Weekend previews

 

Compiled by SEAN MORAN

TODAY

Ulster SFC quarter-final: Donegal v Derry, Ballybofey, 5.0 – Live on RTÉ/BBC

Derry’s slow loss of altitude since beating Kerry in the 2008 league final brought them a flirtation with relegation to Division Three this year and rank outsider status in this evening’s clash with the Ulster champions, who beat them in last year’s final. Unlike last year, John Brennan is able to call on Paddy Bradley and that strengthens the attack although injury to the latter’s brother Eoin removes a player described by one Derry man during the week as a more damaging loss to the county than Michael Murphy’s is to Donegal.

Even if Bradley gets to play for some part, it’s equally likely that Murphy and injury concern Rory Kavanagh will also feature.

Derry have tended to put their trust in what used to be conventional tactics and have struggled with the defensive orientation of the modern game. Their best championship display in recent times was the unexpected win against Armagh last year in a match that turned equally unexpectedly into a shootout, which gave Eoin Bradley free rein.

Allowing for the fact that Jim McGuinness is believed to have loosened the extreme rigidities of Donegal’s structure, the champions are still unlikely to allow the match to develop into a frenetically open contest. There were signs of concentration loss in the match against Cavan but as McGuinness noted at the time these came after the match had been effectively put to bed.

Derry’s goal threat is diminished by Eoin Bradley’s absence and they will need to be clinical in kicking points; Paddy Bradley is excellent at it but time and space will be in short supply.

Previously: Only 11 months ago, the counties met in the Ulster final, which ended in a decisive victory for Donegal, who also won the All-Ireland qualifier meeting in 2009. Derry have to go back four years for their last win in the fixture when 1-1 from Eoin Bradley helped them to a two-point victory in Ballybofey.

You bet: The champions are 4-9 favourites with Derry 9-4 and 15-2 the draw.

Just the ticket: Stand seating tickets (€25/£20, €15/£12 for OAPs and €5/£4 (available from county boards) for under-16s). Terrace (adults €15/£12, OAP/Student €10/£9 and under-16s free).

Crystal gazing: Donegal are hampered by injuries but so are Derry and the home sided are currently operating at a higher level than their opponents.

DONEGAL: Tba

DERRY: B Gillis; J McCamley, C McKaigue, SL McGoldrick; B McGoldrick, M Craig, E Scullion; J Diver, M Friel; G O’Kane, M Lynch, E Lynn; C Gilligan, P Bradley, E McGuckian.

Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo).

Leinster SFC quarter-final replay: Meath v Carlow, Tullamore, 7.0

Meath’s waking nightmare last week could, as acknowledged by manager Seamus McEnaney, have been worse but even as it was, it was a stark illustration of the team’s shortcomings in the back eight and an unwelcome glimpse into some inadequacies in the front six.

Carlow’s Brendan Murphy ran the show from centrefield and his forwards picked off the necessary scores whereas the backs showed greater urgency in ferrying ball out under the noses of the opposing forwards.

The rule of replays that favours teams with the bigger capacity for improvement has to suggest Meath. Their attack can turn the screw a good bit tighter whereas the other rule about the team who learns more can also benefit McEnaney’s side, as they work out how to stifle Murphy’s influence.

Simpler imperatives also lean towards the favourites, such as the injuries – including a doubt over Brendan Murphy – and suspensions picked up by Luke Dempsey’s team.

Previously: Last week’s draw was the first meeting between the teams in four years when Meath romped home by 20 points with Joe Sheridan scoring 1-3.

You bet: Meath remain hot favourites at 1-10, Carlow 7-1 and 14-1 the draw.

Just the ticket: Stand tickets (€15) and juveniles €5. Terrace (€10) and juveniles €3 (two per accompanying adult). €10 (stand) and €5 (terrace) refund for OAPs and students.

Crystal gazing: Meath’s tortuous progress to resume.

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

CARLOW: Tba

Referee: D Fahy (Longford).

TOMORROW

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Kildare v Offaly, O’Moore Park, 4.0

What looked like the hard side of the Leinster draw has been subject to some revisionism after the serious contests between Wexford and Longford compared impressively with Meath’s difficulties and the likely fate of Offaly tomorrow.

Tom Coffey’s arrival as an emergency manager will help to pick up things in the county but Offaly are missing Niall McNamee, whose presence up front kept up appearances even when things were going badly, and have had their preparation severely disrupted, a major disadvantage when going in against one of the fittest, best conditioned teams in the championship.

Kieran McGeeney’s plans have gone well so far this year with an impressive recovery from a bad start leading to the Division Two title and promotion.

Offaly for their part went hurtling into Division Four and will have their work cut to avoid the sort of abject trimming they received in the O’Byrne Cup back in January.

Kildare will run the opposition ragged and be able to avail of a decent bench to maintain the pressure, as the match goes on. It promises not to be for the squeamish.

Previously: The counties met in Leinster three years ago and Kildare had a comfortable win. Offaly haven’t won a Leinster championship match for five seasons and in the meantime have only wins against Clare and Waterford to show for their summers in the qualifiers.

You bet: The shortest odds of the say see Kildare at 1-25, Offaly 11-1 and a draw at 11-1.

