Gaelic GamesGAA Previews

Old gang is back for Dublin as Meath face daunting task

Laois, Down, Kildare, Louth and Armagh should progress in respective competitions


Leinster SFC quarter-final: Laois v Offaly, Laois Hire O’Moore Park, 7.0 – On the face of it, an evenly balanced contest between Offaly, who stayed in Division Three and their neighbours who will be joining them next season. Strangely this fixture has been one-way traffic for over 20 years and Offaly haven’t won since 2002 and it’s even longer – 1978 – since they won in Portlaoise. They’re also a little understrength for this with the experience of Anton Sullivan and Nigel Dunne, injured and suspended, respectively. They have been competing at a higher level than the home side but Laois have momentum after the Division Four final in which they took Leitrim apart with Evan Carroll in luminous form. They won’t find the Offaly defence as co-operative but can nonetheless find a way to extend their record. Verdict: Laois

Ulster SFC quarter-final Down v Antrim, Páirc Esler, 6.0 [Live, BBC Two NI] – Things have altered a little since their league meeting in February. Antrim performed well to stay in Division Three whereas Down had another Croke Park disappointment when losing the divisional final to Westmeath. Their conquerors’ fate last week surely released a chill into the Down camp but there is little to suggest that Antrim can turn the tables. Their attack was blunted by Down’s defensive set-up whereas they failed to cope with the counter-attacks. On top of that, this time it’s in Newry. Verdict: Down


Leinster SFC quarter-finals: Dublin v Meath, Croke Park, 4.30 [Live, RTÉ2] – The old gang are officially back – again – for Dublin at the weekend, as All Stars Stephen Cluxton, James McCarthy and Michael Fitzsimons are named in the panel after sitting out the league or in McCarthy’s case largely sitting it out. Meath have promising players and a manager, Colm O’Rourke, who can channel the good times, occasionally you feel in a slightly uncomprehending way given the extent of the county’s tumble. Donal Keogan’s experience and quality in defence, the exuberance of Matthew Costello and the form last week of James Conlon are all positives but it’s a long time since Meath were a hardened collective, well able to give what they got. Dublin’s supremacy over the past decade and a half has washed away any jeopardy that used to accompany this fixture. Dessie Farrell will be unhappy at the loss of composure that cost them a league title and the services of Brian Fenton for this weekend. Some sort of a response is to be expected. Otherwise, a team that concedes 3-12 to a Division Four outfit, as Meath did last week is likely to struggle for all that they racked up 3-19 themselves. Verdict: Dublin

Kildare v Wicklow, Laois Hire O’Moore Park, 1.45 [Live, GAAGo] – The transformative power of championship sees Wicklow top of the world after beating Division Two-bound Westmeath a week ago. They roll out the tanks for a Kildare side that hasn’t won a match all year but will fancy a run to the Leinster final if they can restart the engine after a ruinous league. For all that Dean Healy was immense and Kevin Quinn and JP Nolan menacing, Kildare have the basic tools to compete in those areas and have been competing at a higher level than Oisín McConville’s side. Verdict: Kildare


Louth v Wexford, Laois Hire O’Moore Park, 4.0 [Live, GAAGo] – An intriguing contest between Ger Brennan’s Louth who did well to shrug off the mantle of relegation favourites in Division Two and a Wexford side who took off into hyperspace half way through the league and were most unlucky not to get promotion, as they scored buckets in a resounding finish to the campaign. John Hegarty’s team took up championship where they’d left off, buckling Carlow last week. It could be close enough but Louth’s superior status can assert itself. Verdict: Louth

Ulster SFC quarter-final Fermanagh v Armagh, Brewster Park, 2.0 [Live, BBC Two NI] – Armagh are one of three defeated league finalists in championship action this weekend. Like Dublin and Down, Kieran McGeeney’s team will harbour frustrations when looking back at the Division Two defeat by Donegal. A team that supposedly had found its attacking rhythm proved very cautious and shot shy in Croke Park. Fermanagh on the other hand, finished the league in a blaze with Garvan Jones hitting 1-7 against Cavan, who were big winners on Ulster’s opening weekend. When the teams met in March, Armagh proved too strong although they were quite wasteful up front. Their overall form has been good, however, and with first-choice players coming back, they should be able to repeat the dose. Verdict: Armagh

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times