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Tyrone to level off lofty Laois ascendancy

LAOIS v TYRONE

(Portlaoise, Tonight 7.30)

LAST weekend Justin McNulty got to reacquaint with some old Armagh buddies -- namely Kieran McGeeney and Aidan O'Rourke of the Lilywhite brains trust. Now he can square up to some familiar adversaries from Tyrone.

It promises to be an intriguing clash, and perhaps a telling barometer too of the true level of progress made by Laois since McNulty took the wheel.

Winning all three league games in February augured well for the O'Moore men, who briefly threatened to make it four-from-four when leading Kildare by a point coming down the home straight.

The subsequent two-point defeat should have tempered some of the expectation -- maybe no bad thing given Laois's occasional tendency to lose the run of themselves.

Tonight, though, is an acid test. Tyrone opened with two dispiriting defeats but followed up with back-to-back victories over relegation candidates Sligo and Antrim.

They are slowly edging back to form, even if Mickey Harte was underwhelmed by their coasting five-point success against Antrim, complaining that Tyrone played enough good football to win by more. However, if Kevin Hughes can repeat the midfield masterclass that submerged the Saffrons, our suspicion is that Messrs Cavanagh, McGuigan, O'Neill and Mulligan should have too much in the locker.

ODDS: Laois 6/5, Draw 7/1, Tyrone 10/11

VERDICT: Tyrone

DERRY v DONEGAL

(Celtic Park, Tonight 7.30, live Setanta Sports 1)

PADDY BRADLEY shoots the lights out. His brother Eoin sees red. Just another typical day in the soap opera that is Derry football?

Perhaps, but the critical issue for the Oak Leafers is that they banished their Laois abomination -- and consequently got promotion back on track -- with that three-point victory over Sligo. Now Derry return to Celtic Park -- scene of the Laois crime. Second-placed Donegal are shaping well under Jim McGuinness and have their very own Bradley-esque destroyer in Michael Murphy.

ODDS: Derry 4/5, Draw 7/1, Donegal 11/8

VERDICT: Donegal

ANTRIM v SLIGO

(Casement Park, Tomorrow 1.30)

THE ultimate in relegation four- pointers. Antrim are marginally favoured, if only because of home advantage.

ODDS: Antrim 8/13, Draw 7/1, Sligo 7/4

VERDICT: Antrim