This weekend’s All-Ireland qualifier previews
Seán Moran looks ahead to round 1B of the football qualifiers and Carlow’s meeting with Laois in the hurling
Having stretched Monaghan, Cavan can go one better against Offaly.
All-Ireland SFQ, round 1B
Limerick v Wexford, Gaelic Grounds, 3.0
This fixture has become dramatically more balanced than when the championship started. Billy Lee’s Limerick came storming back against a Clare side that had held its own in Division Two and went on to give Kerry a bit of a fright. They have home advantage for this and harbour hopes that Ian Ryan and Seánie Buckley might return. Although Wexford stormed to promotion from Division Four and beat Limerick along the way, they have lost all four matches since. Séamus McEnaney has made three changes to the team that unexpectedly lost to Carlow.
London v Carlow, McGovern Park, Ruislip, 1.0
Another rematch of a Division Four fixture, this has also taken on a different hue in the interim. Carlow followed up a good league result in Westmeath by losing at home to London. In the championship though the latter have failed to hold off a comeback by Leitrim whereas Carlow got the maximum number of Hosannas possible for a side that lost by 12, albeit against the All-Ireland champions. Carlow were cohesive and energetic in taking on Dublin and with Brendan Murphy cleared to play, a repeat of that should be enough to progress.
Armagh v Fermanagh, Athletic Grounds, 6.30
Two counties that have tracked each other in recent years with three league meetings in 2015 and ‘16 - Armagh were relegated to Division Three 12 months ago and Fermanagh will join them next season - two of which at the Athletic grounds were tight affairs (one draw and one last-minute point of a win for Armagh). Fermanagh welcome back Ruairí Corrigan after a shoulder break for the first time this season and Declan McCusker who missed the Monaghan match. Armagh looked toothless against Down and are vulnerable here but are capable of finding a response.
Offaly v Cavan, O’Connor Park, 6.30
The Féile-driven late start for this and the Armagh match gives Offaly a little relief after last Saturday’s replay defeat by Westmeath but it will hardly be enough to revive them against a county that held its own in Division One this spring even if relegated in the end. Cavan have a couple of injury worries in Killian Clarke and James McEnroe, which would weaken the defence but not by enough to affect the result against a team that laboured to create chances over the two Leinster quarter-finals. Having stretched Monaghan, Cavan can go one better here.
All-Ireland SHQ preliminary round
Laois v Carlow, O’Moore Park, 3.30
Ring Cup winners Carlow have all the momentum. A season’s best display at Croke Park with a pile of goals, including four from James Doyle turned the tables on an Antrim side they’d struggled to beat up until then and set up a qualifier against Laois whose own progress from a good Leinster round-robin campaign was knocked around a bit by Wexford in the Leinster quarter-final. Of further concern is an injury doubt over Cha Dwyer but home advantage and the experience of playing at a higher level can swing this even if Carlow are dangerous.