This weekend’s GAA Previews
Allianz Football League, Club Championships and College matches
Mayo’s defeat to Cork last weekend was overshadowed somewhat by the controversy regarding Lee Keegan’s concussion at Páirc Uí Rinn. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Saturday (All matches 2pm unless stated)
Allianz League Division One
Mayo v Dublin, McHale Park, 7.0 – Viewed in a certain way it possibly suits Mayo to have to get the bad news out of the way as quickly as possible. Last week’s sobering demolition by Cork was overshadowed by the Lee Keegan controversy. Dublin were sharp for week one but Kerry were fitful and Mayo can be expected to respond more vigorously in Stephen Rochford’s first serious home match. Form in the league can be sporadic but it’s still form. Away win.
Cavan v Derry, Breffni Park,, 7.0 – In rotten conditions last week, it was only the concession of some brainless frees by Cavan that stopped them getting something against Tyrone. Still, they face a Derry side here that looks to be motoring, with Mark Lynch back in the starting line-up and Emmet McGuckin back in the squad. You wouldn’t say that Breffni is a fortress by any means – Cavan lost two out of three in the league at home last year and two out of two in the championship. They might arrest the slide but the signs appear to be pointing in the other direction.
Armagh v Laois, Athletic Grounds, 7.0 – Laois do not like the road north, which is bad news in a division with five teams from Up There. It will be four years next weekend since they beat an Ulster team on their travels. Neither of these sides were impressive last weekend though and the loss of Brendan Donaghy won’t make Armagh any more secure. With Ross Munnelly, Colm Begley and John O’Loughlin out for Laois though, home advantage might sway it.
London v Carlow, Ruislip, 1.0 - Carlow should get the show on the road after a disappointing home defeat against Antrim.
All-Ireland club championships SHC semi-finals
Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) v Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford), Semple Stadium, 3.45 – The defeat of Cuala showed Oulart at their best, just concentrating on doing the simple things right: holding their defensive shape with the experience of Paul Roche and Keith Rossiter remaining focused on the task. David Redmond’s penetrative running from centrefield was complemented by the forwards’ appetite for taking on shots – undeterred by a fistful of wides.
The Limerick champions won’t set up defensively. Although with their semi-final record there may be anxieties, Na Piarsaigh know Thurles well and, once into their rhythm, will be hard to contain.
With younger players coming into their prime and a range of talents from Ronan Lynch in defence to the firepower up front of Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes and David Dowling as well as the leadership of the more experienced David Breen, the Limerick champions deserve to be favourites.
Sarsfields (Galway) v Cushendall (Antrim), Páirc Tailteann, 2.0 – Cushendall have yet to make a final in eight semi-final attempts. Led by Neil McManus and Aaron Graffin they will hope to follow in Loughgiel’s footsteps four years ago. Sarsfields are seasoned after a battling county championship and the team is built from the back but also features Joseph Cooney of the county team as well as former underage prodigy Kerril Wade. Close but Sarsfields can emulate their Galway counterparts Abbeyknockmoy who beat another Antrim club Creggan in the intermediate semi-final at the same venue.
Hollymount Carramore (Mayo) v St Mary’s (Kerry), Croke Park, 4.45 – St Mary’s are well placed: former junior champions they are managed by Maurice Fitzgerald and directed by county captain Bryan Sheehan. Hollymount Carramore are outsiders but Darren Coen was in form from placed ball in their semi.
Ardnaree (Mayo) v Templenoe (Kerry), Croke Park, 3.0 - The curtain raiser is another Mayo-Kerry clash with the Spillanes’ Templenoe also favourites.
Sunday Allianz League
Donegal v Cork, Ballyshannon – Two impressive winners on the opening weekend were facilitated by poor opposition. Cork have tended to perform well on the road in Ulster although they were beaten in Donegal last year. Both counties scored freely last week with Brian Hurley again in form for Cork whereas Patrick McBrearty and Michael Murphy drove Donegal to a big win in Newry. Cork’s quicker transfer can give them an edge.
