Championship 2017: This weekend’s hurling and football previews

Seán Moran looks ahead to the football qualifiers and hurling quarter-finals

All-Ireland SHC quarter-final
Clare v Tipperary

Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 3.0
The concern during the league that Clare's new management mightn't be having the invigorating impact expected has hardened during the championship. It was probably overoptimistic to imagine that even as knowledgeable a team as Gerry O'Connor and Donal Moloney could turn things around that quickly given three years of underachievement but it hasn't happened so far.

There was much criticism of the team’s unambitious structure during the Munster final but there are also worries about the defence, a state of affairs hardly improved by the injury that reportedly keeps David McInerney out of the match. It would have been really interesting to see a fully fit McInerney on Séamus Callanan. A more pressing issue is the individualism that has crept into the team with indulgent shooting and a lack of the clinical inter-play that characterises the team at its best. Tipperary rediscovered some of their blood lust against Dublin but they haven’t performed against a team of Clare’s calibre since, well Clare, back in the league in March.

A win here would be a good way to enter the semi-finals for either team but with Clare understrength at the back and the champions' attack beginning to function again, that outcome looks far more likely to be Tipp's.
Last meeting: 2011 Munster semi-final, Limerick, Tipperary 4-19, Clare 1-19.
Odds: Tipperary 1/4, Clare 9/2, Draw 12/1.
Just the ticket: Stands Sold out, Premium (limited) €70 and Juveniles €10, Terrace €25 and Juveniles €5.
Verdict: Tipperary

All-Ireland SFC Qualifier Round 4A
Cork v Mayo Gaelic Grounds

Limerick, 5.0


Since the counties’ graphs crossed six years ago when Mayo surprised the then All-Ireland champions, the disparity between the counties has grown. Even as Mayo slow down Cork plummet farther and have the appearance of a team just wanting it all to be over.

If they hold their nerve here, however, they might have a chance. Mayo have looked very vulnerable in their two recent matches against other Division Two teams. Eventually their fitness and quality have emerged to blow down Clare and Derry but they have looked weary performances.

Aidan O’Shea’s form has been referenced as the one outstanding positive at the moment but Stephen Rochford’s team also have the incentive to get back to Croke Park where they have played their best football in recent years.

In a way they have done well to ride out some poor form and keep winning since losing to Galway in the Connacht semi-final and they have the mechanism, even if not running as smoothly as before, to do what’s necessary here.

Cork's best moments against Kerry were Ian Maguire's taking on the centrefield battle and that would be an important area in which to prosper against Mayo but it's very hard to see the rest of it coming together sufficiently to spring a shock here.
Last meeting: 2014 All-Ireland quarter-final, Croke Park, Mayo 1-19, Cork 2-15
Odds: Mayo 1/5, Cork 9/2, Draw 12/1.
Just the ticket: Adults €20, Students, senior citizens €15. Juveniles €5.
Verdict: Mayo

All-Ireland SFC Qualifier Round 4A
Galway v Donegal

Markievicz Park, 7.0

It’s hardly a surprise to have teams in the qualifiers who could be ‘doing better’ but this pair have been taking it to a Zen level. Donegal’s travails against teams who had suffered big defeats in Leinster, Longford and Meath, don’t augur well even if they, like Mayo, will be just glad to get to August and see what they can do at that stage.

Galway’s infuriating inability to kick on from positions of apparent prosperity and strength continued in the Connacht final when they were out-thought and outplayed by Roscommon, who focused on the weaknesses visible against Mayo – short kick-outs that couldn’t be nervier if the ball contained nitro-glycerine and a tendency to leave arable land in their supposedly defensive set-up – and made them pay out like a broken fruit machine.

Rory Gallagher’s team building made for an encouraging league campaign but the younger recruits are finding it tricky to get to the measure of championship. You would imagine that Galway to date have looked like a formal invitation to put Michael Murphy at full forward.

There is however a chance of an upset here. Galway's problem has tended to be confounding as much as disappointing expectation. They will have a lot of frustration to get out of their system here and that might surprise the favourites. Last meeting: 2015 All-Ireland SFQ 4, Croke Park, Donegal 3-12, Galway 0-11.
Odds: Donegal 4/6, Galway 13/8, Draw 15/2.
Just the ticket: Adults €20, Students, senior citizens €15. Juveniles €5.
Verdict: Galway

Sunday All-Ireland SHC quarter-final
Wexford v Waterford

Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 4.0

It’s surprising that it took the qualifiers to create championship encounters between these neighbouring counties and even more surprising that in one of Waterford’s best eras the four matches have been split evenly. Most recently a year ago, Wexford were disappointing after recording an historic win over Cork they relapsed at this stage of the championship.

It’s up in the air what sort of a response David Fitzgerald will get from his team after their Leinster final setback but he has been very effective with his other counties in negotiating the outside track and also in springing tactical surprises, for which a potential match between two sweeper systems cries out.

The problem here is that Waterford after a terrible championship, lasting one awkward match against a zippy Cork side, played their way back to the table with a high-profile defeat of Kilkenny in which their best attributes shone through: methodical play from the back, accurate shooting and a sense of where the bodies were buried although in that respect Kilkenny at times resembled a mass grave.

If Waterford aren't on form Wexford have a chance but given the awakening of Derek McGrath's team it will be hard for the Leinster finalists to impose their game and they don't have the same scoring options.
Last meeting: 2016 All-Ireland SHC quarter-final, Thurles, Waterford 0-21, Wexford 0-11.
Odds: Waterford 1/3, Wexford 3/1 Draw 10/1.
Just the ticket: Stands sold out, Premium (limited) €70 and Juveniles €10, Terrace €25 and Juveniles €5.
Verdict: Waterford