Just the ticket: Stand tickets €25, Terrace €15, €10 (stand) and €5 (terrace). Refund (€10) for OAPs and students in Cusack Stand. Juveniles (16 and under) €5 (limited to two per accompanying adult).

Crystal gazing: Even allowing for Kildare’s recent history of alternating seasons of serious intent with disastrous campaigns can’t make this add up for Offaly.

KILDARE (provisional): S Connolly; A MacLochlainn, H McGrillen, P Kelly; E Bolton, M O’Flaherty, O Lyons; M Foley, P O’Neill; J Doyle, E O’Flaherty, A Smith; J Kavanagh, T O’Connor, M Conway.

OFFALY: A Mulhall; S Sullivan, J Moloney, S Pender; B Darby, M Brazil, E Rigney; A Mc Namee, R Dalton; R Brady, D Currams, N Smith; K Casey, G Guilfoyle, A Sullivan.

Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry).

Leinster SHC semi-final: Galway v Offaly, Portlaoise, 2.0 – Live on RTÉ 2

Perceptions of the match are largely concerned with Offaly’s first win over Wexford in 12 years and Galway’s second successive embarrassingly lean margin of victory against Division 2A side Westmeath.

Had Ollie Baker’s team closed out Wexford with a bit more control, they’d be more fancied tomorrow. It left Baker with plenty to work on and the morale lift of winning a tight championship match.

Galway might be forgiven for their travails in Mullingar, as the match was effectively over when they started leaking four goals.

This will be another test of Galway’s defensive capabilities, particularly on the right where Niall Donohue and Joseph Cooney form an inexperienced wing.

Offaly won’t be under the same pressure as they were at home to Wexford and they have Shane Dooley in form and Rory Hanniffy can test Niall Burke’s fine year to date but overall they conceded too many scoring opportunities two weeks ago.

With Joe Canning back in the Galway attack, those opportunities won’t go a begging.

Previously: The counties have met on nine occasions, with four wins apiece and a draw since first meeting in the 1980 All-Ireland semi-final. The draw was a big surprise and occurred when the counties most recently met together two years ago. Galway won the replay narrowly .

You bet: Galway 1-3, Louth 11-4 and 11-1 the draw.

Just the ticket: As above.

Crystal gazing: Galway can be erratic and Offaly nearly snagged them two years ago but the westerners have the firepower to make it to the final.

GALWAY: J Skehill; N Donohue, K Hynes, F Moore; J Cooney, T Regan, J Coen; I Tannian, A Smith; D Burke, N Burke, C Donnellan; D Hayes, J Canning, C Cooney.

OFFALY: J Dempsey; D Morkan, D Kenny, D Franks; D Horan, R Hanniffy, J Rigney; C Mahon, K Brady; J Bergin, C Egan, B Murphy; S Dooley, C Parlon, B Carroll.

Referee: C McAllister (Cork).

Munster SHC semi-final: Waterford v Clare, Semple Stadium, 4.0 – Live on RTÉ 2

Aside from the Davy Fitzgerald factor, this match has gone through interesting prospective shifts during the year. Fitzgerald’s move to his own county was followed by news that their first championship engagement would be against the county he managed through the previous four championships.

His successor in Waterford Michael Ryan had an awkward start, becoming entangled in a row/misunderstanding with Eoin Kelly and then losing selectors. This added to the perception that an ageing team would be unable to maintain its fairly consistent top-four position of recent years.

A league campaign that looked predestined to end in relegation just as Fitzgerald was elevating Clare to promotion through a 100 per cent run in Division 1A unexpectedly picked up and Waterford responded to preserve their status.

Relations within the panel are said to have improved and a recent training weekend in Cork went well. Even the difficulties with Kelly have abated and he has trained well since his return.

Clare topped off the league run with a creditable semi-final against Kilkenny and hope to have Darach Honan, who made an impact when the counties last met two years ago, available to play some role tomorrow. They’ll be fit and furious and have the momentum to make a real go of this.

But Waterford have also drafted in some youth even if the loss of Pauric Mahony is a frustration. Every year people have been expecting slippage from the county but they keep getting to Munster finals and All-Ireland semi-finals.

Aidan Kearney is back and in good form whereas the performance levels of Stephen Molumphy have been back close to his All Star standards and John Mullane has had a rest. Tony Browne hasn’t been named – an unusual occurrence in a 20-year career but one that starts becoming inevitable at 39.

Some day, age will catch up with the rest of the team but perhaps not tomorrow.

Previously: Clare gave a reasonable account of themselves on a wet Bank Holiday in Thurles and it took a productive contribution off the bench – six out of 22 points – for Waterford to ease home.

You bet: Toss of a coin. Waterford and Clare are evens and 9-1 the draw.

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

Crystal gazing: Waterford may be in decline and Clare on the rise but the former have the experience and individual quality to stretch through this.

WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; A Kearney, L Lawlor, S Daniels; R Foley, M Walsh, P Mahony; K Moran, S Molumphy; M Shanahan, S Prendergast, E Kelly; J Mullane, S Walsh, G O’Brien.

CLARE: Tba

Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).