Saturday 23 September 2017

GAA previews

Cliona Foley and Donnchadh Boyle

(Extra-time if necessary)

WALSH CUP (SH)

Offaly v Antrim, Tullamore, 2.0, P O'Dwyer (Carlow)

Offaly legend Brian Whelahan takes charge of the Faithful hurlers in a competitive fixture for the first time since his appointment last year and faces the same opposition whom he made his playing debut against.

Offaly were well beaten by Tipperary in a challenge match last week but could welcome a few more established players back.

It seems like the start of a big year for Antrim, too and they are keen to build on the momentum created by their appearance in last year's All-Ireland U-21 final.

Verdict: Offaly

(2.0 unless stated)

O'BYRNE CUP (SF) ROUND 3

Laois v UCD, Portarlington, D Maher (Westmeath)

The students were impressive in their dismantling of Wexford on Wednesday night, with Ross Bergin and Shane McEntee to the fore for the Belfield boys, but Tomas O Flatharta's Laois kicked a healthy 2-18 in difficult conditions against Offaly, meaning both sides are in contention for a semi-final spot.

Verdict: Laois

Offaly v Wexford, Tullamore,

D Fahy (Longford)

Wexford managed just 3-3 midweek against UCD, 3-2 of which came from the experienced Ciaran Lyng. That performance was in sharp contrast to their first outing of the year where they saw off Laois. Offaly defeated the students but fell to Laois, which leaves this group finely balanced with all four teams still in with a chance of progressing to the last four.

Verdict: Offaly

Longford v Athlone IT, Ballymahon, S Murphy (Louth)

Longford were on the end of a heavy defeat to Kildare on Wednesday night as Jack Sheedy explores the depth of his panel, and they face an Athlone IT side that can call on retired former Westmeath goalkeeper Gary Connaughton and Roscommon's Cathal Shine.

Verdict: Longford

Kildare v Carlow, Newbridge, F Kelly (Longford)

Kildare have been rampant so far and with Anthony Rainbow's Carlow so badly depleted it's hard to see anything other than a win for the Lilies and a place in the last four.

Verdict: Kildare

DIT v Carlow IT, St Margeret's GAA, N McKenna (Kildare)

Carlow IT rallied well in Navan against Meath when it looked like they were in for a heavy beating and in Cork's Brian Hurley they have one of the most exciting talents around.

Neither side can make the last four but Sigerson Cup champions DIT have quality in Brian Menton and Tomas O'Connor and they look a little stronger all around.

Verdict: DIT

Wicklow v Meath, Baltinglass, E Kinsella (Laois)

A winner takes all encounter with the victor progressing to a semi-final game against the winners of Dublin's clash with DCU. Mick O'Dowd has cast the net wide and on Wednesday Donal Lenihan helped himself to four points against Carlow IT. Wicklow have also won both their games despite holding Leighton Glynn in reserve.

Verdict: Meath

Dublin v DCU, Parnell Park,

D Gough (Meath)

Dublin have barely called on their front-line players -- they started Wednesday night's win over Louth with just one player from the line-up for last September's All-Ireland final.

DCU have a good record in this competition, but Dublin look to have the early momentum and can progress to a last-four clash with Wicklow or Meath.

Verdict: Dublin

Louth v Westmeath, Drogheda,

M Deegan (Laois)

Louth produced a gutsy, organised display when going down to Dublin in midweek, while Westmeath were toppled by DCU. Brian White is a doubt for the Wee men after going off injured in Parnell Park, and should he miss out, the Lakemen can take advantage.

Verdict: Westmeath

CONNACHT FBD SFL

NUI Galway v Roscommon, Ballyforan, J Molloy

Roscommon landed two late points to secure a draw against Sligo IT, with the injury-hit Donie Shine looking sharp. It'll be a busy weekend for the Galway students with two games in three days as they opened their campaign against Mayo last night, and that could stretch their panel.

Verdict: Roscommon

Mayo v IT Sligo, Charlestown,

R McBrien

It's a busy couple of days for Mayo, who got their 2014 campaign under way last night with James Horan pledging to give some of last year's All-Ireland winning minor side and others such Mikey Sweeney some game time in this competition. The students drew with Roscommon and will look to Sligo's Stephen Coen for scores.

Verdict: Mayo

Sligo v GMIT, Connolly Park,

s hehir

Perhaps understandably, given Pat Flanagan's belated appointment, Sligo looked well off the pace against Galway but they should have a better outing here against the students, who went down to Leitrim last weekend.

Verdict: Sligo

Galway v Leitrim, Duggan Park, J Henry

A winning start last weekend for Galway, who unveiled former Kildare attacker James Kavanagh. Leitrim got off to a winning start with Emlyn Mulligan and Paul Brennan to the fore as they saw off GMIT, but this is a significant step up in class.

