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Lumbering Lake men must step up to ensure downfall of Derry

IN normal circumstances, this game would be Derry's to lose ... and yet the absence of Fergal Doherty (injury) and Paddy Bradley (old-fashioned bust-up with the boss) has got to raise question marks about Derry's stomach for a sustained back-door assault.

Plus they must win in Westmeath -- presuming the home crowd show up, having travelled in relatively poor numbers for their Leinster semi-final against Louth. Even without Doherty, Derry will still hope for some traction at midfield where Westmeath have struggled this year -- especially as they have Patsy Bradley now fit to come on if required. But Westmeath look to have a more solid defensive shape with the return of John Keane at centre-back. Fellow prodigals Dessie Dolan and Denis Glennon must up their contribution from the Louth game -- and on the basis that this happens, and they also reduce a ghastly turnover rate, they get a tentative vote to spring a mild surprise.

ODDS: Westmeath 2/1, Draw 15/2, Derry 1 /2 VERDICT: Westmeath



Little doubt Lilies will leave Leitrim for dust

KILDARE v LEITRIM (Newbridge, Tonight 7.0)

The Good Ship Lilywhite is no longer leaking water and has its bow pointed hopefully in the direction of the August Bank Holiday weekend. The defence has closed off those alarming gaps exposed by Louth and, in the Antrim replay, they also corrected the squandermania of the drawn tie. Kieran McGeeney has named an unchanged team -- with Johnny Doyle back in the groove, it's hard to see them losing here.

ODDS: Kildare 1/8, Draw 12/1, Leitrim 11/2 VERDICT: Kildare



Tribes would want to be wary of Wexford

GALWAY v WEXFORD (Pearse Stadium, Today 2.0, live RTé2)

A dangerous fixture on several fronts for Joe Kernan. He has only been given a week to get Galway bodies and minds over their late, late defeat by Sligo -- and Michael Meehan's body, more precisely his ankle, hasn't made it. Wexford could (make that should) have beaten Dublin and were given the perfect pick-me-up tonic: a routine trip to Ruislip. They have the forward artillery to expose any chinks in that Galway defence whereas the home side, minus the luckless Meehan, will lean heavily on Pádraic Joyce and Seán Armstrong for scores. For all that, they upped their game for the Markievicz replay and a similar display might just be enough.

ODDS: Galway 4/9, Draw 8/1, Wexford 9/4 VERDICT: Galway



Cavan will do well to avoid Rebel crushing

CORK v CAVAN (Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Today 3.0)

It's not every day that you fall seven points behind, have two men sent off -- and still fight back to score a famous victory. Then again, not every team can call on a super-sub like Seánie Johnston. Now it's time for Cavan fans to wake up and smell the coffee: this time they are playing Cork away instead of Wicklow at home. It's a measure of the Rebels' strength in depth that they are able to recall John Miskella, Fintan Goold and Colm O'Neill to the starting line-up.

ODDS: Cork 1/14, Draw 14/1, Cavan 8/1 VERDICT: Cork



A tentative selection for misfiring Faithful

OFFALY v WATERFORD (Tullamore, Tonight 5.0)

The Faithful were so shambolic in the first half against Clare, and so blessed to eventually force the tie to extra-time, that we're loath to place any investment of faith in them here. After all, Waterford had earlier hammered Clare in a league promotion decider and beat them again in a Munster quarter-final back in May. Don't ask us why, but we're banking on Niall McNamee's enduring class and John Coughlan's return from suspension to save the day.

ODDS: Offaly 4/6, Draw 15/2, Waterford 6/4 VERDICT: Offaly



Mournemen will deal with lofty Longford

DOWN v LONGFORD (Newry, Tonight 7.0)

Performance of the round one qualifiers must go to Longford, who gleefully took advantage of Mayo's malaise. Glenn Ryan deserves credit for reinvigorating a team that looked in a terminal tailspin throughout spring and into May, so another shock cannot be entirely discounted. Yet on the premise that Down have got that Tyrone defeat out of their system -- and addressed the problems that saw their forward incursions go from red-hot to toothless in the course of 70 minutes -- then James McCartan's unchanged 15 should make home advantage count.

ODDS: Down 1/3, Draw 9/1, Longford 3/1 VERDICT: Down



Orchard to put an end to Ernesiders' summer

FERMANAGH v ARMAGH (Enniskillen, Tomorrow 4.0)

Armagh lost to Monaghan by 12 points. Then Fermanagh lost to the same county by 'just' seven. Now the Ernesiders have home advantage against Armagh. A straightforward equation pointing to a Fermanagh victory, then? Eh, not at all. Paddy O'Rourke's men looked born-again as they brushed aside Donegal and should continue their march through the 'Ulster qualifiers', although this might be a tad more taxing.

ODDS: Fermanagh 11/4, Armagh 15/2, Armagh 4/11 VERDICT: Armagh


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