The weekend GAA previews

Sligo can survive forecast New York ambush

Conor McGraynor: Former Wicklow forward is included in the New York team to host Sligo. Conor McGraynor: Former Wicklow forward is included in the New York team to host Sligo.

Conor McGraynor: Former Wicklow forward is included in the New York team to host Sligo. Conor McGraynor: Former Wicklow forward is included in the New York team to host Sligo.

 

SUNDAY

Connacht SFC preliminary round

New York v Sligo,

Gaelic Park, 3.15 EDT (8.15 BST) [Live, RTÉ Radio 1]

New York manager Justin O’Halloran said last year that he believed his team was close to taking a major scalp in the Connacht championship. Roscommon discovered that this wasn’t just whistling past the graveyard when they just about survived a fraught conclusion to their match in the Big Apple 12 months ago.

At that point the visitors had been a top-four side in Division One whereas the hosts had played a few club sides and Philadelphia. This weekend a Sligo team that spent an anonymous spring in Division Three come to the Bronx short a number of key players, including key forward Niall Murphy, sidelined with a hamstring injury.

This time New York have had a couple of useful challenge matches against Donegal and boast some high-profile new recruits in Mayo defender Tom Cunniffe, high-quality Wicklow forward Conor McGraynor (above) and Dublin hurling All Star Danny Sutcliffe, who it was rumoured last year might be joining up with Jim Gavin’s footballers.

Their odds have been tumbling all week and the only apprehension in evidence is that they are being talked up a little too much. Sligo are keenly aware of all this and the spectre of becoming the first-ever championship victims of the Empire State has turned them into the most focused team to cross the Atlantic since this started in 1999.

Widely foretold shocks tend not to happen and Niall Carew’s team are well forewarned.

Verdict: Sligo

Women's National Football League Finals

Division 2

Cavan v Westmeath, Parnell Park, 2.0

Westmeath arrive at this stage for the third time in four seasons, having previously lost to Armagh and Donegal. Influential full forward – and former rugby international – Laura Lee Walsh poses a threat to a resurgent Cavan, who finished top of the table after the regulation campaign but the collective motivation after so much disappointment can be the big influence on this.

Verdict: Westmeath

Division 1

Cork v Donegal, Parnell Park, 4.0

Old meets new, as the eternal presence of Cork comes face to face with newcomers Donegal, in their first Division One final just a year after winning the Division Two title. From a position of looking to consolidate in the top flight, Michael Naughton’s team have pushed on and their semi-final demolition of Galway indicated a team that has now arrived at the top level. Most spectacular was the contribution of Yvonne McMonagle and Geraldine McLaughlin, who registered 5-8 between them.

Cork’s defence is sure to police McLaughlin and McMonagle more vigilantly than Galway managed – especially as the Donegal pair took them for 3-10 in a surprise win in the regulation matches – and the perennial (11 of last 12) All-Ireland champions are currently refreshing their own ranks.

Like the Dublin men, they’re on the trail of a fifth successive league title but they will have to achieve that in the absence of veterans Rena Buckley and Bríd Corkery, who have taken a break during the league, and captain Ciara O’Sullivan who is travelling.

Donegal have great form coming into this but Cork are so practised in finals that it is very difficult to go against them.

Verdict: Cork

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