Lonesharkoy previews Football and Hurling Week 2 league fixtures
There is no doubt that home advantage is significant in the Allianz Football League, and there is no doubt that at this time of year, form can be widely inconsistent as managers try to give playing time to some panel members who possibly haven’t quite done enough to warrant automatic retention so far.
It’s also fair to say that judging Roscommon (or Mayo) on last Saturday night’s windswept encounter in MacHale Park would be grossly unfair. However with all those caveats on board, we’re going to recommend that 11/8 about Monaghan (-3pts) with Paddy Power Betfair is the best value bet of the week, as these two teams are just in very different places right now.
There is a real case to be made for saying that Monaghan are the second-best football team in Ireland in 2019. Their All-Ireland semi-final loss to Tyrone last August was hugely unlucky, and most neutral observers would be of the belief that Malachy O’Rourke’s men would have given Dublin a lot more to think about on All-Ireland final day than Tyrone managed.
Beating Dublin in Clones last Sunday has only reinforced that view, and if we take a form line through Galway – that Dublin easily swatted aside last night – the omens for Roscommon are not good.
Donie Smith will no doubt count himself lucky that he got a mere one-match ban, and one can only wonder what Tony Kelly of Clare is thinking about the fact that the two men got the same sanction for wildly different offences. In fact Kelly suffered more, as he was red-carded and so wasn’t there to help Clare get back into it against Tipperary, while Smith was free to play on against Mayo.
However none of this matters now, because for this week, Smith is missing, and that will hurt. In a forward line that doesn’t have Ciaráin or Diarmuid Murtagh, that doesn’t have Conor Devaney (probably), that doesn’t have Brian Stack and that doesn’t have Fintan Cregg, Smith is a key man. He is a little erratic but his shooting is exemplary, and while Kerry native Conor Cox is free to take his place after a protracted transfer saga, he has a lot of work to do to be someone that we’d back at over 4.5 points in a personal total bet – which we’d do in a heartbeat with Smith.
Monaghan, for their part, looked incredibly good. They continue to produce a gem of a player or two every year, and with Roscommon missing the worst of the inclement weather at the time of writing, they’ll get a good surface and plenty of opportunities to get the scores they need.
Our second bet this week is Boylesports’ incredibly brave 11/4 about Wicklow at home to Leitrim – we say brave, because the next best price is 9/4 with Betway, and the next best price on the Irish high street is 2/1. The Drogheda firm clearly want to get John Evans’ men in the bag and if we digest Leitrim’s superb performance against Wexford, that makes sense.
However this is different – this is Aughrim, and Wicklow now know that in all likelihood, if they can win their four home games this year, they’ll get promoted. John Evans isn’t quite able to cut it with division one teams but he’s very shrewd at every level below that, and he’ll figure out a way to minimise the influence of Ryan O’Rourke as much as is possible.
As we said initially, home advantage is significant – much more so in the lower divisions, where things like staying over the night before to minimise disruption on the day of the game is not realistic.
And while Roscommon has missed a lot of the snow, Wicklow hasn’t. Aughrim will be a pain to get to as roads are very poor around the county, the field will be choppy after taking a lot of snow and having a hurling game on it first thing, and all of these are reasons why Wicklow are well capable of springing what would be a very minor surprise.
Finally we’ll turn to the hurling, where a small wager on Laois (+10pts) at even money against Waterford, generally available, is our top tip.
Eddie Brennan’s side had a disastrous start against Galway, falling 0-10 to 0-2 behind after 17 minutes. For the remainder of the game, they lost out by a point, 1-17 to 2-13. They were particularly impressive in the full back line, and forced Galway to take a lot of scores from range.
Waterford, for their part, took on a truly dismal Offaly side in Thurles and put them to the sword – but that said more about Offaly than Waterford. This year Kevin Martin is short a lot of key players, and he certainly put out a lightweight team last week – just four starters had more than 10 league and championship appearances to their name, while five players made their debuts. Martin has form for taking it easy in games that he knows will be inconsequential so it’s not that Waterford were devastating. Laois will be much more tuned in at home, and if they don’t ship a load of goals, they should come out with their dignity intact.