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Keen rivals lock horns again as Dublin legend Clarke returns to fold

By Damian Lawlor 

Croke Park will be under lights once more this Saturday evening with an action-packed double-bill on the cards. 

The main dish features the Allianz Football League Division One meeting of deadly rivals Dublin and Donegal (7pm).

Before that TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Senior Football Champions Dublin will play Cork in a Lidl National League Division 1 clash (5pm). The “battle of the champions” sees both counties carrying 100 per cent records into this game. 

Firstly, though, to the Allianz League third-round clash. Despite losing their first two games, Donegal have shown massive potential and adventure under new manager Declan Bonner. They only lost narrowly to both Kerry and Galway, scoring a fantastic 3-14 away to the Kingdom.

Bonner, favours brave, attacking football, so supporters who make their way to the stadium for the floodlit spectacular are in for a treat.  

The big news is that Dublin boss Jim Gavin has expanded his management team with the addition of Blues folk hero Paul Clarke as a selector. The pair were teammates on Dublin’s All-Ireland winning side of 1995 and, more recently, Gavin has entrusted Clarke with taking charge of the team in the O’Byrne Cup. 

The move will only enhance Dublin’s chances. Collie Basquel and Brian Howard are also staking serious challenges for places with seasoned players like Eoghan O’Gara also making an impact. 

Still, they only drew 1-8 to Donegal’s 2-5 when the sides met last year, while Gavin’s men won the previous three Allianz League clashes between the counties in 2016 (Round 6 and Semi-Final) and 2015.

Indeed, Donegal’s last win over Dublin in a competitive game was in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final (3-14 to 0-17). 

Although Donegal were very unlucky in their opening two games, they will need to offer their Talisman, Paddy McBrearty, much more support in attack if they are to beat Dublin. 

Before all of that Mick Bohan’s Dublin ladies footballers will entertain Division 1 title holders Cork at HQ.

This game pits the current All-Ireland Championship and League holders against each other. Cork put Monaghan to the sword on Sunday while Dublin earned a hard-fought victory over Westmeath on their visit to Mullingar.