Saturday 3 December 2016

Stage set for Saturday night fever

Martin Breheny and Jackie Cahill

Published 30/07/2016 | 02:30

Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Photo: Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

Jim Gavin and Mickey Harte will be closely monitoring the final two football qualifier games of the season in Croke Park this evening, sizing up what lies ahead for Dublin and Tyrone.

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The winners of Cork v Donegal (4.0) and Mayo v Westmeath (6.0) will play the Leinster and Ulster champions in the All-Ireland quarter-finals in Croke Park next Saturday.

If Donegal and/or Westmeath win, no draw will be necessary as repeat pairings of provincial finals are not allowed in quarter-finals.

If Cork and Mayo win, a draw will take place on RTE Radio 1 after the 8.0 news and sport this evening.

Next Saturday's games will be as follows: Tyrone v Cork/Mayo/Westmeath (4.0); Dublin v Cork/Donegal/Mayo (6.0)

Mayo are short-priced favourites to reach the quarter-final for a sixth successive year when they play Westmeath in what will be the second championship game between the counties.

Westmeath won the only other contest in 2001, edging home by a point after extra-time in a Round 4 qualifier.

The Cork-Donegal game is expected to be more competitive as the Ulster runners-up attempt to refloat their season after the heartbreak of being caught by Tyrone in stoppage-time in the Ulster final.

Manager Rory Gallagher admitted afterwards that it would require a massive effort to get back to the levels required for a Round 4 qualifier but unlike Roscommon, who found a six-day turnaround too demanding after losing the Connacht final replay, Donegal will have had a 13-day gap.

Donegal beat Cork by 10 points in this year's Allianz League.

Clare and Tipperary will make history in Croke Park tomorrow, lining up for the first time in All-Ireland quarter-finals. Clare face Kerry at 2.0 followed by Tipperary v Galway at 4.0.

Kerry, who are the only county to reach the quarter-finals every year since their introduction in 2001, beat Clare by 12 points in the Munster semi-final in mid-June. And former Footballer of the Year James O'Donoghue will make his first championship start for Kerry's since last year's All-Ireland final in tomorrow's quarter-final clash with Clare at Croke Park.

O'Donoghue replaces injured Dr Crokes star Colm Cooper in one of three changes in personnel from the team that beat Tipperary in the Munster decider. Peter Crowley returns from injury to replace Aidan O'Mahony in the half-back line and David Moran is named at midfield ahead of Bryan Sheehan. As well as Cooper, Michael Geaney and Johnny Buckley are unavailable due to injury.

Three members of this year's U-21 side - Tom O'Sullivan, Barry O'Sullivan and Tony Brosnan - make a senior championship match-day squad for the first time.

Elsewhere, Mayo boss Stephen Rochford has named an unchanged team for this evening's Round 4B qualifier against Westmeath at Croke Park.

It's the first time that Rochford has gone with the same starting 15 in successive games since taking charge.

Kevin McLoughlin will make his 87th appearance for Mayo, having made his debut against Westmeath in a 2009 National League fixture.

Westmeath boss Tom Cribbin has made three changes from the side that lost the Leinster final to Dublin as Athlone's John Connellan comes in for his injured brother Ray, who signed a two-year contract with AFL outfit St. Kilda this week. John Egan comes into the team ahead of Alan Stone, while Darragh Daly replaces Denis Corroon.

There are also three changes to the Cork team to face Donegal in the first game at GAA HQ as Stephen Cronin, Paddy Kelly and Colm O'Neill come in for Noel Galvin, James Loughrey and Daniel Goulding.

Loughrey is ruled out through suspension while dual stars Alan Cadogan and Aidan Walsh are added to the subs' bench.

Opponents Donegal, meanwhile, have made just one change in personnel but it's a notable one as Eamon McGee is left out. In manager Rory Gallagher's reshuffle, Martin McElhinney comes into midfield to partner Rory Kavanagh, with Odhrán Mac Niallais moving into the attack.

And Galway boss Kevin Walsh has kept faith with the team that demolished Roscommon in the Connacht final replay for tomorrow's clash with Tipperary, who have also named an unchanged line-up.

Irish Independent

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