Your weekend Gaelic football previews

All team news ahead of weekend’s matches in all four provincial championships

Tipperary manager Liam Kearns will hope his team can book their place in the Munster final this weekend. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Tipperary manager Liam Kearns will hope his team can book their place in the Munster final this weekend. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Saturday

Leinster SFC Quarter-final
Laois v Westmeath

Bord na Mona, O’Connor Park, 5.0
Hard to believe only 14 years ago these teams were contesting a Leinster final, Westmeath, under the late Páidí Ó Sé, ousting Laois as champions to win their first title. Now they can’t look one second past this game.

Laois can feel lucky to even be here, coming from 10 points down against Wexford to snatch an extra-time winner, although manager John Sugrue has definitely reinstalled some belief. They won’t start as badly and with Donie Kingston and the indefatigable Ross Munnelly in form, they can hit were it hurts.

The big worry for Westmeath is John Heslin, still nursing a hip flexor injury. With Laois further strengthened by the return of Paul Kingston and Finbarr Crowley, they have the depth in hand too. Verdict: Laois

Connacht SFC semi-final
Leitrim v Roscommon

Carrick On-Shannon 5.30
No mind games as Kevin McStay has gone with experience for this latest off-camera provincial tie.

Leitrim’s euphoria after an exciting extra-time win in New York was hugely beneficial. But with players like Enda Smith, Fintan Cregg and Niall McInerney all coming into the team which won the Division Two final against Cavan, Roscommon will be a formidable challenge.

Full back Peter Domican starts his first championship game for Roscommon since 2012, having been abroad.

Leitrim will be well organised and have exceptional attacking players in Emlyn Mulligan and Keith Beirne. But they are meeting a strong team . All the talk in the West has been of Galway: Roscommon are the reigning champions. Verdict: Roscommon

Ulster SFC first round
Down v Antrim

Newry 7.0
A win in the minor championship against Donegal last weekend is the latest sign that Antrim are travelling in the right direction. Team captain Kevin O’Boyle has recovered from injury to take his place in Lenny Harbinson’s first championship team.

It is vital for Down that they tap into the exciting vein of positive, attacking football revolving around their pivotal full forward Connaire Harrison. Verdict: Down.

Munster SFC semi-final
Tipperary v Cork

Thurles 7.0
Liam Kearns’s high-flying Tipp’ side face their second championship game within seven days, having sent 0-20 whistling past Waterford.

Goalkeeper Michael White is one of two Cork debutantes and will face a freewheeling attacking unit fronted by Michael Quinlivan, Liam McGrath and Conor Sweeney, who missed the Waterford game through injury.

Aidan Walsh partners Ian Maguire in a strong Cork midfield and Paul Kerrigan is among the reserves . Ronan McCarthy has been quietly striving to shape a new identity for an emerging team but they are facing a Tipperary side infused with a quality missing in other years: belief. Verdict: Tipperary.

Jim Gavin’s Dublin begin their 2018 championship campaign this weekend. Photograph: Inpho
Jim Gavin’s Dublin begin their 2018 championship campaign this weekend. Photograph: Inpho

Sunday

Leinster SFC quarter-finals:
Carlow v Kildare

Bord na Mona O’Connor Park, 2.0
The reality of Carlow’s progress is impossible to ignore: their first promotion from Division Four, then an 11-point dismantling of Louth in the first round. Kildare were relegated from Division One without a single with, but without enough close contests to fuel some sense of injustice. They’re a wounded team, and Carlow may feel the brunt. Verdict: Kildare

Longford v Meath
Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 3.0
More than any other county it seemed Meath’s league campaign was interrupted by the weather, manager Andy McEntee admitting they struggled to find any consistency, finishing fifth in Division Two. Longford have an excellent record at home and just missed out on promotion to Division Two after losing their final game to Fermanagh by a point. Denis Connerton has a knack of getting the best of out his players, and with confidence in Meath a little sketchy, it won’t be straightforward.

Meath’s big men such as Bryan Menton to see them through. Verdict: Meath

Dublin v Wicklow
O’Moore Park 4.0 Every journey begins with baby steps and for Dublin, it’s against the lowest-ranked team in the country, who have never beaten them in either league or championship, or won a Leinster title.

But that doesn’t mean there’s anywhere else Wicklow would rather be (except playing in Aughrim). They are buoyed up by their first championship win since 2013, when beating Offaly after extra-time.

Dublin can and will win by any means they fancy. Forwards Brian Howard and Colm Basquel are likely to get some proper championship time in the absence of Diarmuid Connolly and Paul Flynn, and Con O’Callaghan has another fresh marker to lay down. They won’t go mad but Dublin to win handy. Verdict: Dublin

Ulster SFC first round
Derry v Donegal

Celtic Park, 4.0
With the Slaughtneil players back and seven weeks’ preparation for this game, Damien McErlain and his Derry squad should be well set up. They have deeply experienced players such as Mark Lynch and Sean Leo McGoldrick to call on and the sense of crisis after their demotion to the fourth tier should provoke a sharp response.

Declan Bonner is building an exciting Donegal side, with emerging talents like Michael Langan and Cian Mulligan facilitated by All-Ireland winners such as Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn, Leo McLoone.

That blend, along with the peerless qualities of Michael Murphy, should bring Donegal through a tricky encounter. Verdict: Donegal

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