The Lidl Ladies National Football Leagues continue apace, with a massive round 4 weekend in store.
There’s a glamour ‘double-header’ pencilled in for Elvery’s MacHale Park in Castlebar on Saturday evening, as TG4 All-Ireland senior finalists Mayo and Dublin meet in a LIVE televised eir sport clash (5pm), ahead of their male counterparts.
Dublin have collected three victories from three outings to date in Division 1 of the 2018 Lidl National League – and sit on top of the pile ahead of Cork and Mayo, who are three points further back.
Elsewhere in Division 1, Cork host Westmeath on Sunday, Monaghan entertain Donegal in an Ulster derby and Galway make the trip to Kerry.
It’s also a pivotal weekend in Division 2, as pace-setters Tipperary make the trip to second-placed Cavan, while Ulster rivals Armagh and Tyrone lock horns.
Wexford will aim to maintain their 100 per cent record in Division 3 while Wicklow are also three from three in Division 4.
Saturday 24th February
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 1 – Round 4
Mayo (H) v Dublin, 5.00pm, Elvery’s MacHale Park, (M Farrelly, Cavan)
The weekend gets off to a cracking start with the meeting of Mayo and Dublin, a fixture that will be televised LIVE on eir sport.
Dublin are three from three in Division 1 this year but Mayo have been motoring nicely too, and the green and red have collected two wins from their three games.
The only blip so far was defeat to Kerry but Peter Leahy’s charges hit back last time out with an impressive victory against a fancied Galway outfit at Pearse Stadium in Salthill.
It’s the first time that the Mayo ladies will have the chance to appear on a Castlebar double-bill alongside their male counterparts and they certainly won’t lack for motivation.
An added factor to throw into the mix is the fact that this is the first time the counties have clashed since last
September’s memorable TG4 All-Ireland senior final, when the Sky Blues came with a strong final quarter to claim victory.
Dublin have never won a Division 1 title but they appear to have their sights set on glory this year.
Their 100 per cent record will come under threat from the fired-up hosts, however, and a titanic battle lies in store.
Sunday 25th February
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 1 – Round 4
Monaghan (H) v Donegal, 2.00pm, Clones (K McKeever, Armagh)
An intriguing Ulster derby in Clones sees Monaghan host a Donegal side sitting in the top four ahead of the weekend’s fixtures, on scoring difference.
Donegal blitzed Westmeath in last weekend’s rearranged fixture and seem to be finding their feet now under the guidance of Maxi Curran.
But Monaghan earned their first points of the campaign with a merited victory over Kerry in Dublin last weekend – and they’ll fancy their chances of a second win on the spin.
These two counties know plenty about each other from Ulster fare but Donegal boast the strongest scoring difference in the top flight and with Yvonne Bonner in top form, they’ll feel confident of making it two wins from four outings.
On the flipside, a Monaghan victory would have them looking up the table, rather than over their shoulders.
Cork (H) v Westmeath, 2.00pm, Mallow, Cork (S McNulty, Wicklow)
Cork are the reigning Lidl NFL Division 1 champions and while they were beaten by Dublin at Croke Park last time out, the Leesiders showed enough to suggest that they will be a force for the long haul in 2018.
In that fixture, Ephie Fitzgerald’s charges gave themselves too much to do but he’ll have been pleased with a fightback that fell narrowly short.
Cork have been hoovering up titles at underage level in recent years and it will be interesting to see if that can transfer to senior level quickly, or if there’s a transitional period in store.
It’s been a tough slog for Westmeath in the top flight to date, with three defeats from their three matches.
They were competitive in games against Mayo and Dublin but leaking 9-17 to Donegal last weekend is a concern for the basement side.
Kerry (H) v Galway, 2.00pm, Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney (J Mullins, Limerick)
If results transpire against them over the weekend, one of these sides could lose ground in the race for a top-four finish.
Galway and Kerry occupy slots five and six respectively in the divisional standings and this is an opportunity to push firmly into the race for semi-final positions.
Kerry have suffered defeats to Cork and Monaghan but in between, there was an encouraging victory over Mayo.
Galway, meanwhile, have lost just once in three games but it was a painful Connacht derby reverse against Mayo in Salthill in their last outing.
Two teams with semi-final ambitions lock horns here and the result of this one will have a big bearing on the final divisional standings.
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 2 – Round 4
Cavan (H) v Tipperary, 2.00pm, Maghera MacFinn’s Park, Virginia, Cavan (D Love, Fermanagh)
The top two in Division 2 go head to head, with Tipperary making another long trip north in search of more points.
The Premier County are protecting a 100 per cent record to date in Division 2, and have adapted to life in the second tier remarkably well following last year’s promotion.
Cavan, like Tipperary, are also unbeaten in Division 2 and they’ve only dropped points against Armagh.
A home win would send Cavan to the top of the table and that’s a big incentive for James Daly’s hosts.
Waterford (H) v Sligo, WIT, Waterford 2.00pm, (K Phelan, Laois)
Waterford are one of two teams on six points, alongside Tyrone, and a home fixture with bottom of the table Sligo gives the Déise a chance to continue on a positive trajectory.
