Football preview: Make it stick

What is it about Dublin versus Kerry? First versus second, in both GAA Elo rankings and All-Ireland titles. Any meeting between the game’s two leading sides is always something to savour – it’s merely a shame that it’ll clash with the Ireland-England match in the Six Nations. Fire up the Sky+.

Division 1

Kerry (1, 1926) v Dublin (2, 1883)
Where else would you start? The All-Ireland champions of 2014 versus the reigning League champions and the All-Ireland winners of 2013. Put it simply: if the Dubs can overcome our form-book model that gives them only a 34% chance of success, they’ll overtake Kerry at the top of the table.

Tyrone (6, 1637) v Derry (10, 1456)
The Saturday night clash sees Mickey Harte’s rejuvenated Tyrone side hoping to put the opening-night loss to Monaghan further back in their memories. Derry are the division’s weakest side and are given only a 22% chance of success.

Donegal (4, 1814) v Cork (5, 1736)
Another clash between two evenly-matched teams. Cork are the only side in Division 1 to have won both their openers, and if they can escape from Ballybofey with that record intact, they’ll be increasingly difficult to overcome. Our model, however, gives the home side a 69% likelihood of winning.

Mayo (3, 1829) v Monaghan (7, 1613)
This writer spent last weekend in Castlebar where it seems to have been raining almost constantly since roughly 1997. Last week Dr McHale Park was unplayable for the hurlers and if there’s no improvement this week, we could be in for an odd venue. Either way, one suspects that bumpier terrain might help the visitors to be more competitive than our model suggests – it says Mayo are 81% likely to win.

Division 2

Cavan (15, 1297) v Down (14, 1372)
These two provincial rivals are only one spot apart in the ratings, but the rankings gap illustrates something of the difference between them. However, having home venue could help – the model says Cavan have a 52.8% chance of success, which is a virtual 50-50.

Galway (12, 1416) v Laois (16, 1260)
Galway are another of only six sides in the country with a two-from-two record and are fancied to keep that run going against Laois. Our model says they’re 76% likely to do so.

Kildare (9, 1459) v Westmeath (19, 1142)
Kildare have lost both of their opening fixtures in Division 2 – and both because of late onslaughts by their victors. Having home venue against a Westmeath may give them a 87% chance of success, but Westmeath won their first game well and only lost to Galway by a single point. An upset would not be out of the question.

Roscommon (13, 1375) v Meath (11, 1424)
The Rossies are yet to lose in this year’s campaign (draw versus Cavan, win versus Down) and will fancy themselves to pop a Meath team that, beating Kildare aside, has still to find its feet. Much to your writer’s annoyance, the home side are tipped by 55.8%.

Division 3

Clare (22, 1078) v Sligo (25, 1011)
The Banner followed their opening-day thrashing of Wexford with a somewhat surprising defeat to Louth – but Sligo have lost both their openers by two points. Clare’s 68.3% likelihood of victory doesn’t seem all that unfair as a result.

Fermanagh (20, 1128) v Tipperary (17, 1258)
The hosts are two-from-two, while Tipp will be merely annoyed that their 12-point thrashing of Limerick came ahead of a two-weekend break. Our model says they’re expected to over-come that break with a 53.5% chance.

Limerick (24, 1013) v Armagh (8, 1492)
Armagh are two-from-two and this ought to be an easy one – Limerick’s first win over Sligo was followed by a thrashing by Tipperary. Armagh are 85% likely to win it and it would be genuinely stunning if they didn’t.

Louth (18, 1192) v Wexford (21, 1089)
Louth beat Clare who beat Wexford. No problem, surely? If only it were that simple. Nonetheless, Wexford’s thrashing on the opening day has damaged their rating and Louth are tipped by 71%.

Division 4

London (32, 562) v Longford (23, 1047)
The Exiles gave Carlow a good game before losing three weeks ago and remaining rooted to the foot of the (32-county) table. Longford drew one match and won the other by a single point – there’s a reason our model gives them a 85% chance of success.

Waterford (30, 732) v Carlow (31, 667)
Both are one-from-two; Waterford’s ranking is boosted by their 100-point home venue bonus, giving them a 68% probability of coming out on top.

Wicklow (26, 907) v Offaly (27, 894)
The closest-matched sides to face each other this weekend, with only 13 Elo points between them. Wicklow’s home venue is enough to nudge them over the line with a 62.7% likelihood.

Leitrim (29, 851) v Antrim (28, 869)
Leitrim have one point from four and a points difference of -1. Antrim have one point from four and a points difference of… -1. But, again, a tight game may well be settled by a home venue. Leitrim are ruled 59% likely to prevail.

We’ll be back after the weekend reflecting on the results of the weekend’s football.

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