Weekend GAA previews
TODAY: All-Ireland U-21FC S/f(Extra-time if necessary)Cork v Galway, Ennis, 6.30, J Curley (Meath).*TG4 8.15 (deferred)
Galway, managed by Alan Mulholland and led by Colin Forde, Mark Hehir and Danny Cummins, only allowed defending Connacht champions Roscommon four points when winning their first provincial U-21 title since 2005 to give the county some football hope. Cork, featuring Aidan Walsh, Ciaran Sheehan and some cracking forwards in Mark Collins and Barry O'Driscoll, are roaring hot favourites, but U-21 teams can fluctuate dramatically, so this is far from a given.
Cavan v Wexford, Parnell Park, 7.0, P O'Sullivan (Kerry)
Another bit of foot-shooting by the CCCC here forcing Cavan to play just three days after they ended their 15-year wait for a provincial U-21 title.Victory over Tyrone, led by Gearoid McKiernan, was no fluke as this was their second final in-a-row. Wexford, led by Michael O'Regan and Padraig Kelly, won their first ever title a week earlier. They're two teams with a similar work ethic, but Cavan's momentum and experience may swing it.
(3.0 unless stated)
(Extra-time if necessary)
Kilkenny v Wexford, Kilkenny, G Whelan (Wicklow). Verdict: Wexford
Wicklow v Offaly, Aughrim, F Barry (Kildare). Verdict: Offaly.
Louth v Meath, Haggardstown, Dundalk, B Hickey (Kildare). Verdict: Louth
Kildare v Longford, Newbridge, D Brazil (Offaly). Verdict: Longford
Dublin v Westmeath, Parnell Park, F Kelly (Longford). Verdict: Dublin
Carlow v Laois, Carlow, 6.30, D Maher (Westmeath). Verdict: Laois
NFL Division 2 semi-final
Dublin v Cavan, Ardee, 5.0
Revenge will be on the Dublin menu as they face Cavan, the only team to have beaten them in this year's campaign. More importantly,though, they will want a quick return to the top flight at the first time of asking. They have been hampered in their preparations with injuries to key players Mary Nevin and Amy McGuinness. Cavan know they have the beating of the Jackies and if Aisling Doonan can repeat the performance she had against the Dubs in Round 4, then anything could happen.
Division 3 semi-finals
Clare v Wicklow, Templetuohy, Tipperary, 2.0. Verdict: Clare
Fermanagh v Down, Clontibet, 2.0. Verdict: Fermanagh
Division 4 Semi-Finals
Westmeath v Offaly, Tubberclair, 7.30. Verdict: Westmeath
All-Ireland Schools Jun 'B' Final
Col Dun Iascaigh v Scoil Mhuire SS, Trim, Banagher, 1.0
All-Ireland Schools Jun 'c' Final
Pres, Athenry v St Joseph's, Navan, Clan na Gael, Roscommon, 11.45
Allianz Hurling League
(All 2.30 unless stated)
Division 1 -- Round 7
Cork v Dublin, Pairc Ui Chaoimh,
B Gavin (Offaly).* TG4 2.30
Currently joint second with Galway, Dublin's bid to make their first league final since 1946 hangs on a difficult away trip, especially with Liam Rushe the latest to join their injury list. They're playing a side who are 'safe' in third-last at the moment and technically have nothing to play for. However, like the Dubs, Cork should have benefitted from a recent training trip to Portugal and will be smarting from that one-point defeat by Wexford. Anthony Daly's side have got to stop wasting their scoring chances, yet even if they win, they'll need Galway or Kilkenny to lose to qualify.
Betting: Cork 8/13, Dublin 6/4, Draw 10/1.
