Weekend previews

 

TODAY MUNSTER SFC SEMI-FINAL Limerick v Clare, Gaelic Grounds, 7.30pm:BOTH sides will believe they can make the Munster final, whatever about their prospects of winning the title outright.

Limerick have the better record in that regard, although Clare continue to make progress under manager Micheal McDermott, and beat Limerick by a point in the league meeting earlier this year, before falling narrowly short of winning promotion to Division Three, losing their final game to Wicklow.

However Limerick have won the last three championships meetings, most recently the 2009 semi-final. With the return of Tom Lee and Stephen Kelly - and John Galvin named on the bench - there is extra depth to Limerick now which should see them through.

If Clare can get the best out of David Tubridy, Gary Brennan and Shane McGrath they'll give Limerick a major test but the additional challenge of playing in Limerick probably puts victory beyond them.

LIMERICK: B Scanlon; J McCarthy, P Browne, L O'Dwyer; S Lavin, J Riordan, P Ranahan; T Lee, P Kinnerk; I Corbett, S Kelly, S Buckley; G Collins, S O'Carroll, I Ryan

CLARE: J Hayes; K Harnett, S McNelis, L Healy; M McMahon, G Kelly, J Hayes; G Brennan, G Quinlan; S McGrath, E Coughlan, A Clohessy; M O'Shea, D Tubridy, R Donnelly.

PREVIOUSLY: Limerick have won the last three meetings, most recently the 2009 semi-final, while Clare haven't beaten Limerick since 1984, after a replay.

YOU BET: Limerick are favourites here at 4/9, the draw 15/2, and Clare 12/5.

JUST THE TICKET: General Admission €20; Juveniles under- 16 years of age are free; Student/OAP: Concession on Stand Tickets only - pay full price and get a refund of €5 at specified stiles.

CRYSTAL GAZING: There is greater experience in this Limerick team even if victory might be a little less clear-cut.

CONNACHT SFC SEMI-FINAL

Galway v Sligo, Pearse Stadium Grounds, 6pm (RTÉ 2 deferred)

GALWAY'S upwards trajectory continued in the quarter-final against Roscommon. Sligo's first outing wasn't as useful although they too were big winners away to New York.

Sligo aren't as strong as they were two and three years ago whereas Galway, with Alan Mulholland blending his resources to give the team a more ambitious look. Pádraic Joyce and Michael Meehan made substantial contributions when introduced off the bench the last day and they are kept in reserve again. The absence of David Kelly's menace in the Sligo attack reduces the fire power and the injury to Eamonn O'Hara deprives the team of a valuable influence.

One aspect of the win over Roscommon was the form of Joe Bergin at centrefield where he gave a commanding performance in the thick of things and if that drive can be maintained it will take the team home comfortably.

GALWAY: A Faherty; K McGrath, F Hanley, K Kelly; G Bradhaw, J Duane, G O'Donnell; J Bergin, G Higgins; G Sice, D Burke, T Flynn; S Armstrong, P Conroy, M Hehir.

SLIGO: P Greene; N Ewing, J Martyn, R Donovan; C Harrison, M Quinn, P McGovern; S McManus, E Mullen; B Egan, P Hughes, A Costello; S Coen, A Marren, M Breheny.

Referee: M Deegan (Laois)

PREVIOUSLY: Sligo's form against Galway is good and of the last four championship matches, they have lost just one. Most recently in 2010 Sligo won by a point after a replay.

YOU BET: Galway are favourites at 1-6, Sligo 5-1 and 10-1 the draw.

JUST THE TICKET: Stand tickets (€25). Terrace (€20). Juveniles €5.

Crystal gazing: Galway have momentum, home advantage and a strong bench.

TOMORROW

LEINSTER SFC QUARTER-FINALS

Cork v Kerry, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2.0 (Live, RTÉ)

CORK manager Conor Counihan didn't seem sure whether it was the fatigue of champions or accumulated injuries that did more to derail the team's defence of their All-Ireland last year. But both issues were to the fore in the Munster final 11 months ago. Cork looked sluggish at the start and subsequently lost Ciarán Sheehan with a cruciate injury.

