By Mark Jones
The picture for the knockout stages of the National Football League became clearer last weekend with both Tyrone and reigning champions Mayo booking their places in the semifinals. The remaining spots in the last four will be decided next Sunday, with Roscommon and Donegal battling it out in Div. 1A and Cavan and Sligo going head-to-head in Div. 1B.
Tyrone 2-15, Westmeath 2-8
The final scoreline was deceptive as Tyrone were much too strong for Westmeath in Div. 1A. In fact, with Peter Canavan once again in scintillating form, the Ulster county were ahead by 18 points before Westmeath staged a late but, ultimately, futile rally. Canavan kicked five points, while Stephen O’Neill and Kevin Hughes had the winners’ goals to set up a result that sees Westmeath relegated after just one season in the top flight.
Roscommon 2-12, Dublin 0-16
Spectators certainly had value for money at Parnell Park, where a Stephen Lohan goal 90 seconds into injury time gave Roscommon a dramatic 2-12 to 0-16 victory over Dublin. The win means that Roscommon will qualify for the semifinals if they take a point from next weekend’s game against Donegal at Hyde Park.
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Roscommon were dominant during the first half and went in 0-10 to 0-5 in front at the interval. Dublin manager Tommy Lyons replaced Jonny Magee with his brother Darren in an effort to curb the threat of Lohan, and with Ciaran Whelan and Darren Homan upping their workrates, the home team was soon back in contention.
Dublin drew level only to be pegged back by a Nigel Dineen goal, but two Ray Cosgrove points and a fine effort from Magee brough the scores level again on the stroke of full-time.
Lohan, however, had the final say when Paul Noone’s shot rebounded off the post, and now Dublin need to beat Galway to stay out of the relegation zone.
Donegal 1-12, Cork 0-9
Cork remain precariously placed near the foot of the table following a loss to Donegal at Ballyshannon. A Kevin Rafferty goal on the half hour and some poor shooting by the Cork forwards during the second half gave the home team the victory which keeps them in the hunt for a place in the last four.
Galway 1-13, Offaly 0-15
All-Ireland champions Galway staved off the threat of relegation when they edged out Offaly at Ballinasloe. Padraic Joyce’s goal gave Galway a 3-point advantage at the break, and with Joe Bergin in impressive form, they held on even though Colm Quinn had the chance to equalize near the end only to see his 45-meter free fall well short of the target.
Mayo 0-16, Derry 2-8
Contrasting fortunes for Mayo and Derry in Div. 1B at Crossmolina, where Mayo earned a place in the semis and consigned the Ulster county to almost certain relegation. Second-half goals by Dermot Dougan and substitute David Burns gave Derry hope, but James Nallen’s presence in defense and a late Trevor Mortimer point saw the home side through.
Cavan 1-12, Clare 0-7
Cavan kept themselves in contention for the last four with a convincing win over Clare at Miltown Malbay. A late Peter Reilly goal secured the points for the Ulster county, who now have to beat Sligo at Markievicz Park on Sunday to make the semifinals. Clare’s disappointing performance means that they are now likely to be relegated along with Derry.
Fermanagh 2-9, Sligo 0-11
Sligo missed out an opportunity of making the semifinals and will have to wait for a second opportunity after they were defeated by Fermanagh at Brewster Park. Indeed, Fermanagh could still be in the shake-up for the knockout stages if they beat Mayo next weekend and if Sligo and Cavan draw.
Kildare 1-17, Down 1-10
Kildare made sure of their Div. 1 status with an impressive victory over Down at Newry. Tadhg Fennin, with 0-6, and Martin Lynch with 5 points were in good form for the winners, while Down need Kildare to take at least a point from Clare next weekend to be sure of survival.
Kerry kept up their push for promotion with a tense 1-point win over Armagh at Tralee. It finished 2-10 to 2-9, a result that leaves both counties level on 10 points at the top of the table.
Limerick’s promotion hopes were dashed when they slumped to a 0-12 to 0-8 defeat by Louth at Kilmallock, but Antrim were able to take heart from a 0-13 to 1-8 victory over Wicklow at Casement Park. London’s season of woe continued when they lost by 1-16 to 0-8 to Leitrim — a sixth defeat in as many games.
Meath, meanwhile, moved closer to a return to the top flight when they narrowly defeated Wexford by 2-7 to 1-9 in Div. 2B and Laois are not out of the promotion race following their 2-16 to 1-11 win over Monaghan at Clontribret. Tipperary killed off Longford’s dwindling chances with a 1-12 to 1-11 success at Pearse Park, while Carlow earned their first points of the season by edging out Waterford 0-12 to 0-11 at Dr. Cullen Park.
Kilkenny 3-14, Clare 1-12
An understrength Kilkenny performed superbly in Div. 1A of the National Hurling League to beat Clare at Ennis. Without D.J. Carey and Charlie Carter, some of the panel’s lesser names, such as Martin Comerford, Stephen Grehan, Eddie Brennan and Michael Kavanagh, took their chance to make an impression.
“Anyone who played out there certainly did themselves no harm at all,” said manager Brian Cody.
Grehan scored two of the goals, with Brennan contributing a third, while Henry Shefflin hit 6 points, including three from frees. Clare, for their part, were off the pace, with such stalwarts as Ollie Baker, Seanie McMahon and Jamesie O’Connor struggling for form.
Waterford 1-16, Galway 0-16
Following a disappointing defeat at the hands of Dublin, Waterford made up some ground with a fluent success over Galway at Walsh Park. In a match more reminiscent of highly competitive summer hurling, Waterford’s Ken McGrath and Paul Flynn were in outstanding form, with Flynn scoring the all-important goal midway though the first half.
Dublin 1-15, Meath 0-9
Dublin received a boost with a second successive win in the campaign when they were too strong for Meath at Navan. The result was earned despite the first-half dismissal of midfielder Conal Keaney following a flareup between several players. Shane Martin drove home a goal and David Curtin finished with 9 points, seven of them frees.
A hat-trick of goals by Eamonn Collins kept Cork in contention for the semifinals as they comprehensively defeated Offaly by 4-17 to 1-10 at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Div. 1B. Meanwhile, Limerick turned in an impressive display in beating Wexford by 2-16 to 1-12 at the Gaelic Grounds, where Ciaran Carey and Mark Foley caught the eye, and Tipperary crushed Derry by 5-23 to 0-3 at Nenagh.
In Div. 2A, Kildare registered a first victory when they got the better of Roscommon by 0-17 to 2-9 at Athleague, while Antrim were much too strong for Westmeath, coming through at Casement Park by 4-13 to 0-12.
In Div. 2B, Laois kept up their 100 percent record with a 0-22 to 1-9 triumph over London, and Kerry stayed in the hunt by defeating Wicklow by 1-13 to 1-8.