National Football League Round 3 Previews

Lonesharkoy previews Round 3 of the National Football League games and has bets on Mayo to beat Donegal, Tyrone to beat Laois & Wicklow on handicap against Louth.

Few rounds of league competition are more opportune than week three of the Allianz Football League. Two early rounds of games have given the bookies plenty of food for though and established some form lines, yet there is also plenty of volatility, since sides that were miles ahead due to early season training find that their advantage over the chasing pack narrows sharply, while those that are looking towards August start to make up some ground.

Both Mayo and Donegal are in the short list of counties that would expect to find themselves still in the hunt for All Ireland glory on the August Bank Holiday weekend, yet there’s no question which team has been in the better form so far. The Ulster county have sailed through their early contests, showing real flair and panache in the process, while Mayo were far more laboured, and even that’s being kind when we look at their feeble effort against Cork.

That said; expect something of a backlash this week. While Donegal have been away in Tenerife, their Connacht opponents have been welcoming a handful of real heavyweight players to training. Aidan O’Shea, Keith Higgins and Lee Keegan are three All Star winners who come back into the side, while Kevin McLoughlin, Chris Barrett and Seamus O’Shea are just some of the players that have returned to training and may yet feature. That’s a huge turnaround, and yet we’re getting 2/1 about a win for the Mayo against a side that they’ve easily overcome in their last two championship encounters. That’ll do nicely.

Secondly, Tyrone (-3pts) are nicely priced at 6/5 with Paddy Power for their clash with Laois at O’Moore Park.

Simply put, Tyrone are in excellent form this year and after I attended their most recent outing against Galway, I came away from Pearse Stadium confident that they’ll give Ulster a real rattle this year, and that they may yet squeeze into the All Ireland shake up. They’ve added several fine young players to their panel and can afford to use veterans like Seán Cavanagh sparingly, while the pace and cohesion in their attacking play is a joy to behold. Tiernan McCann may have gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons, but he’s maturing into a fine all round footballer who can control games and play the role of the dominant wing forward, a key ingredient in all modern sides ever since his county colleague Brian Dooher rewrote the manual on how to play the position.

Historically, Laois fare better than most Leinster sides against Ulster opposition and they also executed an excellent mid-season turnaround last year,  just when it looked as if their division two goose was cooked. Yet it’s hard to ignore the feeling that their win in Armagh last time out said more about Armagh (who were playing without their Crossmaglen natives) than it did about the midlands county. This is a huge step up in class and while home advantage will bring them a long way, Tyrone have all the hallmarks of a side that’s going to come through this division without a scratch. Three points is a significant spread to cover, but the way Tyrone are moving now, any team would do well to keep them to less than eighteen or nineteen points in total.

Finally, Wicklow (+2pts) at 6/5 (Ladbrokes) look like a decent selection against Louth in Division 4. Both sides are two out of two so far this year and the manner of the four victories would suggest that there shouldn’t be a lot in it in what will be a significant battle. Louth have a little bit more defensive strength than the Garden County, but taking a line through Waterford, keeping the two point spread on your side could be a smart play in this one.

Wicklow don’t normally travel very well, but with all due respect to Louth, Drogheda isn’t exactly a fortress - while a dramatic under-21 victory over a middling Carlow side during the week should put a spring in the step of the visitors’ camp. Louth, in contrast, never really got going against Laois and while they are in the promotion hunt, the mood in the Wee County is very different. The pressure to get out of division four at the first attempt is severe, which is a little unfair given the difficulty they continue to have in adjusting to life without Paddy Keenan.

For several years now, the big St Patricks midfielder was the only thing that elevated Louth above a division four standard. Now that he’s gone, that’s where they find themselves on merit and there is no way that they deserve to be so fancied against a dogged Wicklow side.

Advised Bets

Mayo to beat Donegal at 2/1 with Ladbrokes and BetVictor

Tyrone (-3) to beat Laois at 6/5 with Paddy Power

Wicklow (+2) to beat Louth at 6/5 with Ladbrokes