Your weekend football and hurling previews

Galway should have enough in reserve to retain their Leinster hurling title


All-Ireland SFC qualifiers, Round Four 

 Armagh v Roscommon, O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, 3.0 [Live, RTÉ News Now]

– There are contrasting trajectories here. Armagh have won three on the bounce and also scored an average of 23 points getting to the last 12. They have also finished matches strongly; two goals in the last 10 minutes against Westmeath, 1-11 in the second half of the Sligo win and an unanswered 1-4 against Clare in the dying minutes last week. Roscommon, although favourites, flagged against Galway in the second half and haven’t been efficient in their finishing. They have played at a higher level than Armagh though and aren’t hiding the importance to them of making the last eight. Could be a white-knuckle ride.


Verdict: Roscommon

 Cork v Tyrone, O'Moore Park, Portlaoise, 5.0 [Live, Sky Sports Arena]

– The Munster final exposed the gulf with Kerry but this should be more manageable and so, it's a bit dispiriting to encounter the depth of gloom in Cork about their footballers' prospects. The early goals against Kerry were blotting paper to a broken mains and the inability to keep pace doesn't bode well for this. Tyrone may have misfired along the way but they're practised and relentless, having come through the qualifiers. Injuries are also clearing for them and Mark Bradley has been named on the bench. Cork's relative orthodoxy will be a welcome change after the defensive systems of Cavan and Carlow.

Verdict: Tyrone

 Fermanagh v Kildare, Páirc Tailteann, Navan, 7.0 [Live, Sky Sports Arena]

– This needs to be handled with care by Kildare. The clicking into gear of their mobile and athletic patterns essentially pressed Mayo until they cracked once the dominance on kick-outs had been redressed. An obvious reference is Carlow, another defensively orientated team who shocked Kildare in Leinster, but the extraordinary 100 per cent kicking stat and the latter's lack of intensity played big roles. Donegal showed that by starting cagily and taking the points, Fermanagh can be worn down so unless the Maguires and Corrigans can hit the ground running, the power and shooting of Kevin Feely  Paul Cribbin, Daniel Flynn will be decisive.

Verdict: Kildare


Leinster SHC final replay

Galway v Kilkenny, 3.0 [Live, RTÉ 1]

– Given the psychological baggage with Kilkenny, last weeks’ draw was not a great result for Galway and traditionally Thurles hasn’t been as favoured a venue for them as Croke Park but the scale of the challenge is now clear. The favoured criterion for assessing replays is going for the team with most room to improve and given the underperformance of so many key players that would suggest the champions. But are we to judge by 2017 standards or this year’s?

Kilkenny demonstrated that for all the decorated departures, the new collective are just as reluctant to concede deficits as defeats and their desperate struggle to claw back three points in the dying moments yielded a deserved draw.

We can expect to see a more confrontational Galway, as the loss of the aerial battle must have stung, until Johnny Glynn’s arrival began to redress the balance.

Manager Micheál Donoghue made a couple of references afterwards to the draw being the most intense match they've had in a while and perhaps that explained the error count, fumbling possession and turning over ball. If he's right, that should be one problem fewer this week.

Kilkenny's defensive work was excellent and they did fine against the champions' centrefield but they lack the cutting edge of old, which would have seen James Skehill picking the ball out of his net at least twice last week.

Brian Cody made the point that he'd expect his team to get better over the summer, as they're being trained and coached to improve and maybe they'll come on again here.

But Galway should have enough in reserve to retain their title.
Referee: Fergal Horan Tipperary
Last meetings: 2018 Leinster third round, Galway 1-22, Kilkenny 2-11 and last week's drawn final, at Croke Park, Galway 0-18, Kilkenny 0-18.
Just the ticket: Pre-pay – Stand €30, Terrace €20 Match day – €35 and €25. Juveniles €5. Concessions available.
Odds: Galway 4/9, Kilkenny 9/4 and 10/1 draw.
Verdict: Galway to win

All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-finals

Carlow v Limerick, Netwatch Cullen Park, 7.0

– Carlow crown a great week of winning the inaugural McDonagh Cup and promotion to the Leinster championship with a crack at this year’s All-Ireland. Limerick were thoroughly deflated by their ‘third weekend’ drubbing in Ennis and as it was the last round have had to wait until now to get it out of their system. They remain serious contenders, though, and should resume that course by reaching the quarter-finals.

Westmeath v Wexford, TEG Cusack Park, 7.0

– After a frustrating season of tangling unavailingly with Carlow, Westmeath pick themselves up for a go at Wexford, whose manager David Fitzgerald must be casting an occasional glance at the prospective quarter-final against Clare. They will need to sharpen their finishing to stay in touch and Wexford may need to juggle the U-21s after an exhausting and disappointing evening midweek but the latter should get back on track for a third successive go at the quarter-finals.

All-Ireland SFC qualifier, Round Four

Laois v Monaghan, Páirc Tailteann, Navan, 2.0

– Monaghan’s uncanny ability to draw Division Four teams stretches into a third qualifier round, which has put the Fermanagh shock well into the rear-view mirror if leaving them somewhat untested. Laois will be the toughest of the opponents as well, as they asked a couple of interesting questions of Dublin in the Leinster final. They are the sort of team that could hurt Monaghan if the latter settle into one of those moods where they fail to convert chances and struggle to pull away. Forewarned is however forearmed and they can reach the last eight for what would be the fifth time in six years.

Verdict: Monaghan

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times