Championship previews: Galway and Limerick close in on provincial hurling titles

Football qualifiers will spell the end of two Division One counties, as Tailteann Cup quarter-finals also down for decision

SATURDAY

Leinster SHC final

Galway v Kilkenny, Croke Park, 7.0 [ Live RTÉ2] – The facts are clear enough. Kilkenny lost two matches in the round robin whereas Galway are unbeaten and defeated their opponents along the way. The defending champions’ form this season has been erratic but that’s equally been the story of recent years.

They are however on a three-in-a-row in the province and have a tendency to produce performances on occasions such as this, most pertinently when putting on a late show to sting Galway two years ago.

Kilkenny don’t look as good as that any more and this match is really about where Galway are and has the Shefflin effect finally made them any less inclined to getting fits of the vapours and more importantly capable of surviving them – as they just about did in the Salthill match?

Galway’s forwards have better potential whereas the champions have been fitful. There may be a response from them to the poor display against Wexford but that doesn’t change the probable outcome.

Verdict: Galway

All-Ireland SFQ round 1

Cork v Louth, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2.0 [Live GAAGO] – Chastening defeats for both counties in their championships: Louth hit a major speed bump after a largely positive year of promotion and winning the Division Three title in Croke Park. They hit the rocks though against Kildare and whereas Cork got savaged in the last quarter by Kerry, they had acquitted themselves well up to then.

Verdict: Cork

Mayo v Monaghan, Hastings Insurance MacHale Park, 4.0 [Live Sky Sports Arena] – Mayo position themselves for another crack at the qualifiers. Team news is positive with Paddy Durcan back in a team showing a lot of changes from the Galway defeat. Monaghan haven’t been terribly consistent this year and although coach Donie Buckley knows a lot about the opposition, they’ve been struggling for scores. Allowing for all the doubts about the home team’s capacity to keep rebounding, this is within their reach.

Verdict: Mayo

Clare v Meath, Cusack Park, 6.0 [Live GAAGO] – They played a dreary league encounter which obliged Meath to come from behind and since then the championship hasn’t gone well for either of them. Clare hope to have Keelan Sexton back and Meath successfully sprang Jordan Morris from suspension. This is a chance for Clare after Meath’s walloping by Dublin.

Verdict: Clare

Joe McDonagh Cup SH final

Antrim v Kerry, Croke Park, 5.0 [Live RTÉ 2] – Kerry line up a third successive McDonagh final in the knowledge if their luck changes, they might be forcing Tipp into a mortifying relegation play-off. They went to Belfast and won the group match but this time a full-strength Antrim have too much.

Verdict: Antrim

Tailteann Cup SFC quarter-final

Offaly v New York, O’Connor Park, 2.0 [Live GAAGO] – Offaly have the bit between their teeth after two wins and with Croke Park looming in the next match. New York have the anticipated problems of organising a trip to the Old Country and the challenges are unlikely to end there.

Verdict: Offaly

SUNDAY

Munster SHC final

Clare v Limerick, FBD Semple Stadium, 4.0 [Live RTÉ2] – The vigorous stalemate in Ennis a couple of weeks ago has whetted the appetite for this.

Limerick have their top forward Aaron Gillane back as well as the in-form Darragh O’Donovan at centrefield. Talk is that Kyle Hayes will revert to wing back, which will challenge the Clare puck-out between the expected high press and the alternative of pucking out to a half-back line dominating the horizon like the Easter Island statues.

Clare too can improve. Ian Galvin was suspended the last day and Mark Rogers has been included in the panel after a long spell out with injury. Tony Kelly again goes out with the pressure of compiling an outsized total in order to keep his team afloat even though Shane O’Donnell and Peter Duggan are lending serious support.

Are Limerick content on the basis they will score enough to make Kelly’s tally insufficient?

It’s a step up for both of them but the champions have a tendency to keep improving at this stage of the championship.

Verdict: Limerick

All-Ireland SFQ round 1

Armagh v Tyrone, Athletic Grounds, 1.30 [Live RTÉ2] – This is typical of the qualifier type that acts as a rocket-booster for the winners: lights a fire under them, as Joe Kernan put it. Tyrone have been listless in defending their All-Ireland and may draft in some of the All-Ireland winning under-20s. Although Armagh are carrying injuries and disappointed against Donegal, Kieran McGeeney is an experienced qualifier practitioner.

Verdict: Armagh

Tailteann Cup SFC quarter-finals

Fermanagh v Cavan, Brewster Park, 4.0 – Cavan underlined their credentials as favourites when sweeping aside Down but this is potentially a fair old border tussle. With Paddy Lynch and Gearóid McKiernan in form, Cavan can progress.

Verdict: Cavan

Leitrim v Sligo, Avant Money Carrick-on-Shannon, 3.0 [Live GAAGO] – Leitrim survived a tough championship to get back on track in beating Antrim. Sligo struggled to put away London.

Verdict: Leitrim

Carlow v Westmeath, Netwatch Cullen Park, 2.0 – Scalp of the first round went to Carlow, who rocked Tipperary but this is a tougher proposition even if Westmeath can be a bit inconsistent.

Verdict: Westmeath