Weekend Gaelic Games previews

All-Ireland champions Limerick and Tyrone are both in action over the Easter weekend

Saturday

Leinster GAA SHC round one

Wexford v Galway, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 4.30 – Live, Sky Sports Arena

A critical encounter for both teams: winner a likely Leinster finalist and the loser in a squabble with Dublin for the last place out of the province There is a sense that Henry Shefflin has kept his powder dry until now whereas Darragh Egan ran off five successive wins to top Division 1A before being taken apart by Waterford in the semi-final.

Expect a fair reaction to that. When the teams met in Salthill Wexford were way too sharp but presumably that imbalance has been rectified. A lot of the Wexford thunder has come from Rory O'Connor's scoring form in the division but the defence has been a great foundation. Galway have road-tested a good few players but how many must-starts have been unveiled? They retain a core of All-Ireland winners and all things being equal – which in Galway's case they seldom are – should be winning this, reducing a confident call to something of a hunch. Verdict: Galway

Westmeath v Kilkenny, TEG Cusack Park, 6.0

Westmeath have memories of the great night in 2006 when Kilkenny came to town and didn't beat them out the gate. It's a big step up for Joe Fortune's team after a spring in Division 2A. Kilkenny look improved and certainly the newcomers in defence have added to it but up front there's a sameness to the personnel. Adrian Mullen is moved to centrefield, presumably to perk him up a bit. Westmeath are in for a hard campaign but will be enthusiastic for this. Of all the teams from whom to be looking for encouragement, Kilkenny are traditionally near the bottom of the list. Verdict: Galway

Dublin v Laois, Parnell Park, 6.30

It's safe to say that no team managed by Mattie Kenny is going to take Laois for granted after 2019. Séamus Plunkett's teams have been excellent at raising their game in the past two seasons but this will be tough. Dublin's defence is more than serviceable and won't give much away but they aren't as convincing up front. The loss of Cian O'Sullivan's pace and potential is significant but they were emphatic winners in the recent league match in Portlaoise. James Keyes and Cha Dwyer scored well for Laois in what was initially a shoot-out but it settled as you suspect, this will as well. Verdict: Dublin

Ulster GAA SFC preliminary round

Fermanagh v Tyrone, Brewster Park, 6.30 – Live, Sky Sports Arena

It's quickly back to business for the All-Ireland champions. After various signs of malaise in the league, Tyrone recovered in time to beat the teams they had defeated on the run to Sam Maguire, Mayo and Kerry. The return of the qualifiers gives them a safety net but it will hardly be needed here. Fermanagh were comfortable in Division Three without threatening to leave it by either exit. Kieran Donnelly introduced some new players, who impressed him during the league, but the likes of Seán Quigley and Ciarán Corrigan provide experience and captain Declan McCusker is recovered from injury. Verdict: Tyrone

Sunday

Munster SHC round one

Waterford v Tipperary, Walsh Park, 2.0 - Live, RTÉ2

For a while, at the start of their league match in March, Tipperary belied their transitional state by looking lively and superior in building a six-point lead before Waterford first dismantled it and then them in the second half. Tipp manager Colm Bonnar said afterwards – and has repeated since – that they need to go for goals, which for Mark Kehoe's and Jake Morris's moves, they didn't get.

That hasn't been a problem for Waterford, who have hit nine in two matches when winning the league. Liam Cahill's team are stronger than the league meeting with Austin Gleeson and Dessie Hutchinson now available. There is pressure on Waterford and very little on Tipp – a state of affairs that would traditionally have benefited the outsiders – but the home side have been so assured in their performances with the combination of strength and pace that it's hard to see them not winning.

Cork v Limerick, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 4.0 – Live, RTÉ2

Is the evidence of Limerick’s astronomical superiority last year weightier than what we’ve seen this year? Cork are key witnesses for either case. The scale of their defeat last August prompted soul searching and a fair old pushback in this year’s league.

But are they much better? Ciarán Joyce is a find at the back but their defence is still no Fort Knox. Have they found a gear change in attack? Not really but this intriguing championship opener is more about where Limerick are after a poor league.

Already they are down two full forward All Stars with Peter Casey out for the year and Séamus Flanagan not fit for this weekend – with rumours of other indispositions. Cork have a good record against them – unbeaten in the two years of the round-robin and will be steamed up before what is expected to be the biggest hurling attendance in the rebuilt ground. Verdict: Cork

Connacht GAA SFC quarter-finals

London v Leitrim, McGovern Park, Ruislip, 2.30

London got off to a terrific start in the league, topping the table with three straight wins, including against Andy Moran's team, thanks to goals from Chris Farley and James Gallagher. Leitrim went on to have a decent campaign, which drew significant attendances so the mood has been buoyant to date. Dampening it a bit is the suspension of their leading league scorer Keith Beirne. London have won this fixture in the past decade and so know how it's done but Leitrim will hope that if they can replicate their initial form from the recent meeting that they won't squander the advantage. Verdict: Leitrim

New York v Sligo, Gaelic Park, New York, 7.30 (2.30 Irish time) - Live GAAGO

Back in the game after two pandemic years, New York welcome a Sligo side that nearly made promotion to Division Three. The two-year gap leaves the home side with even less continuity than usual. According to John O'Mahony, who now manages Salthill and was on the club's recent trip to New York for a challenge match, the contest was good even if they were missing their county players. Leitrim nearly perished here four years ago but that featured a masterclass from Armagh's visiting Jamie Clarke. Managed by Clarke's Crossmaglen club-mate Tony McEntee, Sligo are likely to fare better. Verdict: Sligo

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