All-Ireland football qualifers

Last-chance saloon for many counties with serious intentions


SATURDAY Round 3A Sligo v Limerick Markievicz Park, 4pm Hard to see a kick inside either team but the qualifiers can mould a panel into contenders. It’s more likely that Limerick will grow into a serious proposition as the shadow of a team that briefly threatened the Munster duopoly can still be seen in John Galvin, Seanie Buckley and a few others.

Still, Sligo have every right to be buoyed by victory over Wicklow in Aughrim. That’s been a graveyard for better teams than what Pat Flanagan will field today.

Sligo: TBA Limerick: B Scanlon; M O’Riordan, J McCarthy, S O’Dea; I Corbett, P Browne, P Ranahan; T Lee, J Galvin; D Tracey, D Neville, S Buckley (capt); G Collins, K Phair, I Ryan. Referee: F Kelly (Longford). Verdict: Limerick.

Laois v Tipperary O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, 4.45pm An interesting meeting of teams on a not too dissimilar upward curve. Laden with talent, and a football county to their core, Laois under Tomás Ó Flatharta are showing signs of the efficiency needed to belong in an All-Ireland semi-final. But they are not there yet. Long been the creators of their own demise, the qualifiers is an opportunity to develop some much needed consistency. Defeating Fermanagh and Wexford by tight margins hardly puts them into the top tier of the championship but the manner in which they threatened Dublin demands respect. However, the manner in which they faded was also noted.

Darren Strong returns to the half-back line, having reportedly been dropped by Ó Flatharta for not committing fully to the cause, while Damien O’Connor gets the nod at left corner forward instead of Denis Booth.

Tipperary’s narrow defeat to Cork last month doesn’t look so impressive after what Kerry did to them last Sunday but their underage structures have given Peter Creedon a panel of genuine talent to choose from.

They destroyed Longford at Semple Stadium but Laois, and particularly Ross Munnelly, will bring more penetration. Conor Sweeney, Peter Acheson and Paddy Codd must be corralled away from the shooting practice afforded them by Longford but Laois have the defenders to do just that.

The winner gets a crack at either the Munster or Connacht runners-up. Both would will feel more than capable of putting Cork or Galway away. Laois: G Brody; P McMahon, P Begley, P O’Leary; D Strong, R Kehoe, C Begley; K Meaney, John O’Loughlin; C Meredith, B Sheehan, N Donoher; R Munnelly, D Kingston, D O’Connor. Tipperary: P Fitzgerald; G Mulhair, P Codd (capt), C McDonald; C O’Riordan, Robbie Kiely, J Coghlan; S O’Brien, G Hannigan; P Austin, P Acheson, B Fox; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, B Grogan. Referee: D Gough (Meath). Verdict: Laois.

Round 2B Cavan v Roscommon Breffni Park, 6pm Wise old Kerry man that Roscommon manager John Evans is, he came out this week with a rationale as to why the under-21s in his panel, that reached the All-Ireland final, were unable to muscle into his team. It’s Dublin’s fault. “I can safely say now that I was protecting the under-21s,” said Evans. “They received a heavy knock in losing the All-Ireland final. So you try and build up their confidence and drip feed them back into it. But I can see from training that they really have their appetite back and that they’re ready to go. I could certainly see a couple of the under-21s figuring in the line up the next day.”

Cavan welcome back Eugene Keating, with David Givney making way in attack, and Fergal Flanagan has served his suspension so he regains the number three jersey.

Cavan appear a smarter side but Roscommon have the footballers to cut loose. We’ll edge tentatively towards Cavan. Cavan: C Gilsenan; J McLoughlin, R Dunne, F Flanagan; J Hayes, J McEnroe, R Maloney-Derham; D O’Reilly, G McKiernan; M Argue, M Lyng, N McDermott; J Brady, E Keating, M Reilly. Roscommon: TBA Referee: B Cassidy (Derry). Verdict: Cavan. SUNDAY Round 2B Down v Kildare Páirc Elser, Newry, 2pm Hard to preview this game as we are unsure which Kildare will show up. If it’s the first-half performance against Meath, well, this will be a day for the natives to savour. If it’s the performance sparked by fear of a thundering defeat then they looked equipped to end Down’s championship.

“We have to take a huge amount of the blame, regardless of how players perform. If a player’s attitude on the pitch isn’t good enough, why isn’t it good enough? Management have to take the blame.” Risky strategy by Jason Ryan. Especially considering the trigger finger of Kildare club delegates. Ryan has made changes with Ciarán Fitzpatrick replacing Mick Foley at full back and Gary White into midfield. Crucially, Paddy Brophy is fit to start. His scoring prowess from corner forward is essential to Kildare’s chances of advancement .

Meath welcomed them down the dark alleys of Croke Park before relieving them of the ball far too many times. But they can’t be that bad again. “Whenever we got Kildare, my first thought was that they would be psychologically down after losing the game whereas we had just won one,” said James McCartan this week. “But then I saw the last 20 minutes of their game against Meath. They were 11 points down and they nearly managed to turn it around.”

Benny McArdle has ankle trouble but that’s all Down are willing to reveal on the team front. Kildare, the real Kildare, by a score or two. Down: TBA Kildare: M Donnellan; C Fitzpatrick, H McGrillen, O Lyons; E Bolton, F Conway, K Cribbin; T Moolick, G White; C McNally, N Kelly, P O’Neill; E Callaghan, P Fogarty, P Brophy. Referee: D Coldrick (Meath). Verdict: Kildare.

Carlow v Clare Dr Cullen Park, 2pm It was only Waterford but Carlow needed that victory more than any other county needed a win this year. The utterly horrible collapse against Meath made it look like a complete waste of time. Manager Anthony Rainbow stood on the pitch afterwards and listed the 10 or so players who are good enough but not willing to train with his panel. It all seemed so grim. Clare at least have Podge Collins as he’s suspended for the hurlers’ replay against Wexford. They have the players to end Carlow’s all too brief revival. Carlow: A O’’Brien; R Mahon, C Lawler, B Molloy; K Nolan, D St Ledger, B Kavanagh; H Gahan, E Ruth; M Meaney, C Moran, D Bambrick; S Kinsella, D Foley, C Coughlan Clare: TBA Referee: M Duffy (Sligo) Verdict: Clare.

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