THE National Football League resumes this weekend and it’s the start of a busy time for all counties with five games in six weeks between now and April 6 when final series of games are played.
The only break is the weekend of March 22/23 which means that starting this weekend teams play on each of the next three weeks – a demanding schedule especially for the players.
The big games in Division One this weekend see Kildare playing host to Tyrone and Mayo against Kerry while Derry and Dublin host Westmeath and Cork respectively.
Both Tyrone and Derry have started well, securing three points from their opening two games ahead of this weekend while leaves this well placed ahead of long trips to Kerry and VCork the following weekend.
All Division Two games, with the expection of the Donegal Monaghan game have been pencilled in for Saturday night. Meath host Armagh, Laois play Galway and there’s a derby between Down and Louth, but without doubt the big game takes place in O’Donnell Park on Sunday afternoon – a repeat of the 2013 Ulster final.
It’s also a top of the table clash with Donegal on four points after away wins in Laois and Galway while Monaghan have three points, beating Meath after an opening day draw in Down.
You may be tempted to call it a revenge mission for Donegal after their defeat in last year’s Ulster final but it’s really only about collecting two more points to add to Donegal’s excellent start to the new season.
With those two wins already in the bag, Jim McGuinness and his back room team have also been able to bring a few new players into the panel and more importantly give them some game time. The next six weeks will provide further opportunities to continue with that policy.
The likes of Eamon McGee, Neil Gallagher, David Walsh, Patrick McBrearty and Paddy McGrath have seen little, and in some cases, no game time for a variety of reasons and the manager will be keen to see them all get up to match speed if at all possible over the next six weeks.
The bonus to date has been the performance of young players like Ryan McHugh, Odhran MacNiallais and Hugh McFadden, the return of Christy Toye and the displays of Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy in both Laois and Galway.
A look at the league table as it stands suggests that three more wins from five matches will be enough to see Donegal promoted and with Meath visiting MacCumhaill Park on Sunday week two wins in the next two home games would go a long way to a return to life in Divison One.
Sunday’s game against Monaghan will, no doubt, be Donegal’s biggest test of the year to date and it will be interesting to see how they deal with it.
How bad was that?
Given the amount of success Manchester United have enjoyed over such a long period and despite the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and the appointment of Daid Moyes few could have predicted just how difficult things would be for the club this season.
It’s now widely accepted that they won’t retain their leage title. They’re also out of both domestic cups and unless they produce their best perfomance of the season they will also bow out of the Champions League in three weeks’ time.
It’s not that often that I agree with Roy Keane but I found myself nodding in ageement with his comments on Tuesday night. It was almost incredible to watch how bad Man United were in losing 2-0 to Olympiacos on Tuesday night.
At times it was that easy for the Greek side that it was hard to believe that the United players really gave a damn about the club or their own performances. It had to be one of the most lacklustre performances by a team in the club’s history.
There were very few rasied eyebrows when Moyes succeeded Ferguson but there are plenty now.
He had gone twelve years without winning a trophy at Everton but given his limited resources it had been accepted that he had done quite well but United are a different kettle of fish.
That said, he inherited a team in decline with Evra, Vidic and Ferdinand all well best their sell by date while Smalling, Rafael and Jones have yet to show that they’re good enough to play in the United defence. The jury is still out on Johnny Evans and there’s still some doubts about goalkpeeer David De Gea.
It doesn’t stop with the defence with Cleverly, Young and Valenica not looking the part in midfied while Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa and Hernandez all seem to have fallen down the pecking order.
As bad as they were on Tuesday night though the tie is now quite gone but it will take an almightly effort in the second leg at Old Trafford to overturn a two goal deficit and revive a season which is is danger of petering out.
Robin Van Persie, in an interview with Dutch TV, complained that his United teammates were getting in his way in the penalty area but I’m not sure what game he was at as United only had one shot on target throughout the game which sums it up.
David Moyes is facing into his biggest managerial challenge between now and the start of next season. There’s no doubt that many players will be leaving the club in the coming months and the trick is getitng the right calibre of player in to replace them. Wayne Rooney has signed a new five and a half year contract but even he will need help if Manchester United are to return to the levels that their directors and supporters have beocme accustomed to in recent years.
Anyone who watched on Tuesday night can only be left wondering is this a club in decline or will Moyes somehow be able to help them find their way back to the summit.
Bravo Saint André
Perhaps some other team sports could do worse than look to France coach Phillppe Saint-André in the wake of their 27-6 defeat against Wales last weekend. Naming his squad for the next game against Scotland he is without a number of players through injury while others have been left out through lack of from.
Also missing is their No 8 Louis Picamoles who has been dropped from his squad because he disrespected referee Allain Rolland.
Picamoles was axed for the Six Nations match with Scotland because he mockingly applauded Rolland after being shown a yellow card in their defeat to Wales last Friday.
Saint-Andre said: “After this defeat, we made some changes to compensate for injuries – but also in reaction to certain attitudes on the ground vis-a-vis the match officials that have no place in our sport.
“Respect is the foundation of our values. It is vital to send a signal to all players and remind them having the privilege of wearing the jersey imposes duties and obligations.”
It’s refreshing to see. It’s just a good job that he’s not managing Chelsea!
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Posted: 8:28 pm February 28, 2014