Weekend GAA Previews
Picture in the GAA’s pre-season competitions will become clearer this weekend
Jack McCaffrey: played a big role in UCD’s defeat of Dublin at Parnell Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
There’s nothing like a new rule to add sulphur to the pre-season competitions. The introduction of the mark into inter-county football this month has triggered much of the usual negativity reserved for such initiatives but so far it doesn’t appear to have done too much damage to the old game and in fact the overall lack of impact is being held against it.
Between holidays and the colleges’ involvement, everything has been a bit intangible during the first week but this weekend’s matches will thin the field into something more manageable.
O’Byrne Cup (Leinster SF)
Semi-final places are up for grabs this weekend and Saturday sees a winner-takes-all match in Stradbally between Laois and holders Meath, both under new management and motoring well with the latter having recorded big wins over Wicklow and DIT with two different teams. For this, Andy McEntee gives Joe Sheridan the opportunity for further goal-line dramatics with reinvention as a goalkeeper.
Jim Gavin’s Dublin have a better record in the All-Ireland than this competition and have been getting by with under-21s in the absence of the holidaying seniors. UCD, driven by an on-form Jack McCaffrey beat the Dubs during the week and are likely to qualify for the last four. Best candidates for the remaining semi-final places are Kildare and Louth.
Saturday: Laois v Meath, Stradbally, 7.0
Sunday [All at 2.0]: Wexford v Dublin, Enniscorthy, UCD v DCU, Belfield, Offaly v Kildare, O’Connor Park, Longford v IT Carlow, Glennon Bros Pearse Park, Wicklow v DIT, Blessington, Westmeath v NUI Maynooth, Páirc Ciaran Athlone GAA, Louth v Carlow, Dowdallshill.
McKenna Cup (Ulster SF)
There is a significant match on Saturday, as Tyrone battle to keep their six-in-a-row prospects alive after last week’s costly defeat by Cavan, during which Connor McAliskey damaged his cruciate in a season-ending injury. Jordanstown will be a tricky task for Mickey Harte’s side, who need to win if the manager is to make it the 10th McKenna Cup of his 15 years in charge. With just the first series of matches complete the three groups remain in play.
Saturday: Tyrone V UUJ, Healy Park, 7.0
Sunday: Down v Derry, Páirc Esler, Armagh v QUB, Athletic Grounds, Antrim v Monaghan, Glenavy, Fermanagh v St Mary’s, Brewster Park, Donegal v Cavan, MacCumhaill Park.
Mayo’s thirds were among those getting holiday work last week and lost narrowly to NUI Galway and on Sunday face another college outfit, IT Sligo. Leitrim got Brendan Guckian’s management off to a good start but the bar will be raised with the visit of Galway whereas Roscommon saw debutant Andrew Glennon notch a hat-trick and take on NUIG.
Sunday: Roscommon v NUIG, Ballyforan, Mayo v IT Sligo, Ballina Stephenites GAA, Sligo v GMIT, Connacht GAA, Leitrim v Galway, Ballinamore.
McGrath Cup (Munster SF)
In the past 15 years there has been no shortage of Cork-Kerry senior matches and here’s another one. Although Tipp were rusty and under-strength their clipping by the Kerry under-21s was a bit of a surprise. A stronger Cork selection also beat Tipperary.
Sunday: Cork v Kerry, Mallow, Waterford v Limerick, Lemybrien,
Walsh Cup (Leinster SH)
Wexford under new manager David Fitzgerald looked suitably ferocious in gobbling up a second-string UCD last week and travel to Carlow this weekend. Kilkenny are ready to dispense with their under-21s with the return of the seniors from holiday to take on Antrim.
Sunday: Laois v DIT, Rathdowney, Kilkenny v Antrim, Abbottstown, Westmeath v DCU, Kinnegad, Carlow v Wexford, Netwatch Cullen Park, Offaly v IT Carlow, Birr, Meath v Kildare, Páirc Tailteann.
The Gaelic Grounds will be interesting on Sunday with the two most earnest teams from last week facing each other. Both Limerick and Cork had strong second-half displays with the latter’s manager Kieran Kingston’s son Shane looking especially promising in the win over Kerry. John Kiely’s Limerick had added good news during the week with the return to the panel of James Ryan.
Sunday: Limerick v Cork, Gaelic Grounds, Kerry v Clare, Austin Stack Park.
All-Ireland club IHC quarter-final Robert Emmetts (Britain) v Cloughmills (Antrim), Greenford, 1.0