Kerry v Roscommon, Fitzgerald Stadium – Kevin McStay acknowledged at this level mistakes are punished graphically and with that went Roscommon’s almost-achieved opening win against Monaghan. Ciarán Murtagh and Fintan Cregg played well but they need to improve their ball retention. Kerry got some cheer from Tommy Walsh’s display in Croke Park as well as Darran O’Sullivan’s hard work but Eamonn Fitzmaurice will know that these points need to go up on the table on Sunday evening.
Monaghan v Down, Clones – Monaghan taught hard lessons to the other promoted side last week and have the composure in these matches not to panic and to trust themselves to find a way out. Conor McManus provided it last week and with a similar counter-attacking menace to Donegal’s – which Down just couldn’t cope with – Monaghan have to be favoured.
Fermanagh v Meath, Brewster Park – Fermanagh were the better team for a fair stretch of their opener against Derry but went down to a nine-point defeat. They need a win to settle them into their new Division Two digs before things get jittery. Meath have Graham Reilly and Seán Tobin back and will fancy they can improve on an encouraging display against Armagh. Away win on the cards.
Galway v Tyrone, Pearse Stadium – Mayo v Dublin apart, this is arguably the game of the weekend. Tyrone have named a strong side, adding Niall Morgan, Ronan McNamee, Pádraig McNulty and Darren McCurry to the side that ground it out against Cavan. Galway look to be finding their rhythm under Kevin Walsh and this pair are probably a cut above the rest of the division. Home win.
Longford v Limerick, Pearse Park – Longford’s league record of the past five seasons reads promoted, promoted, relegated, relegated, promoted. Where their level settles depends a lot on this game. Further progress calls for beating Limerick at home. Anything less and they could start peeking downwards.
Sligo v Westmeath, Markievicz Park – The best Westmeath could say about last week was at least they had the Kildare game out of the way early. They know they’re better than back-to-back relegations and chances are they’re better than Sligo too. Both these sides were in provincial finals last summer but Sligo don’t have David Kelly or Adrian Marren to do the scoring here. Westmeath to win.
Tipperary v Clare, Seán Treacy Park – Clare could well be the best of the rest in this division and ought to be able to follow up last week’s trimming of Sligo with another two points. Tipp’s list of absentees would sink plenty of stronger counties and they could have done with hanging on against Limerick last week. Clare should have too much for them.
Kildare v Offaly, Newbridge – Kildare don’t belong in Division Three and under Cian O’Neill, they will be intent on showing as much. Signs were encouraging last weekend – especially from Dan Flynn who, despite the guts of three years away from the squad is still only 22. Pat Flanagan has bigger notions for his Offaly side but they have their hands full here.
Antrim v Wexford, Corrigan Park – Antrim looked good in winning away from home even if Carlow weren’t a particularly high bar on the day. Wexford struggled against Leitrim and may do so again here.
Leitrim v Wicklow, Páirc Sean Mac Diarmada – If Leitrim are to build on the battling display in Wexford they need to win this and it’s well within their compass.
Waterford v Louth, Carriganore – Waterford nearly got something in Wicklow but were disappointed. Louth took care of business against London with Jim McEneaney and Declan Byrne leading the charge - and will do so here as well.
Kehoe Cup final (Leinster SH) Kildare v Maynooth, Hawkfield, 12.30.
All-Ireland club IHC final Abbeyknockmoy (Galway) v Bennettsbridge (Kilkenny), Croke Park, 3.45 – Abbeyknockmoy’s point-scoring in the semi-final was impressive but Bennettsbridge’s rapid ascent from junior should go all the way.
All-Ireland club JHC final Eoghan Rua (Derry) v Glenmore (Kilkenny), Croke Park, 2.0 – Twenty five years ago Glenmore won the senior All-Ireland and will be expected to defeat the McGoldrick-inspired Coleraine club.
Leinster Colleges A Final St Benildus (Dublin) v Marist College (Westmeath), Tullamore, 2.0 – Neither of these schools has ever won a Leinster title. St Benildus made it through after a semi-final replay that went to extra-time against Clane. Dublin minors Tom Fox and Callum Pearson are their go-to players but Marist have Westmeath and Roscommon county players, not to mention goal-poaching Athlone town striker Ryan Gaffney.