Tuesday 6 December 2016

Today's football championship previews

Damian Lawlor

Published 17/05/2015 | 10:00

Today's football championship previews
Today's football championship previews

Connacht SFC

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Galway v Leitrim

Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada 3.30

This game offers a young Leitrim side the chance to test themselves against one of the province's big guns.

There is a good vibe in the Leitrim camp; they have a sense of energy about them and the home fans will do their best to roar them on, but there is no doubt that Galway are becoming more settled.

Matthew Murphy, Niall Woods, Thomas Mulvey, Ronan Kennedy and James McGrail all make their Leitrim debuts - Murphy and Woods will fill the corner-back slots, while Mulvey, who is better known as a half-forward, is named at wing-back.

Galway's line-up shows just two changes from the side that defeated New York. Brian O'Donoghue replaces Tom Healy in goal, while Micheal Lundy comes in for Eddie Hoare in the half-forward line.

Galway should have way too much in reserve for their opponents. They will play attacking, open football and if they find the right channels and space down the centre, they can tear at Leitrim from the off.

Betting: Leitrim 8/1; Galway 1/16; Draw 22/1

Galway: B O'Donoghue; J Duane, F Hanley, C Sweeney; L Silke, G O'Donnell, S Denvir; F O Curraoin, P Conroy; G Sice, S Walsh, M Lundy; P O Griofa, D Comer, D Cummins.

Leitrim: C McCrann; M Murphy, R Gallagher, N Woods; S McWeeney, G Reynolds, T Mulvey; D Sweeney, S Moran; D Beck, D Wrynn, K Conlan; R Kennedy, J McGrail, F Clancy.

Verdict: Galway

Leinster SFC

Louth v Westmeath

Gaelic Grounds, Drogheda 3.30

Both teams suffered relegation in the league, are riddled with self-doubt and might find scores hard to come by.

Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin was furious after their NFL campaign and rightly so. Cribbin demands passion and he got little of it this spring. He hands first championship starts to four players, including corner-back Killian Daly, wing-back Paddy Holloway, wing-forward John Stapleton and corner-forward Shane Dempsey.

Kieran Martin, as expected, moves to centre-back, while James Dolan is in the side again after missing most of the league through injury. Ger Egan will lead the side in what seems to be a formidable midfield partnership with Darragh Daly. Paul Sharry is also back in the team, while Denis Glennon, who fractured his hand in training last month, isn't fit to start. Westmeath are slight favourites, but Louth will be very hard to beat at home. They will have learned during the league that their defending needs a revamp, so we expect them to pack their own half and look to the likes of Ryan Burns in attack to win it for them.

We can see a low-scoring game, but in the heel of the hunt, Westmeath seem to have a bit more to them.

Betting: Louth 13/10; Westmeath 5/6;

Draw 15/2

Westmeath: D Quinn; J Gilligan, K Maguire, K Daly; P Holloway, K Martin, J Dolan; D Daly, G Egan; P Sharry, R Connellan, J Stapleton; C McCormack, J Heslin, S Dempsey.

Louth: N Gallagher; A Williams, P Reilly, P Rath; D Byrne, D O'Hanlon, A Reid; B Duffy, T Durnin; D Maguire, C Judge, J Stewart; R Burns, C Grimes, P Smith.

Verdict: Westmeath

Ulster SFC

Donegal v Tyrone

Ballybofey 4.00

These two have won five of the last six Ulster titles, with the baton of power having switched to Donegal in recent seasons.

Less than two months ago, Tyrone were hammered by Donegal by 10 points - and we wonder will that result mean the Red Hands are fragile or highly motivated?

Their record against Donegal is poor enough - they have only beaten their rivals once since Mickey Harte took charge.

Paddy McGrath, Martin McElhinney and Anthony Thompson have all been on the Donegal treatment table in recent weeks, while Mark McHugh has been battling hard for full fitness.

Tyrone, meanwhile, will badly miss the long-range free-taking skills of Niall Morgan.

It will be no surprise to see Tyrone play 12 or 13 men behind the ball and try to break from the back, arriving at angles and with support into the scoring zone. But Donegal are adept at soaking up and forcing turnovers and Tyrone will need goals to beat them. We should not expect much in the way of entertainment, but we go for Rory Gallagher's men to secure the win. They look to be more consistent, better balanced and they have a fine artillery should they choose to fully employ it.

Betting: Donegal 1/2; Tyrone 12/5; Draw 13/2

Donegal: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; R McHugh, K Lacey, F McGlynn; N Gallagher, M McElhinney; M O'Reilly, O MacNiallais, C Toye; P McBrearty, M Murphy, H McFadden.

Tyrone: M O'Neill; A McCrory, R McNamee, C McCarron; R McNabb, J McMahon, P Harte; C Cavanagh, P McNulty; T McCann, M Donnelly, B Tierney; D McCurry, S Cavanagh, C McAliskey.

Verdict: Donegal

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