Sligo are bottom on points difference and while they were competitive in their opening fixture against Clare, the Yeats County have conceded big totals against Tyrone and Armagh since then.
Armagh’s early blitz ended last Sunday’s fixture as a contest and Waterford will be looking for a fast start to assert some early dominance.
Laois (H) v Clare, 2.00pm, Stradbally, Laois (J Murphy, Carlow)
Laois could also do with points to kickstart their campaign – and they welcome Clare to Stradbally on Sunday.
Laois could argue that they have three tough tests out of the way in Cavan, Tipperary and Waterford but in a division that also contains Armagh and Tyrone, it won’t get much easier for them.
Since beating Sligo on the opening day, Clare have lost to Waterford and Cavan but a victory here could yet see them make a push for the top four.
It’s a big game with potential implications at both ends of the table, as a Laois win would move them level on points with Sunday’s visitors.
Armagh (H) v Tyrone, 12.00pm, Athletic Grounds, Armagh (B Rice, Down)
This could be one of the games of the weekend as Ulster sides Armagh and Tyrone lock horns at the Athletic Grounds.
Tyrone have lost just one of their three opening games – against Tipperary last weekend – while Armagh racked up 7-20 against Sligo last Sunday.
Armagh are very much in the frame for one of the coveted top four slots and a home win would see them cement that status.
But Tyrone will travel with confidence and not much, if anything, will separate these two sides at full-time.
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 3 – Round 4
Wexford (H) v Roscommon, 2.30pm, St Patrick’s Park, Enniscorthy, Wexford (N McCormack, Laois)
Wexford lead the way in Division 3 and have the chance to maintain their 100 per cent record when Roscommon make the visit to Enniscorthy.
But the Rossies are in decent form themselves, sitting third in the table and in a cluster of three teams on six points each.
Roscommon were impressive winners against Meath in their last fixture as Wexford needed a late Aoife Sheil goal to seal a dramatic victory against a spirited Kildare.
Down (H) v Offaly, 2.00pm, Abbey Grammar School Newry 4G Down (Y Duffy, Cavan)
Down were due to travel to Longford on Thursday evening but that game was postponed until March 8.
With one victory and one defeat so far, Down are still in the promotion hunt in the early stages of the campaign but they’ll need a victory at home to Offaly.
The visitors got off the mark last time out against Leitrim but this is a much tougher prospect for the Faithful County.
Kildare (H) v Longford, 2.00pm, Hawkfield Pitch 1, Kildare (D McEnery, Westmeath)
Kildare are on six points to date and can count themselves slightly unfortunate not to have nine.
Three of those points were from a Leitrim concession but after defeating Offaly, the Lilywhites were unlucky to lose to Division 3 runners-up Wexford late on.
Longford’s proposed Thursday fixture against Down was postponed but they’ll be eager to get on the pitch this weekend, in an attempt to atone for a heavy loss against Meath in their last outing.
Meath (H) v Leitrim, 1.00pm, Dunganny, Meath (P Burke, Louth)
After scoring a combined 11-27 in their opening two League fixtures, it came as a surprise to many when Meath lost for the first time in Division 3 against Roscommon.
A home tie against Leitrim provides a chance for the Royals to get their campaign back on track, as the visitors adjust to regular football again after conceding their first two games.
Leitrim shipped 6-15 against Offaly last weekend but the game under their belts should see them find some extra cohesion, and it’s encouraging to see them back in action.
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 4 – Round 4
Wicklow (H) v Antrim, 2.00pm, Roundwood, (B Redmond, Wexford)
Wicklow lead the pack in Division 4 but they’ll get nothing easy from visiting Antrim on Sunday.
The Saffrons have only one blot on their Division 4 copybook to date – a defeat against Limerick – but they’re firmly in the promotion race.
Wicklow were beaten Division 4 finalists last year and are determined to go one step better this time.
Derry (H) v Louth, 2.00pm, St. Trea’s Ballymaguigan, Derry (S Coyle, Donegal)
Division 4 is an intriguing division and Louth will look to keep in touch with table-toppers Wicklow.
It’s perhaps a surprise to see Derry pointless from three games after they contested a TG4 All-Ireland junior final replay last year.
Derry beat Carlow en route to Croke Park in 2017 but leaked four goals to the same opposition in their last fixture.
Fermanagh (H) v Carlow, 2.00pm, Derrygonnelly, Fermanagh (D Kearns, Down)
After losing to Antrim in their opening game, Fermanagh have hit back in impressive fashion.
The Erne County are chasing a third successive victory, following successes against Derry and Louth.
Fermanagh produced their best performance of the campaign against Louth, who themselves were six-point winners over Carlow in round 2.
Carlow have been steady, otherwise, collecting four points to date.
Kilkenny (H) v Limerick, 2.00pm, Dunmore, Kilkenny (J Corcoran, Kildare)
Kilkenny have found the going tough in Division 4, shipping big totals to Louth and Antrim, while also conceding their planned fixture against Wicklow.
Home advantage against Limerick on Sunday will help the Cats but the visitors are targeting a top-four finish.
Limerick will also be anxious to bounce back from a six-point defeat against Wicklow in round 3.