Football preview: Everything is different, the second time around

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The second round of fixtures in the National Football League comes before a three-week break as hurling takes centre stage. That partial loss of momentum makes victory this week all that more important – going into the break with 4 points from 4 is a huge boost in the race for glory; breaking with 0 from 4 is a sign of a long spring and a short summer.

Division 1

Dublin (3) 1859 v Donegal (4) 1838
This Saturday night fixture is the certain highlight of the Division 1 clashes this weekend – partly because it offers the Dubs a chance of some redemption after last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, but also because these sides are (according to our model, at least) the best-matched teams to collide this weekend.

Home venues add a nominal 100 points to each side’s total but in truth the Croke Park factor is worth significantly more to the Dubs, especially under lights on a Saturday night. Even with the 100-point bump, the Elo system gives the Dubs a 63.5% shot at victory.

Derry (10) 1468 v Kerry (1) 1914
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Derry are by some way the weakest side in Division 1 – and due to the occasional freak result in the league, the hosts here are ranked lower than Armagh, who somehow languish two divisions below them. Despite last week’s slump to Mayo, Kerry are 83% favourites and rightly so.

Mayo (2) 1883 v Tyrone (7) 1583
Mickey Harte’s outfit will be looking very uneasy if they go into the three-week recess without a point on the board, but if Mayo repeat last week’s form – against a side much weaker than Kerry last week – there is no reason for them to fear Tyrone. On neutral turf, the model would favour Mayo 80% of the time – in Castlebar, it’s a cushier 86.3%.

Monaghan (6) 1638 v Cork (5) 1711
Not perhaps the most glamorous tie of the weekend, but possibly one of the most evenly matched. Both will fancy their chances after big results last weekend; Monaghan have perhaps slightly less experience facing big guns, but also have the comparative comfort of playing in comfy Castleblayney – giving them a 53% chance of success.

Division 2

Down (11) 1412 v Roscommon (14) 1335
Roscommon have been plugging away quietly for a few years and built up a handsome rating – while Down have fallen some way from their modern peak of late 2010. That said, the hosts’ late brace to win in Newbridge last week should give them some bounce. Our model gives them a 69% chance of success.

Laois (15) 1302 v Cavan (16) 1255
Laois fell to a disappointing defeat against Westmeath last week; Cavan may feel they should have got more than a draw out of Roscommon. Laois would have a 55% chance of success on neutral turf; home advantage ought to ease them past the Cavanmen with a 66.3% chance of a win.

Meath (13) 1398 v Kildare (8) 1485
For the second week running, Meath are involved in what may statistically be the closest game of the year. But then again, you don’t need a mathematical model to tell you that a league derby between the Two Best Sides In Leinster (That Aren’t Dublin, Obviously) is a perfect Petri dish to test the waters for a summer swim – especially when both sides will be eager to make amends for defeats last Sunday.

Saturday evening’s setting of Páirc Tailteann gives Meath a 51.5% chance. A draw would be far from unexpected.

Westmeath (19) 1158 v Galway (19) 1400
Both of the outfits in Maroon enjoyed solid wins last weekend – meaning a win this Sunday would put both in good stead to return to Division 1, where both would feel they may belong. Galway will rightfully feel more confident, however – they have a 65% chance of success, which would be 75% if the game were outside Mullingar.

Division 3

Tipperary (17) 1241 v Limerick (25) 1030
A tale of two fixtures. Tipperary had Armagh on the ropes before falling at the last; Limerick left it late to shake off Sligo. Sadly our Elo system can recognise only what happened, and not what might have been – meaning, with the extra benefit of home comfort, Tipp are 80% favourites.

Louth (18) 1171 v Clare (21) 1099
The Wee County, freshly demoted from Division 2, will be eager to make amends after last week’s dismantling by Fermanagh; Clare obliterated Wexford in their first outing after promotion from Division 4. Louth will be desperate to make amends and are 68.8% favourites to do so.

Sligo (23) 1040 v Fermanagh (22) 1099
Just as with the last fixture, if the form book is usurped, a new order will quickly be emerging. A second win for Fermanagh after last week’s thrashing of Louth would be a welcome fillup for Peter McGrath’s charges. Having the game in Markievicz Park, however, gives Sligo a 54.7% chance of overcoming the loss to Limerick last week.

Wexford (20) 1106 v Armagh (9) 1475
Armagh are clear outliers in Division 3 and should easily dispose of their Yellowbellied hosts – and will be hoping that last week’s stuttery win over Tipperary was enough to iron out any early-season kinks. Wexford collapsed to Clare last week and have only a 22% chance of regaining that lost ground.

Division 4

Carlow (31) 651 v London (32) 578
Forget Dublin-Donegal or Meath-Kildare – this is the true grudge match of the weekend, though perhaps an unlikely one.

Nobody likes the millstone of being bottom of the (league) pile, but the Championship heroics of 2013 are a distant memory now for the Exiles, who have just a 31% chance of success. But! Hope springs eternal – and if the visitors can win with a couple of points to spare, they will jump to 31st and send their hosts into the unwanted 32nd spot.

Longford (24) 1036 v Antrim (27) 880
Both of these sides scored 1-12 last week – and both drew their games to nominally weaker sides. So you’d think that perhaps these sides may be evenly matched? Perhaps not. Our model says the home venue advantage ought to give Longford a 76.4% chance of success. We shall see…

Offaly (28) 871 v Waterford (30) 755
Offaly took a long time to shake off London last week and will be keen to put up a better performance – this time facing a Waterford side boosted by a win over Wicklow last week. Playing in Tullamore should mean a 73% chance of success for the Faithful, and an early boost for the hosts’ chances of promotion.

Wicklow (26) 889 v Leitrim (29) 869
There may be three spots between these sides in the ranking table, but the Elo ratings show just how narrow the gap is. Home advantage in Fortress Aughrim (in as much as a Division 4 side can have a “fortress”) is the sole reason that Wicklow are favoured with a 63.5% chance of victory.

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