Waterford v Galway, Walsh Park, C McAllister (Cork) *TG4 (deferred)
Defending champions Galway will reach their second consecutive final and third in four years if they win here and after the Tipp mauling they've a point to prove. Joe Canning is expected to make his comeback and they'll need him for the frees at least as Ger Farragher, like Andy Smith, is out injured. Damien Hayes is another who could make his comeback today. Waterford's chances of making the final -- they need to win and see Dublin beaten and Tipp only drawing -- are remote and they're without Richie Foley (hamstring) and John Mullane (honeymooning). However, they're just back from a training camp in Reading and this should be a cracker.
Betting: Galway 8/11, Waterford 5/4, Draw 10/1.
Tipperary v Wexford, Semple
Stadium, D Kirwan (Cork)
Wexford threw themselves a relegation life-line by beating Cork last time and may have been thrown another by Tipp who start without Shane Bourke and Lar Corbett (both injured), who did such a joint demolition job on Galway last time out. Garrett Sinnot replaces Willie Doran (injured) for Wexford. Tipp make eight changes from the Galway game, which seems to indicate that they believe the odds of them qualifying -- they need to win and see Dublin and Galway beaten -- are too remote.
Betting: Tipperary 1/14 Wexford 7/1, Draw 16/1.
Kilkenny v Offaly, Nowlan Park, A Stapleton (Laois)
Kilkenny were lucky enough to grab a draw the last day considering how much Dublin wasted, but, as usual, had enough to scrape by. They only need a draw here to make the final and while Colin Fennelly is out injured, expect Jackie Tyrell, 'Cha' Fitzpatrick, Mick Rice and Richie Power back. Offaly's survival will likely depend on the Wexford result and if they end up level, they'll be safe thanks to the head-to-head rule.
Betting: Kilkenny 1/8, Offaly 6/1, Draw 12/1.
Division 2 -- Round 7
Westmeath v Down, Mullingar,
D Hughes (Carlow)
Down took some notable scalps (Carlow and Meath) and pushed Limerick hard, but are still joint second-last with Kerry. They have a poor 'road' record, but Westmeath are in crisis, already relegated without a win and former Athenry hurler Brian Hanley was only confirmed as the interim manager last night . However, a wounded dog can sometimes be the most dangerous.
Betting: Westmeath 5/6, Down 11/10, Draw 9/1.
Antrim v Limerick, Loughiel,
E Hasson (Derry)
Currently joint second with Clare, Antrim would have to beat Limerick and see the Banner beaten (they were pipped by a point in their head-to-head) to make the final, but it's hard to see them getting one over on the unbeaten leaders who have already qualified for the final and have the likes of Damien Reale, Stephen Lucey, Graeme Mulcahy and schools star Declan Hannon back for the long trip North.
Betting: Limerick 4/11, Antrim 5/2, Draw 10/1. Verdict: Limerick
Kerry v Laois, Tralee, J O'Connell (Cork)
Defeats to Carlow and Down proved costly to mid-table Laois, who actually beat Clare and Antrim. Shocking Clare the last day has left them with an outside chance of making the final and with Kerry 'safe' and expected to experiment, they will probably just consolidate third or fourth place with a win here.
Betting: Laois 3/10, Kerry 11/4, Draw 11/1.
Clare v Carlow, Ennis,
M Haverty (Galway)
Clare's three-point defeat by Laois last time out has left them looking surprisingly vulnerable. If both themselves and Antrim lose, they will still go through on their head-to-head victory, but a win would secure their final place. Home advantage will be needed because Carlow can be dangerous and Clare have simply got to stop coughing up goals -- 10 to date.
Betting: Clare 1/12, Carlow 7/1, Draw 14/1.
Division 3A Final
(Extra-time if necessary)
Derry v Wicklow, Pearse Park Longford, F Smith (Meath)
Derry star Kevin Hinphey has actually given up tickets for the Paul McCloskey fight to contest their second 3A final in a row. They lost to Kerry by a point in last year's final and that was the same margin Wicklow beat them by in the group stages. With Casey O'Brien getting access to dual stars Leighton Glynn, Seanie Furlong and Stephen Kelly, Wicklow are fancied to make the giant leap to Division 2.
