Rested Louth could move centre stage


So far this summer the All-Ireland football qualifier series has yet to land its first big hit, a win for hope over expectancy in the style of Sligo beating Kildare or Westmeath beating Mayo a year ago.

The potential for giantkilling is a little wider this weekend, with Louth meeting Meath tomorrow evening and, on Sunday, Wicklow meeting Kerry and Leitrim playing Tyrone in their rescheduled game.

Louth and Wicklow are particularly well positioned for a minor revolution. Though Louth must travel to Navan, they meet a Meath team with just six days resuscitation after their Leinster semi-final loss to Dublin. The old rivalry adds further weight to a game with clear potential to finally stir up the qualifier series.

"Well I wouldn't really rate this six-day thing as any great disadvantage for Meath," says Louth manager Paddy Carr. "I mean we all know Meath are the comeback specialists, in every sense. They have perfected the art of grinding out a result under difficult circumstances and I don't expect they'll be any different on Saturday.

"So we're definitely not under any illusion on what we have to do to win this game. We're just focusing on getting the very best out of ourselves and I do believe this team has got the sort of belief and character that it takes to beat Meath."

Like Louth, who pushed Kildare so close, Wicklow have had three weeks' preparations since their win over London. Kerry, in contrast, will be trying to lift themselves just six days after the Munster semi-final loss to Cork and are carrying the hangover of having lost their provincial title.

The draw for the third round of both the football and hurling qualifier series will take place this Sunday evening. Entering the football draw will be Mayo, Laois, Derry and Fermanagh plus the winners of Kerry-Wicklow, Meath-Louth, Tyrone-Leitrim and the winners of Limerick-Offaly, who play on Saturday week.

Due to the new rules that keep teams who have already met in the championship apart, Laois will not be paired against Offaly, should they beat Limerick, or Wicklow, should they beat Kerry. In the event of a Kerry victory the Kingdom will not be paired against Limerick, should they beat Offaly.

In the hurling qualifiers, Galway, Offaly and Clare will be joined by the winners of the Cork-Limerick game, plus the beaten provincial finalists from Tipperary-Waterford and Kilkenny-Wexford.

Teams who have previously met will not be drawn against each other. The six teams who make the third round will play off down to three teams, who will be joined by the Ulster champions, Antrim, for the two All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Cash will be accepted at the turnstiles for all the qualifier games this weekend as there are no all-ticket clashes.