Lonesharkoy Football and Hurling previews and best bets

Lonesharkoy previews the Week 1 games and has bets including Westmeath, Laois and Clare to beat Tipperary in the hurling.

For most of my time studying the world of GAA betting, the greatest value in preseasons competitions was this – they tended to move the market, despite being completely irrelevant, and so value emerged for those who were willing to hold their nerve and ignore what they saw in the muck and frost of late winter.

With supporters desperate for the return of competitive action, Munster hurling league, FBD League and McKenna Cup ties were often attended by crowds of 5,000 and more, and while managers used the games to try out new players and run training sessions on the morning of games, with players themselves flat out with their college sides and other commitments, supporters (and bookmakers as a result, following the money) tended to attach far too much significance to January games.

Over-reactions followed in the prices, much like often happens in the NFL across the Atlantic, where preseason games are given far more weight than is appropriate.

Gradually however, things have changed, as more and more counties – particularly below the top tiers – have decided that the league is increasingly important, and they can ill-afford to gradually play their way into form. Last year we saw Roscommon win the FBD league, and they went on to gain promotion – as did Fermanagh, after over-achieving more than anyone else in the McKenna Cup. Longford were the standout team in Leinster, beating Kildare and Louth before losing to Meath after extra time, and their only defeat in the first six rounds of the league was a one-point reverse in Armagh, when they shot a huge number of wides.

Meanwhile Limerick won the Munster Hurling league, and the rest is history from there.

So with that in mind, where is the value in this weekend’s games?

Westmeath minus one point, even money with Hills and Betway, is one that this Offaly writer has to tip up with a heavy heart, but for all the same reasons that the Lake County are a value outright punt (soon to follow here on Betswot) they are a shrewd play this week.

Offaly manager John Maughan may have had his own image in mind when he drew attention to all those players that chose not to make themselves available to the Faithful County this year, but he wasn’t wrong in saying that a lot of good players aren’t in the panel – and Offaly don’t have the depth to overcome that. Add in long term injuries to Eoin Carroll and Peter Cunningham, the two best players in the side, and the case for a Westmeath win grows even stronger.

Home advantage can be significant in league games, but not in local derbies like this where players from both sides know the venue inside out.

Laois at 13/8 to beat Down, Hills and Bet365, is a price that won’t last until tomorrow evening, and makes up our second recommendation. Down are heavily depleted going into this game, and one suspects that Paddy Tally may need some time to embed his own unique style of play into a county that has always been the exception that proves the Ulster rule, in terms of defensive football.

Donie Kingston is back on board for John Sugrue’s men this year, Evan O’Carroll and Eoin Lowry are very talented forwards, and they remain physically powerful around the middle. In a wide-open division where the cliché is that every team could be relegated and every team could be promoted, Laois are far more likely to fall into the former category than the latter. They’ve got the market leaders at the right time too, which is a huge help.

In that game in Newry we might be following the money, but we’re going to oppose it in Navan, where Tipperary are now 11/4 with Boylesports against Meath, having drifted out from prices like 7/4 earlier in the week. It’s very difficult to look at the respective teams and see how this could or should be the case. The sides both finished with seven points each in 2018, and while home advantage is meaningful here, there is no reason to believe that Meath have significantly improved, or that Tipp have gone backwards. Meath have a little bit more by way of defensive class, Tipp have sharper, more stylish forwards, but this should be a 13/8 or 7/4 game, regardless of what way the cash is flowing.

Finally to the hurling, where Tipperary’s battle with Clare will be featured on Eir Sport tomorrow evening. Tipperary supporters watching the Munster Hurling League final against the Banner County a fortnight ago were bitterly disappointed at the lack of defensive sharpness and cuteness in their side, and one suspects that Liam Sheedy is going to have to make significant changes over the course of the Spring.

There is a very different dynamic at play in Division 1A of the hurling league however – with relegation not an issue, losing a string of games won’t be seen as a crisis, or at least it shouldn’t be. Other Tipperary managers could probably ill-afford to let the public grow agitated in a county that is not well-known for accepting mediocre standards when it comes to their county hurlers, but the Portroe man comes in as an All-Ireland winning manager, and that will buy him plenty of time. A lot more reconstruction work is needed in the Premier County than across the river in Clare, and that should tell a tale in the early rounds of this competition. Clare at 13/8 with Ladbrokes and Coral should be backed.