Tomorrow it's Kerry who ostensibly have more problems. The display against Tipperary in the first round was sluggish and All Star centrefielder Bryan Sheehan picked up an injury. He is replaced by another All Star, Séamus Scanlon but, aside from the considerable loss of dead-ball expertise, any thinning of the playing stock in the sector is a problem, given Cork's abundance of options. They include Aidan Walsh, selected at centrefield but thought likely to continue his adventures up front with Paddy Kelly reverting to centre forward and Pearse O'Neill dropping back.

Cork's have an edge up front and Marc Ó Sé's return is timely for Kerry. With Sheehan and Daniel Goulding on the bench, Counihan can make some fairly heavyweight moves on the sideline should the attack be misfiring. But equally, Darran O'Sullivan's pace isn't something Cork are comfortable with and Colm Cooper, Declan O'Sullivan and Kieran Donaghy have all left scars on the home team over the years.

Both teams have sufficient mileage up to want the certainty of knowing their timetable after tomorrow and the likelihood of being at the starting line for the All-Ireland quarter-finals - pace Limerick and Clare - is a big motivation.

CORK: A Quirke; R Carey, M Shields, E Cadogan; P Kissane, G Canty, N O'Leary; A O'Connor, A Walsh; F Goold, P O'Neill, P Kelly; C O'Neill, D O'Connor, P Kerrigan.

KERRY: B Kealy; M Ó Sé, A O'Mahony, K Young; T Ó Sé, E Brosnan, P Crowley; A Maher, S Scanlon; P Galvin, Declan O'Sullivan, Darran O'Sullivan; C Cooper, K Donaghy, K O'Leary.

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).

PREVIOUSLY: Last year Cork were caught cold early in the Munster final and their comeback ran out of road. They haven't beaten Kerry in championship since the replayed semi-final in 2009.

YOU BET: Cork are marginal 5-6 favourites, Kerry 11-8 and 7-1 the draw.

Just the ticket: Stand €30. Uncovered stand €25. Terrace €15. Juveniles €5. Refund (€10) with ID for OAPs and students in stands.

CRYSTAL GAZING: All available evidence points to Cork's first win in three years.

ULSTER SFC QUARTER-FINAL

Armagh v Tyrone, Morgan Athletic Grounds, 4.0 (Live, RTÉ1/BBC2 4pm]

FOR much of the season the assumption was Tyrone would win this here. Based on the contrasting league form of the teams, culminating in their graphs crossing as Mickey Harte's team was promoted to Division One and Armagh passed in the other direction.

That however marked the high point in confidence in Tyrone. Since then a not terribly inspired display in the divisional final defeat by Kildare and the recent news Seán Cavanagh would be hors de combat for the remainder of the season has shaken the team. Brian McGuigan's return from retirement has acted to counter some of the negativity although reservations persist as to how much more he can offer given the physical punishment he's taken.

Armagh have lost Steven McDonnell to a more enduring retirement and with Ronan Clarke again/still injured the team lacks proven championship firepower. The Crossmaglen players are back and this adds Jamie Clarke in attack and Aaron Kernan at the back.

Tyrone have been prompted into a tactical rethink which restores Peter Harte to the forwards after spending the spring campaign as a Beckenbauer-style centre back. If the team plays as selected, Conor Gormley is an experienced practitioner in the position. With broader experience Harte can also be an improved forward. There is also the unaccustomed sight of both McMahons starting.

Despite the setbacks, away venue and the uncomfortable feeling Armagh may have one big shot in their locker Tyrone have been playing better this season and have more experience on the field and the line.

ARMAGH: P McEvoy; A Mallon, B Donaghy, D McKenna; A Kernan, C McKeever, F Moriarty; K Toner, M Mackin; A Forker, K Dyas, A Duffy; J Clarke, B Mallon, C Rafferty.

TYRONE: P McConnell; A McCrory, J McMahon, D Carlin; C McCarron, C Gormley, S O'Neill; J McMahon, C Cavanagh; R McNabb, M Donnelly, P Harte; M Penrose, S O'Neill, O Mulligan.

