GAA weekend previews: Galway have the firepower to prevail

Kerry likely to add to their haul of Munster silverware against out-of-sorts Cork

James O’Donoghue: will pose a big threat to Cork in Killarney. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

James O’Donoghue: will pose a big threat to Cork in Killarney. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho



All-Ireland Senior Football Qualifiers, Round 2A

Laois v Clare, O’Moore Park, 3.0
Any notion that Laois’s hot streak either side of half-time when they plundered four goals (mostly thanks to the Kingstons) to sink Longford in Leinster was a turning point was dispelled by the abject defeat against Kildare and nearly getting caught by Wicklow. Clare won this fixture narrowly a year ago but since then have had a respectable season in Division Two while their opponents were getting relegated to the basement. Their feisty display against Kerry means that defeat won’t have damaged morale much and they have a decent team between Gary Brennan at centrefield and some lively forwards. If they can straighten their shooting, this should be an away win. Verdict: Clare

LAOIS: Graham Brody; Darren Strong, Mark Timmons, Trevor Collins; Eoin Buggie, Pádraig McMahon, Colm Begley; Brendan Quigley, John O'Loughlin; Alan Farrell, David Conway, Damien O'Connor; Stephen Attride, Donal Kingston, Gary Walsh.

CLARE: Joe Hayes; Gordon Kelly, Kevin Harnett, Dean Ryan; Pearse Lillis, Martin McMahon, Ciarán Russell; Gary Brennan, Cathal O'Connor; Cian O'Dea, Seán Collins, Jamie Malone; Keelan Sexton, Eoin Cleary, David Tubridy. 

Donegal v Longford, Mac Cumhaill Park, Ballybofey, 5.0
As happens in the qualifiers, two teams with contrasting momentum meet. Longford’s designs on enhancing their giant-killing reputation haven’t been helped by having to go north – although they took Monaghan in Clones last year and beat a more highly-rated Louth also away two weeks ago. Donegal’s bright young players, who had done so well in the league, got a frightful exposure to senior championship at the hands of a rampant Tyrone. If they can unleash their best attack by getting Michael Murphy into the forwards, Donegal should be able to regroup and plot a way out of the current doldrums. Verdict: Donegal

Mayo v Derry, MacHale Park, Castlebar, 5.0 (Live RTÉ2 from 4.30)
It’s not exactly a new experience for Mayo but they have taken the maximum hit for a minimal defeat with the one-point loss in Salthill sending them through the qualifiers for a second year. Injuries to key defenders Ger Cafferkey, Lee Keegan and Chris Barrett together with Keith Higgins’s suspension and Aidan O’Shea’s ongoing groin problem could complicate things for Mayo despite their good cover. It is however unlikely that Derry, with only a scratchy win against Waterford as a buffer against the Tyrone thrashing and for all that Ciarán McFaul and Chris McKaigue look in good form, can resist the inevitable here. Verdict: Mayo

MAYO: David Clarke; Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Chris Barrett; Colm Boyle, Lee Keegan, Patrick Durcan; Séamus O'Shea, Tom Parsons; Fergal Boland, Diarmuid O'Connor, Stephen Coen; Kevin McLoughlin, Cillian O'Connor (capt), Andy Moran.

DERRY: Ben McKinless; Niall Keenan, Brendan Rogers, Karl McKaigue; Ciaran McFaul, Christopher McKaigue, Carlus McWilliams; Conor McAtamney, Danny Heavron; Ryan Bell, Niall Loughlin, Enda Lynn (capt); Danny Tallon, Emmett McGuckin, Benny Heron.

Meath v Sligo, Páirc Tailteann, Navan, 6.0
Meath have to find some redemption in the qualifiers after the paralysis of the Leinster semi-final. They need to be able to create more goal chances, as what passed for a comeback against Kildare came from a few – admittedly well taken – medium-range points and Ruairí Ó Coileáin, who kicked a couple as a replacement, is called up. Sligo will defend deep to try to ensure that those chances aren’t forthcoming but Antrim got in for three goals against them. Although they also scored freely – 0-22 – to win, Meath won’t find them as hard to handle as the free-running Kildare front eight. Verdict: Meath

MEATH: Paddy O'Rourke; Mickey Burke, Conor McGill, Donnacha Tobin; Pádraic Harnan, Donal Keogan, Shane McEntee; Bryan Menton, Ronan Jones; James Toher, Cillian O'Sullivan, Ruairi Ó Coileain; Graham Reilly (capt), Seán Tobin, Donal Lenihan.

