final at Croke Park on April 15.

The fixtures calendar has thrown up this coincidence whereby both counties must take each other on before meeting again three weeks later – and with national silverware on the line then.

Galway remain the only unbeaten county in Division 1 and will be anxious to maintain that record, while Kerry fell to their first defeat of the season against Cork on St Patrick’s Day.

Even though both teams will meet again soon, they’ve named strong starting line-ups for this League Final dress rehearsal.

Galway (v Kerry): K Connolly; K Geraghty, S Ní Loingsigh (capt.), E Gavin; C Cooney, N Ward, A Molloy; A Davoren, O Divilly; L Coen, E Noone, L Noone; A O’Rourke, L Ward, K Slevin.

Kerry (v Galway): C Butler; É Lynch, K Cronin, C Murphy; A O’Connell, E Costello, C Lynch; L Scanlon, M O’Connell; N Carmody, N Ní Chonchúir, A Galvin; F Tangney, S O’Shea (capt.), L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.

Dublin v Waterford; Parnell Park  

The neutral observer may have predicted that Waterford would struggle in the top flight this year but they’ve been superb under the tutelage of Pat Sullivan.

Waterford’s form has been so good that they’ll travel to Dublin harbouring genuine hopes of gaining a positive result against the Sky Blues.

Three wins, two defeats and a draw from their six games to date consolidated Waterford’s top flight status, while Dublin have been gradually improving.

Mick Bohan’s charges were still in the hunt for a Final place until last weekend, until Galway made sure of joining Kerry at Croke Park on April 15.

Dublin (v Waterford): A Shiels; N Crowley, L Caffrey (capt.), J Tobin; L Magee, M Byrne, A Kane; J Dunne, E O’Dowd; C O’Connor, O Nolan, E Gribben; K Sullivan, N Hetherton, J Egan.

Waterford (v Dublin): E O’Brien; C Murray, M Dunford, A Murray; E Power, E Murray, H Power; K Hogan, A Waring; A O’Neill, A Fitzgerald, C McCarthy; Karen McGrath (capt.), B McMaugh, L McGregor.

Lidl NFL Division 2 

Laois v Roscommon; Crettyard  

Laois must do the business at home to Roscommon and hope that Armagh do them a favour against Tipperary to book a Division 2 Final slot.

If Laois win, and Armagh beat Tipperary, it’s Laois who will join Armagh in the Final, as the O’Moore County beat Tipperary in the group stages and would progress on the head to head rule.

Laois will start as undoubted favourites for this one and if they win, they’ll relegate Roscommon in the process.

Tipperary v Armagh; Fethard Town Park, 1pm  

This could yet turn out to be a dress rehearsal for a Lidl National League Division 2 Final at Croke Park on April 15.

If Armagh decide to go strong with their starting selection, it could spell trouble for Tipp, however.

The Premier County need to avoid defeat to join the Orchard County in the showpiece decider but if they lose, and Laois beat Roscommon, Tipp will have to settle for Division 2 fare again next year.

Tyrone v Cavan; Newtownstewart 

Both counties will have been happy first and foremost to survive in a competitive Division 2 this year.

They both achieved that primary aim with ease but will perhaps be disappointed not to have challenged towards the top end of the table.

This is a dead rubber fixture in Newtownstewart but with two Ulster teams in action, it should be a keenly contested fixture nevertheless.

Westmeath v Monaghan; St Loman’s 3G  

Monaghan know what they have to do as they prepare for a crucial trip to Mullingar.

Even a draw would be good enough to secure Division 2 football again next year but if they lose, and Roscommon shock Laois, Monaghan and Roscommon would be locked together on four points at the bottom.

In this instance, they can’t be split on the head to head rule, as the teams drew 0-13 apiece when they met.

If this does turn out to be the case, the team with the better scoring difference would survive in Division 2.

Lidl NFL Division 3

Sligo v Offaly; St Marys Kent Park  

A crucial fixture towards the bottom sees Sligo at home to Offaly.

Sligo have three points but Offaly, without a point from their six outings, would be highly likely to save themselves with a win.

Should Sligo and Offaly finish level on three points at the close of play, Offaly will survive on the head to head rule.

In another potential scenario, a Longford loss against Clare could see three teams potentially locked together on three points.

In this case, Longford currently have the worst scoring difference (Sligo -37, Offaly -54, Longford -71).

Kildare v Wexford; Hawkfield Pitch 1 

A crunch top of the table clash sees Kildare host Wexford in Hawkfield.

Both teams are on 15 points and the winner here is guaranteed a Final slot.

The loser will have to wait and see what transpires elsewhere, with a cluster of three teams – Down, Clare and Louth – locked together on 12 points below the pacesetters.

If this game finishes in a draw, both Kildare and Wexford will qualify to meet again on April 16 at Parnell Park.

Longford v Clare; Emmet Park, Killoe  

A draw would be good enough here to keep Longford in Division 3 for another season.

Defeat, however, and the Midlanders will be sweating on the result of the Sligo-Offaly game, and hoping that Sligo gain a positive result.

The nightmare scenario for Longford is to finish level with Sligo and Offaly on three points at the close of play, as their scoring difference (-71) is the worst of the three counties ahead of Sunday’s matches.

Clare will be hoping to rack up a good score, which could yet see them through on scoring difference.

Louth v Down; Darver 

Louth and Down face off in Darver aiming to keep their Division 3 Final hopes alive.

Down have the better scoring difference (+20 compared to Louth’s +6) and that could yet prove crucial if three teams are locked together at the close of play in the hunt for a precious Final slot.

Down have beaten Wexford, too, and that yet prove to be a pivotal result.

In a table with so many potential permutations, one could see Down qualify for a Final by virtue of that victory over Wexford – but they need to get past Louth first, who still harbour their own Final ambitions.

Lidl NFL Division 4 – SEMI-FINALS 

Antrim v Limerick; Kinnegad  

Limerick were beaten Division 4 Finalists last year and are keen to go one better.

But the Shannonsiders face stiff opposition against an Antrim side motoring extremely well this year.

The Saffrons are reigning TG4 All-Ireland Junior champions and topped Division 4A to reach the last four.

Limerick’s form has been impressive, too, as they finished second behind Leitrim and unbeaten in Division 4B, with three wins and a draw.

Fermanagh v Leitrim; Templeport Bawnboy 

Leitrim were in good form ahead of their 2022 Division 4 semi-final before coming unstuck against eventual winners Offaly.

With three wins and a draw, the Westerners finished on top of Division 4B and now face a Fermanagh side that finished second behind Antrim in Division 4A.

Fermanagh also reached the semi-finals last year but lost out to Limerick by four points.

Fermanagh went on to contest a TG4 All-Ireland Junior Final, losing out to Antrim after a replay, and will have their sights set on another national decider.

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