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).

PREVIOUSLY: Last season Armagh went to Healy Park in the qualifiers and were beaten by six points, 2-13 to 0-13.

YOU BET: Armagh 15-8, Tyrone 4-7 and 15-2 the draw.

JUST THE TICKET: Stand tickets are sold out. Terrace (adults €15/£12, OAP/Student €10/£9 and under-16s free).

CRYSTAL GAZING: It's a tricky start for Tyrone but their overall form has been better than Armagh's and even under-strength they can progress.

LEINSTER SFC QUARTER-FINAL REPLAY

Wexford v Longford, Tullamore, 4.0

The sides cross paths for the fourth time this season, and although Longford won both their league encounters and probably should have won in Croke Park last Sunday there is still the sense Wexford can win.

What is certain is that neither team played to their best last Sunday. Longford enjoyed the more possession and scoring chances but just weren't clinical in their finishing, and Wexford weren't ruthless enough. Their obsession with hand-passing didn't help. Their forwards only scored five points from play. It's unlikely Wexford's Adrian Flynn will find the room or range to kick five points as he did last Sunday.

There is a great level of consistency about this Longford team and Brian Kavanagh and Paul Barden are always capable of unleashing their serious scoring threat but if Wexford can come to grips with the full potential then they should be awarded with the daunting honour of facing Dublin in the semi-final.

LONGFORD: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly; C Smith, M Quinn, S Mulligan; B McElvanney, J Keegan; D Barden, P Barden, N Mulligan; D McElligott, B Kavanagh, S McCormack.

WEXFORD: A Masterson; N Murphy, G Molloy, R Tierney; A Flynn, B Malone, L Chin; D Waters, R Quinlivan; P Byrne, S Roche, B Brosnan; C Lyng, E Bradley, R Barry.

PREVIOUSLY: Longford's 2-9 to Wexford's 0-15 last Sunday was the third meeting between the sides this year, with Longford winning both league encounters, including the division three final.

YOU BET: Wexford are marginal favourites at 4/6, the draw 15/2, and Longford 13/8.

JUST THE TICKET: Double-bill admission is priced at Stand €20 and Terrace €10; Family Tickets are available for Stand (Adults €20 Juveniles €5 each); and adult club tickets available for €5 each to the terrace (min. group 15 and max 50). Senior Citizens and Students can claim a rebate (Stand €10 & Terrace €5) when they produce appropriate ID

CRYSTAL GAZING: The greater scoring potential in the Wexford team and scope for improvement should see them through.

LEINSTER SFC QUARTER-FINAL

Meath v Carlow, Tullamore, 2.0

MEATH huffed and puffed before they blew Wicklow. Carlow did surprise a well-fancied Louth team so Meath can't afford to be complacent. Carlow's weakness has always been its lack of strength in depth, and while Brendan Murphy is one of the best midfielders around, they're weakened by the decision of Thomas Walsh to emigrate.

Meath are resigned to being without Seamus Kenny for the rest of the year, the apparently minor knee injury sustained early in the Wicklow match later diagnosed as a near complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee, as well as a torn medial ligament.

But former All Star Stephen Bray has recovered from his hamstring injury, and with Graham Reilly showing a superb return to form against Wicklow it's likely Meath will ease past Carlow.

MEATH: D Gallagher, D Keoghan, K Reilly, B Menton, D Tobin, S McAnarney, M Burke, C Gillespie, B Meade, A Forde, S Bray, G Reilly, B Farrell, J Sheridan, C Ward.

CARLOW: T O'Reilly; P Murphy, C Lawlor, B Kavanagh; K Nolan, S Redmond, T Bolger; B Murphy, D Foley; B Murphy, P Reid, E Ruth; JJ Smith, S Gannon, D St Ledger.

PREVIOUSLY: Carlow have a particularly poor record against Meath.

YOU BET: No confusion with Meath at 1/14, the draw at 14/1, and Carlow 9/1.

JUST THE TICKET: (See Longford-Wexford.)

CRYSTAL GAZING: Meath's nervous start but convincing win over Wicklow is enough to suggest a comfortable victory.