SLIGO: Aidan Devaney; Ross Donovan, Kevin McDonnell, Charles Harrison; Keelan Cawley, Brendan Egan, John Kelly; Adrian McIntyre, Patrick O’Connor; Neil Ewing, Kyle Cawley, Niall Murphy; Stephen Coen, Pat Hughes, Adrian Marren.

All-Ireland SHC qualifiers round one

Offaly v Waterford, Tullamore, 3.0
You have to hand it to Offaly manager Kevin Ryan – no sliding into cliché for him. Offaly’s objective here in Ryan’s eyes will be “to avoid a slaughtering”. Plenty will share Ryan’s view across a qualifier draw packed with mismatches; few enough would say it out loud though.

Waterford are without the retroactively suspended Shane Bennett but otherwise have named the same team that lost to Cork. It will be interesting to see how much (if any) game time Derek McGrath gives the previously well-regarded duo of Colin Dunford and Patrick Curran. Waterford looked short on ideas up front against Cork and you’d imagine one or other of that pair might bring a little sparkle in with them.

Otherwise, a straightforward day’s work.

Last meeting: 2013 All-Ireland Qualifiers, Tullamore; Waterford 0-21 Offaly 1-14.
Odds: Waterford 1/33, Offaly 16/1, Draw 40/1.
Just the ticket: Stand €20; Terrace €15; Juveniles €5. Concessions available for students, senior citizens and families.
Verdict: Waterford

OFFALY: James Dempsey; Ben Conneely, Dermot Shortt, Pat Camon; Seán Gardiner, Aiden Treacy, David King; Seán Ryan, Joe Bergin; Paddy Murphy, Shane Kinsella, Emmett Nolan; James Mulrooney, Shane Dooley, Oisín Kelly.

WATERFORD: Stephen O'Keeffe; Shane Fives, Barry Coughlan, Noel Connors; Tadhg de Burca, Austin Gleeson, Philip Mahony; Jamie Barron, Conor Gleeson; Kevin Moran, Pauric Mahony, Maurice Shanahan; Shane Bennett, Michael Walsh, Darragh Fives.

Tipperary v Westmeath, Thurles, 5.0
Mick Ryan – the Tipperary one – isn’t going to die wondering anyway. Six changes from the Cork game is a statement of intent if ever there was one. Coupled with everything that has happened since May 22nd – on the pitch and off the pitch – this couldn’t be a fresher start. John McGrath and Séamus Kennedy can probably count themselves a shade unlucky to see the bench after one off-day but you’d imagine both will have a say in the year’s business yet.

Westmeath have a championship debutant in goals in the shape of Paddy Carroll and they welcome the excellent Derek McNicholas back from suspension in attack. But this is a foregone conclusion.

Last meeting: Never met in championship before.
Odds: Tipperary 1/500, Westmeath 25/1, Draw 50/1.
Just the ticket: Stand €20; Terrace €15; Juveniles €5. Concessions available for students, senior citizens and families.
Verdict: Tipperary.

TIPPERARY: Daragh Mooney; Donagh Maher, Tomás Hamill, James Barry; Joe O'Dwyer, Ronan Maher, Pádraic Maher (capt); Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath; Dan McCormack, Patrick Maher, Michael Breen; John O'Dwyer, Séamus Callanan, Niall O'Meara.

WESTMEATH: Paddy Carroll; Shane Power, Tommy Doyle, Gary Greville; Aaron Craig, Paul Greville, Liam Varley; Aonghus Clarke (capt), Robbie Greville;
Joey Boyle, Killian Doyle, Derek McNicholas; Allan Devine, Niall Mitchell, Niall O Brien.