Verdict: Galway

MCKENNA CUP (SF) ROUND 2

Tyrone v Queen's, Omagh, M McNally (Monaghan)

Niall Morgan showed what a loss he was last summer by scoring 0-3 and saving a penalty when a new-look Tyrone scored a three-point away win over Donegal in their opener. They've retained only four of that team against a Queen's side led by Donegal's Martin McElhinney and Antrim's Ryan Murray. Tyrone play Armagh on Wednesday, when QUB face Donegal.

Verdict: Tyrone

Armagh v Donegal, Athletic Grounds, N Mooney (Tyrone)

Donegal tired badly in the final quarter the last day, which probably is a reflection of their current training regime. Armagh had to scrap hard to beat Queen's, but they did score 1-17 compared to Donegal's 1-7 and Stefan Forker and James Laverty come into the mix tomorrow.

Verdict: Armagh.

Monaghan v St Mary's, Clones,

N Cullen (Fermanagh)

Monaghan lost to Derry in Clones last week, but still scored 2-11. They've reshuffled their team for this clash, with Emyvale's Gerard McCaffrey among the newcomers. Paddy Tally's students shocked Fermanagh midweek, when ex-Tyrone minor Thomas Canavan starred. Monaghan play Fermanagh and Mary's play Derry next Wednesday.

Verdict: Monaghan

Derry v Fermanagh, Owenbeg,

S McLaughlin (Donegal)

Eoin Bradley may be playing soccer, but Derry still scored 2-15 to beat Monaghan with James Kielt (1-5) in flying form. Brian McIver has made eight changes since and while Ryan McCluskey has resisted a switch to soccer, he has only just returned to Fermanagh training, so Seamus Quigley will still lead the team.

Verdict: Derry

Antrim v UUJ, Creggan,

K Trainor (Down)

UUJ are without their Tyrone and Monaghan stars (Kieran Hughes and Rory Begg) and, though Antrim lost to Cavan last week, they've got all their big names back and CJ McCourty opened with 0-7 (6fs). They play Down on Wednesday, while UUJ face Cavan.

Verdict: Antrim

Cavan v Down, Kingspan Breffni Park, S Hurson (Tyrone)

Despite being hit by flu, which may still affect them this week, Cavan got off to a flying start, banging 3-12 past Antrim, with David Givney deputising for Martin Dunne at full-forward. Down also began well with an 11-point victory over UUJ, so this should be a cracker.

Verdict: Cavan.

WALSH CUP (SH)

(Extra-time if necessary)

Laois v NUI, Galway, Rathdowney, D Hughes (Carlow)

After a hugely encouraging 2013, Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett will look to build on last year's promising performances against the likes of Galway.

Verdict: Laois

Carlow v UCD, Carlow, S Cleere (Kilkenny)

It's a big year for Carlow hurling but they'll be without their Mount Leinster Rangers contingent until their involvement in the club championship comes to an end.

Verdict: Carlow

Westmeath v DIT, Mullingar, 2.0, T Carroll (Offaly)

Like Carlow, Westmeath were on the outside looking in when they new hurling league structures were finally settled upon but Brian Hanley's side should nevertheless have too much for the students, who are 20/1 outsiders for Fitzgibbon success.

Verdict: Westmeath

WATERFORD CRYSTAL CUP

(SH) PRELIM ROUND

(Extra-time if necessary)

Waterford v UL, Carriganore,

C McAllister (Cork)

New Decies boss Derek McGrath, boosted by the return of Stephen Molumphy and Phillip Mahony from abroad, has already got his side busy on the challenge circuit and they should be too strong for a UL side without their Clare and Offaly seniors, though they still have strong players like Limerick's Mark Carmody and Thomas Ryan, Galway's Jonathan Glynn and Kilkenny's Padraig Walsh.

Verdict: Waterford.

Tipperary v LIT, Nenagh, D Kirwan (Cork)

Tipp, who lost the WC final to Clare last year, are opening with a team with a very experienced spine and have Eoin Kelly and Brendan Maher among their subs, so they mean business. LIT aren't as strong as they were in the past but they do include young Clare star Jamie Shanahan and a good midfield of Feakle's Shane McGrath and Kildare's Eanna O'Neill.

Verdict: Tipperary.

MCGRATH CUP (SF ) SEMI-FINALS

Kerry v Cork IT, John Mitchels Tralee, R Maloney (Limerick)

Barry John Keane is rewarded with a start after his four points off the bench last week and Paul Galvin is a notable early-season inclusion on Kerry's bench. CIT racked up 5-17 over Mary I last week, with Cathal Vaughan and Darragh Treacy to the fore, and are no pushovers, but Kerry are hard to beat at home.

Verdict: Kerry.

Cork v University of Limerick, Mallow, R Hickey (Clare)

Brian Cuthbert got his new-look Cork off to a good start when they racked up 3-22 against LIT but Liam Kearns' UL scored the shock of the week. Their unbeaten record this season held up when they beat UCC in a nine-goal thriller in which Kerry All Star James O'Donoghue scored 1-10 (0-4fs), but their defence needs to tighten up to win here.

Verdict: Cork.

Irish Independent

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