Galway v Armagh
Pearse Stadium, 5pm
The only other time these two counties met in the championship was a Croke Park qualifier back in 2001. Galway won an epic on the back of a stunning intervention from Michael Donnellan with time all but dead. Such was the quality on show that within 15 months virtually every player on the pitch would have an All-Ireland medal.
Not that any such idle reminiscing is of interest to either side. Indeed, most of them would say it’s part of the problem in both counties. Too many old-timers telling it how it used to be and not enough focus on how it is. And despite a couple of qualifier wins apiece, it’s not particularly promising for either.
For all the cooing at Armagh’s fantabulous scoring power, it has to be remembered Wicklow and Leitrim essentially gave up after conceding early goals.
Obviously, 10-34 from two matches is serious scoring but it’s nearly too ludicrous to be relevant here. Galway might only have beaten two Division Four teams themselves but they have at least come through two tight games, something Armagh haven’t managed in fully two years.
This is the same Galway, remember, who for the past four seasons in a row have exited the qualifiers by a single point. Small steps. Vitalw steps.
Still, they're lacking a certain zip. Michael Meehan still toils as admirably as ever but the years and the injuries have robbed him of a gear. Paul Conroy has been the find of their summer at midfield but outside of him they've been ponderous. And if Tipperary's Gary Sweeney and Paul Whyte of Waterford can run up healthy totals from play against their full-back line, you'd have to imagine there's 1-4 at least in Jamie Clarke.
In the end, we'll go with the side that looks to have more pep in its step. Armagh are bouncing and , their energy could be the difference.
ARMAGH: P McEvoy, P McKeown, B Donaghy, J Morgan, A Kernan, C McKeever, M Shields, J Lavery, S Harold, C Rafferty, K Dyas, E Rafferty; J Clarke, T Kernan, E McVerry
GALWAY: M Breathnach; D O'Neill, F Hanley, K Kelly; J Duane, G O'Donnell, G Sice; P Conroy, T Flynn; J O'Brien, S Armstrong, C Doherty; M Martin, M Meehan, D Cummins.
– Malachy Clerkin
Derry v Cavan,
Celtic Park, today, 5pm
It's hard not to feel some sympathy for Cavan, or at least their deepening sense of Ulster claustrophobia. It certainly spilled over in last week's second round win over Fermanagh, the team they'd already beaten in the provincial stages, as the game resulted in three red cards and 15 yellows.
The prize for all of that is a fifth successive all-Ulster clash, this time in Derry’s own Celtic Park den .
Worse still for Cavan – who might easily have been contesting tomorrow’s Ulster final had things just been a little different – is they meet a Derry team now gathering ominous momentum, having just beaten a Down team that took them out of Ulster (before pressing Donegal all the way).
It's not all rosy in Derry's garden, however, as midfielder PJ McCloskey is gone for the season after tearing his cruciate knee ligament in the Down game: Conor McAtamney moves back to partner Patsy Bradley at midfield, with Benny Heron coming into the half-forward line, while Emmet McGuckin starts in the attack ahead of Lee Kennedy.
Central to Cavan's chances will be holding their nerve, which they very nearly let slip against Fermanagh, and once again getting the best out of young forward Martin Dunne.
He hit 1-2 against Fermanagh, and although Cavan's win was convincing in the end 1-14 to 0-10, this is a more daunting prospect. With Derry now rediscovering the perfect temperament for qualifiers, and having not lost to Cavan in Ulster since the 1997 final, much of this points towards the home win.
DERRY (SF v Cavan): E McNicholl; A McAlynn, C McKaigue, D McBride; C Kielt, M Lynch, SL McGoldrick; P Bradley, C McAtamney; B Heron, J Kielt, E Lynn; R Bell, E Bradley, E McGuckin.
Wexford v Laois
Wexford Park, today, 7pm
Both teams share an evenly balanced argument for winning, Wexford perhaps holding the slight advantage of not just home venue but also the fact they've just beaten a Longford team, after extra-time, while Laois have a had a two-week wait since their facile win over Clare.
However, Wexford will once against start without Ben Brosnan, even though he did appear early in the second half of the Longford game, and hit 0-3: Wexford had nine different scorers in that game, and finished with 2-15, and still boast one of the most potentially damaging forward lines at the level.
Laois did beat Wexford in the league, in the final round, which resulted in their relegation to Division Three, even though Wexford only really played the second half that day.
McNulty had Laois playing some of their best football in last year's qualifiers, pressing Dublin to three points in the All-Ireland quarter-final, but it's not quite as clear if that form as resurfaced sufficiently yet to take out Wexford.
LAOIS: E Culliton; P Begley, M Timmons, P O'Leary; D Strong, K Lillis, P McMahon; P Clancy, J O'Loughlin; R Munnelly, D Kingston, C Begley; B Sheehan, C Meredith, D Conway.
WEXFORD: A Masterson; M Furlong, G Molloy, R Tierney; B Malone, D Murphy, A Flynn; D Waters, R Quinlivan; J Holmes, R Barry, A Doyle; C Lyng, P Byrne, PJ Banville.
– Ian O'Riordan