Dublin v Laois, Parnell Park, 7.0
With a full side, Laois wouldn’t be a million miles of giving Dublin their fill of it here. But with Picky Maher gone this week with a cruciate injury and Ross King out suspended, Laois’s two best avenues to a rolling scoreboard are out of the picture.

Dublin have their own injury worries, with Oisín Gough, Darragh O’Connell and Cian Boland all sidelined. But Ger Cunningham can fish in deeper waters than Eamonn Kelly and though Dublin may not be much longer for the championship, they will surely keep their interest going a week further at least.

Last meeting: 2015 All-Ireland Qualifiers, Portlaoise; Dublin 4-17 Laois 0-19. Odds: Dublin 1/7, Laois 9/1, Draw 22/1.
Just the ticket: Stand €20; Terrace €15; Juveniles €5. Concessions available for students, senior citizens and families.
Verdict: Dublin

DUBLIN: Conor Dooley; Cian O'Callaghan, Eoghan O'Donnell, Fionn Ó Riain Broin; Seán Moran, Chris Crummey, Shane Barrett; Ben Quinn, Niall McMorrow; Dónal Burke, Liam Rushe, Eamon Dillon; Cian O'Sullivan,Ryan O'Dwyer, David Treacy.

LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Dwane Palmer, Leigh Bergin, Lee Cleere; Eric Killeen, Matthew Whelan, Ciarán Collier; Patrick Purcell, Jack Kelly; Ryan Mullaney, Cahir Healy, Seán Downey; Mark Kavanagh, Neil Foyle, Aaron Dunphy.

Kilkenny v Limerick, Nowlan Park. 7.0 (Live Sky Sports 3, from 6.0)
Diarmaid Byrnes hasn’t made it back for Limerick, although Gearóid Hegarty does return to the starting line-up. Byrne is a big loss, especially for a game against Kilkenny where his aerial prowess would have thrown significantly into the pot for John Kiely’s side.

The question here is what version of Kilkenny will we see. The training regime since the Wexford game has reportedly been intense, with extra sessions added to sharpen up their act. Brian Cody always comes back with something but for the first time in the guts of 20 years, we can’t be sure what he has at his disposal. We’ll guess whatever it is will take care of Limerick but no with any certainty.

Last meeting: 2014 All-Ireland semi-final, Croke Park; Kilkenny 2-13 Limerick 0-17.
Odds: Kilkenny 1/3, Limerick 10/3, Draw 13/1.
Just the ticket: Stand €20; Terrace €15; Juveniles €5. Concessions available for students, senior citizens and families.
Verdict: Kilkenny

KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, Padraig Walsh, Joey Holden; Conor Fogarty, Cillian Buckley, Joe Lyng; Michael Fennelly, Paddy Deegan; Chris Bolger, Walter Walsh, TJ Reid; Richie Hogan, Colin Fennelly, Ger Aylward.

LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Finn, R McCarthy, M Casey; D Morrissey, D Hannon, S Hickey; P Brown, D O'Donovan; D Dempsey, C Lynch, G Hegarty; P Casey, S Dowling, K Hayes.


Munster SFC final

Kerry v Cork, Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, Sunday 2.0 (Live RTÉ 2 from 1.15)
It’s hard to be too harsh on the voices in the wilderness crying that any Munster football final between Cork and Kerry is in a category of its own and no outcome can be discounted – because that is frequently the way it has played out in the past.

Only two years ago, an outrageous shot from tight on the right wing by Fionn Fitzgerald was required to save Kerry – then All-Ireland champions – in a match where they had already benefited from a controversial penalty call.

So far this season Cork have failed to impress in Division Two, come within an inch of their lives – twice – against Waterford and (a much weakened) Tipperary. Now, even allowing for this fixture’s susceptibility to Chaos Theory, it’s very hard to see this going in any direction except Kerry’s – no matter how many butterflies flap their wings.

Yet it’s hard to see how Cork got to this impasse. Eleven of the players who scraped past Tipp three weeks ago played in Killarney in 2015. Aidan Walsh is again exclusively available for the footballers and Colm O’Neill still in attack but when the spark is gone it’s hard to reignite.