Division 3B Final
(Extra-time if necessary)
Mayo v Roscommon, Carrick-on-Shannon, P Green (Galway)
Mayo, managed by Murt Connolly, won by eight points when they met in the first round, but have some injury doubts about Keith Higgins and lost their unbeaten record to Monaghan last time out. A good U-21 team, a good manager (Seamus Qualter) and a shock 15-point defeat of Louth last week, brings the Rossies into this one on a high and they could pull off a surprise.
Division 4 Final
(Extra-time if necessary)
South Down v Tyrone, Athletics Grounds Armagh, O Elliot (Antrim)
Tyrone's hurlers have responded well to the criticism of their county secretary last year with an unbeaten run to date. The key to their 3-15 to 3-11 defeat of South Down in Round 2 was keeping Eoin McGuinness scoreless and if they can shackle him again, victory will be theirs.
League Division 1 final
Galway v Wexford, Semple Stadium, 12.45, M O'Kelly (Cork)
Wexford seem intent on establishing a camogie dynasty and they certainly have a stranglehold on this title. Success here would give them the honours for the third successive campaign and they are also All-Ireland champions.
The Leacy sisters, Mary and Una, Kate Kelly, Katrina Parrock and goalkeeper Mags D'Arcy are just some of Wexford's premier performers, but in truth, this is a unit with ability all over the pitch.
They beat Galway in last year's All-Ireland and repeated that in the opening round of this campaign, but the Tribeswomen are significantly stronger now with Brenda Hanney and Ann-Marie Hayes back from club duty and Therese Maher also having returned to training.
Veronica Curtin remains the key attacking figure, while Aislinn Connolly will punish any indiscretions by Wexford defenders.
League Division 2 final
Antrim v Waterford, Ashbourne, 2.30, A O'Brien (Wexford)
This is another All-Ireland final repeat, with these teams needing a replay to be separated in the junior decider last term, Antrim overturning a six-point interval deficit to win by four. The Saffrons are playing with tremendous belief and emerged from Group 1 with a 100pc record from four games played, with Jane Adams and Raquel McCarry doing the damage in attack.
Waterford began well with two wins in Group 2, but were held to a draw by Tipp and then to another by Kilkenny. That allowed Cork to sneak back into contention, but significant contributions from Trish Jackman, Karen Kelly and Ruth Geoghegan saw them edge past the Leesiders in a play-off to earn their final spot.
NFL Division 1 Semi-Finals
Cork v Donegal, Tuam Stadium, 2.0
With the exception of a shock defeat at the hands of Monaghan 3, Cork have been devastating during this year's league campaign. Standing between the Rebelletes and a fourth league final in a row are last year's Division 2 champions, who have had an encouraging campaign in the top flight with star forward Geraldine McLaughlin, in particular, making her mark in the league. Eamon Boyle's charges will be well aware of the challenge ahead however, as they were on the wrong side of a 25-point drubbing when they met Cork in Round 4.
Monaghan v Laois, Ballymahon, Longford, 3.0
Only a point separated these two sides at the final whistle in Round 6, suggesting we could be in for another thrilling game. With Laois shipping goals in all but one of their games this year, the Monaghan forwards will be keen to exploit this perceived weakness in Joe Higgins' side. After being denied by Cork last year at the same stage and after an unbeaten run of seven games this year, it would be cruel for Monaghan to miss out again. Laois will hope Tracey Lawlor and Martha Kirwan can inspire them.
NFL Division 2 semi-final
Kerry v Meath, Cahir, Tipperary, 2.0
Kerry suffered their first loss of the league in Round 7 against Dublin, which meant a semi-final date with Meath. It was a tight game when these two sides met in February, with Kerry making the most of the home advantage when winning by two points. They will know better than to underestimate Meath, who will be looking to forwards like Grainne Nulty and Gillian Bennett to spearhead their challenge.
Division 4 Semi-Final
Roscommon v Louth, Kingspan Breffni Park, 2.0. Verdict: Roscommon