Lidl Ladies National Football League Round 1 2018
Lidl NFL Division 1 – Round 1
Mayo v Westmeath – Swinford Amenity Park, 12.30pm (M Farelly).
Mayo suffered defeat to Galway in last weekend’s Connacht Winter League final but last year’s beaten TG4 All-Ireland senior finalists were admittedly understrength. It will be interesting to see how new manager Peter Leahy copes without Cora Staunton, who’s preparing for life as a professional in Australia, while fellow long-serving stars Martha Carter and Yvonne Byrne have yet to declare their intentions for the coming season. Westmeath are preparing for life in Division 1 after gaining promotion from the second tier, with Stephen Maxwell continuing to guide their fortunes. They couldn’t have asked for a much tougher assignment in the top flight and Mayo will be anxious to get life under Leahy off to a positive start.
Galway v Monaghan – TBC, 2pm (M Kenny)
Galway beat Mayo in last year’s TG4 Connacht final but were then wiped out in the qualifiers by Cork. Manager Stephen Glennon will hope to remove that type of inconsistency from their game and coming into the new season on the back of an Aisling McGing All-Ireland U21 final win against Mayo, and last weekend’s Connacht Winter League final victory over the same opposition, there’s a quiet feeling of optimism in Galway that the team could emerge as dark horses in 2018. Monaghan make the trip west with Annmarie Burns in charge of the county team for the first time. On their day, Monaghan can be a match for anybody and this could be one of the most interesting ties of the weekend.
Kerry v Cork – Knocknagoshel, 2pm (N McCormack)
Kerry progressed to last year’s TG4 All-Ireland senior semi-final, but they were well beaten by eventual winners Dublin. In their first competitive outing since then, it couldn’t be a much tougher task against old rivals Cork, who are the reigning Lidl Division 1 League champions. Kerry look set to introduce some new faces into their starting line-up, alongside experienced players like Aislinn Desmond, Sarah Houlihan and Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh. Cork are chasing a tenth Division 1 crown in eleven seasons and are notoriously slow starters in the group stages. It’s a tricky assignment for them away from home against Kerry, and this Munster derby could be a tight affair.
Donegal v Dublin – Letterkenny, 2pm (G Carmody)
The battle of the champions in Letterkenny as Ulster holders Donegal host 2017 Leinster and All-Ireland winners Dublin. The visiting Sky Blues look set to add 2011 All-Ireland winner Paul Casey to their backroom team, while 2010 All-Ireland champion Siobhán McGrath is back in an extended panel. All-Star Rachel Ruddy, who’s set to go travelling, is a loss but Dublin have plenty of strength in depth under the guidance of Mick Bohan. Having captured that All-Ireland title last year, Dublin will now hope to add the Division 1 League title, a competition the Jackies have never won. Donegal contested last year’s decider, falling narrowly to Cork, and they’ll hope for another big season. All-Star nominee Karen Guthrie captains the team, with All-Star winning sisters Ciara and Niamh Hegarty pivotal figures in defence and attack respectively.
Lidl NFL Division 2 – Round 1
Armagh v Tipperary, Silverbridge, 12pm (D Love)
Two promotion favourites meet in the first round of the Lidl National League in Division 2, with Armagh hosting Tipperary in Silverbridge. Having suffered relegation last year, Armagh will target an immediate return to the top flight, while Tipp are seeking a second successive promotion. Division 3 winners last year, the Premier County went on to add the TG4 All-Ireland intermediate crown, while going the entire season unbeaten. Tipp look set to line out with the vast majority of that All-Ireland winning side, but Armagh will prove a tough nut to crack on home soil.
Laois v Cavan, Sarsfield (Mountmellick), 2pm (D McEnery)
In what promises to be a hugely competitive second tier, Cavan are another strong promotion contender. The Breffni ladies went close last year but lost out to Westmeath in a divisional final replay, following a couple of cracking games. Laois reached the Division 2 semi-finals last year and with Kevin Doogue remaining in charge to provide continuity, they could improve again. This will be a test for Cavan on their travels but with new manager James Daly settling in, they’ll want to lay down an early marker.
Clare v Sligo – Milltown, 2pm (K O’Brien)
Paddy Henry’s decision to remain at the helm is good news for Sligo, while Clare have a new manager in James Murrihy. These two counties will be competitive in Division 2 and having contested last year’s TG4 All-Ireland intermediate semi-final, Sligo will seek further progress. Clare were defeated by Meath at the quarter-final stage of the same competition and they also contested a Division 2 semi-final last year, losing out to Cavan. A good start is vital for both counties and this is an important game at the very start.
Tyrone v Waterford – Drumragh, 2pm (C Dourneen)
Tyrone were beaten TG4 All-Ireland intermediate finalists last year, while Waterford made a big impression in the senior championship in 2017, beating Cork and Kerry in Munster before knocking out Cavan in the qualifiers. Waterford are capable of making a big impact in Division 2 and will quietly fancy their chances of a promotion push. Tyrone, too, would place themselves in that category and they’ll aim for a strong League campaign before turning their attentions towards going one better in the All-Ireland series.
Lidl NFL Division 3 – Round 1
Longford v Wexford – McGann Park, 2pm (D Carolan).
Wexford are hotly-tipped to gain promotion from Division 3, having lost out to Tipperary after a replay in last year’s final. They come up against last year’s Division 4 winners Longford in their opening fixture, and away from home. Mairead Reynold is a key figure at midfield for Longford, while Wexford still have former Kerry ace Bernie Breen in their ranks.
Roscommon v Offaly – Kiltoom, 2pm (Y Duffy).
Roscommon and Offaly were last year’s beaten Division 3 semi-finalists, and they meet in the opening round of 2018 fixtures. Roscommon fell to Wexford in the last four, while Offaly were defeated by eventual champions Tipperary. Both counties will target at least a top four finish again.
Meath v Down – Dunganny 3G, 2pm (P Burke).
Meath and Down both preserved their Division 3 status last year, but would have hoped for better. A good start for either side here would see them looking up, rather than down, as the battle for top four spots begins in earnest. Defeat is not an option for either side as an early-season setback would set relegation alarm bells ringing early.
Lidl NFL Division 4 – Round 1
Carlow v Limerick – Feenagh, 2pm (TBC)
Carlow were beaten TG4 All-Ireland junior semi-finalists last year, while they also reached the Lidl Division 4 semi-finals. On both occasions, Carlow were left disappointed but they’ll hope for at least a top-four League finish again. Limerick were relegated from Division 3 last season but John Ryan’s shrewd appointment as manager should see them improve.
Wicklow v Derry – Roundwood, 2pm (TBC)
Wicklow will start as one of the promotion favourites from Division 4, as they only missed out in 2017 after losing to Longford in the final. Derry endured a disappointing League campaign but regrouped to reach a TG4 All-Ireland junior decider, where they lost out to Fermanagh after a replay.
Fermanagh v Antrim – St Patrick’s, 2pm (TBC)
Reigning TG4 All-Ireland junior champions Fermanagh will now set their sights on promotion from Division 4 of the Lidl National League, and they were semi-finalists in this competition last year. Fermanagh lost out to Wicklow in the last four in 2017 but will look to go one step further this time.
Kilkenny v Louth – Heywood, 3pm (J Murphy)
Kilkenny finished rock-bottom of Division 4 last year, and without a single point, but manager James Neary will seek improvement from the girls in black and amber. They’re up against Louth in their opening fixture, who finished just outside the top four in 2017.