Kerry got a useful workout against Clare. They won by six but had to come back in the second half despite being reduced to 14 and facing into a stiff wind. Their centrefield of David Moran and Jack Barry was the form pairing of the league and the reinvigorated James O’Donoghue and All Star Paul Geaney sparkled in an attack that reported a 73 per cent conversion rate despite being a man short.

Cork must also travel to Killarney for a third straight match against Kerry. On the upside that means that they’ll have a couple of home matches in hand whenever they reunite with their karma.

Last meeting: 2015 Munster final replay, Fitzgerald Stadium, Kerry 1-11, Cork 1-6.
Odds: Kerry 1/7, Cork 11/2, Draw 14/1.
Just the ticket (rates for purchase up until Saturday night): Stands €35, Terrace €25. Juveniles €5 (only available for Red Terrace). Concessions available with valid ID.
Verdict: Kerry.

KERRY: Brian Kelly; Fionn Fitzgerald, Mark Griffin, Shane Enright; Peter Crowley, Tadhg Morley, Paul Murphy; David Moran, Anthony Maher; Michael Geaney, Kevin McCarthy, Donnchadh Walsh; Paul Geaney, Kieran Donaghy, James O’Donoghue.


Leinster SHC final

Wexford v Galway, Croke Park, 4.0 (Live RTÉ 2)

Wexford arrive on Sunday at Croke Park with so many boxes already ticked this season that the Leinster final is almost a shot to nothing. Put in a good performance and at worse they’re on their way to the gala reopening of Páirc Uí Chaoimh to take on another leading county in an All-Ireland quarter-final. Even better, they could be on the verge of a Leinster title dreamland.

Galway’s options are not as varied. The imperative to win this fixture has loomed large all year and that hasn’t altered just because Kilkenny haven’t turned up. Another detour into the quarter-finals is about the last thing they’ll want. And by the sound of things, the last thing they expect.

A set piece Galway Bay FM event was held in Clarinbridge during the week – something, according to an old hurling hand normally reserved for All-Irelands – and hopes were high.

Although had Kilkenny fired in 1-1 in the dying minutes of the semi-final would they be coming to Dublin considered as distant outsiders as David Fitzgerald’s team?

Galway’s defence has looked much tighter with Daithi Burke and the improving Gearóid McInerney at its heart but how will it stand up to Lee Chin’s aerial threat, supplemented by Jack Guiney and possibly injury doubt Conor McDonald?

Wexford can handle Galway’s physicality and athleticism but can they score as prolifically? Offaly in the vernacular parked the bus and so their opponents shot from distance – Niall Burke, who may not start this time if optimism for the injured Joseph Cooney and Cathal Mannion proves accurate, and Conor Whelan finding space to accumulate 0-12 from play between them.

Given that Wexford coughed up goal chances against Kilkenny, the favourites mightn’t have to rely on points alone and although Galway haven’t been in a real tussle for a long time – arguably since Sunday’s opponents beat them in the league – they have the firepower to win.

Last meeting: 2010 Leinster quarter-final, Nowlan Park, Galway 2-22, Wexford 1-14.
Odds: Galway 4/11, Wexford 11/4, Draw 10/1.
Just the ticket (rates for purchase up until Saturday night): Stands €35, Hill 16 Terrace €25. Juveniles €5. Concessions available (except in Hogan Stand and on Hill).
Verdict: Galway.

GALWAY: Colm Callanan; Adrian Tuohy, Daithi Burke, John Hanbury; Pádraic Mannion, Gearoid McInerney, Aidan Harte; Johnny Coen, David Burke; Niall Burke, Joe Canning, Joseph Cooney; Conor Whelan, Conor Cooney, Cathal Mannion.

WEXFORD: Mark Fanning; Willie Devereux, Liam Ryan, James Breen; Simon Donohoe, Matthew O’Hanlon, Diarmuid O’Keeffe; Shaun Murphy, Aidan Nolan; Jack O’Connor, Lee Chin, Conor McDonald; Paul Morris, Jack Guiney, Harry Kehoe.

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