All-Ireland football previews: Meath, Mayo and Cavan set to progress

Cork look to restore some pride against Limerick while Monaghan, Kildare and Laois should also get back on track

Meath are slightly better off than Derry after a Leinster semi-final against Dublin that would have looked like a contest to the untrained eye. Photograph: Inpho

Meath are slightly better off than Derry after a Leinster semi-final against Dublin that would have looked like a contest to the untrained eye. Photograph: Inpho

 

SATURDAY

Qualifier 2A

Derry v Meath, Owenbeg, 2.30

Meath walk into Derry’s centre of excellence with both counties so far away from that word it is depressing, and not just for the dwindling loyal supporter bases but for Gaelic football in general. In May Damian Barton fielded such a tactical inept side that Tyrone’s counter-attacking waves made a mockery of this once enthralling fixture. Three first-half goals badly exposed Barton’s refusal to employ a sweeper against a team whose calling card has always been to switch from defence to attack in an instant. Meath are slightly better off after a Leinster semi-final against Dublin that would have looked like a contest to the untrained eye. At least Graham Reilly and Eamon Wallace generated plenty of scores from out the field. That should be enough to quell a Derry revival, after they took advantage of Louth’s six day turnaround thanks mainly to 1-9 from James Kielt. Maybe the scoring prowess of Kielt and Mark Lynch can squeeze Meath dry in July. Unlikely though. Verdict: Meath.

Cavan v Carlow, Breffni Park, 5.0

Only time can deny the most recent victim of Tyrone. Terry Hyland turns to the prodigal Seánie Johnston to finish what promises to be a wealth of opportunities as Carlow should be removed without much fuss. Hyland knows the value of his squad this week with the six day flip also seeing Padraig Faulkner and Ciaran Brady replacing James McEnroe and Niall Murray in defence. Liam Buchanan comes into midfield as Killian Clarke replaces Martin Reilly at half-forward while David Givney makes room for Seanie. No problems envisaged here for Cavan. Verdict: Cavan.

Qualifiers 2B

Cork v Limerick, Semple Stadium, 3.0

Nobody in their right mind would trust Cork after their terrible display in defeat to Kildare, at the same Thurles venue, last summer. The plummeting fortunes of the Rebels, from part of the Big Three to barely being considered a second tier county might be confirmed here. The quality of players in their squad, even without Brian Hurley, should put this off for a few weeks but, as Colm O’Neill admitted recently, the problem is a clear lack of mental fortitude. Defeat to Tipperary in the Munster semi-final ruined the entire provincial championship for 2016 as their conquerors were unable to trouble Kerry in the final. Only pride can save their season at this stage but that usually comes before the fall. Verdict: Cork.

Mayo v Fermanagh, McHale Park, 3.30pm (RTÉ 2)

Anyone remember 2004 when Fermanagh rattled the highest football towers before Mayo knocked them out in a replay? The correct game to televise, if only to see what the wily Pete McGrath does to unsettle a Mayo team that, probably only temporarily, are on the brink of unfulfilled promise. Ignore the Galway defeat for a second and the loss of Tom Parsons; Fermanagh did not show enough in the 2-12 to 0-11 loss to Donegal in Ballybofey to convince anyone that their best day will be enough to unseat Mayo, even on autopilot, in Castlebar. Survive, learn, move on. Verdict: Mayo

Monaghan v Longford, Clones, 6.30pm

Shooting practice as Malachy O’Rourke gets a lovely opportunity to further integrate a talented under-21 group. No chance the dethroned Ulster champions will be bettered by a team that coughed up 2-21 to Offaly. That Longford recovered to just about overcome Down, easily the worst team in Ulster this summer, does little to dissuade from the argument of a rout with early goals and a constant stream of points. Verdict: Monaghan

Kildare v Offaly, Newbridge, 6.30pm

Kildare are currently staring down the barrel of a failed campaign under Cian O’Neill while it is nicely primed for Pat Flanagan to put Offaly’s season in the black with an unlikely win here. The smart wager remains on Kildare repeating the victory over Offaly that we saw at this stage, and in Tullamore, in 2015. Only that would begin to heal the wound inflicted by Westmeath in that Leinster semi-final. Like Meath, a weak Kildare guarantees a weak Leinster. Verdict: Kildare.

SUNDAY

Qualifier 2A

Clare v Laois, Cusack Park, Ennis, 2pm

All of a sudden Laois are on the cusp of a decent season. The second-half revival at Nowlan Park, despite Dublin having build up an unassailable lead, seemed to galvanise Mick Lillis’s talented panel into finding a way past Armagh, not once but twice after the embarrassing breakdown in communication led to an extra man being used them in the first game. None of that will matter should Lillis guide a route past his native county as Laois will have generated genuine momentum. It will be interesting to see how much Colm Collins can get out of his son Podge, who is expected to feature for the Clare hurlers against Limerick in Thurles tonight. Verdict: Laois.

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