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All-Ireland SHC qualifiers

Limerick v Wexford, Gaelic Grounds, 5.0, M Wadding (Waterford)

The background to their arrival at this stage of the championship shows quite a contrast. Limerick feel they should be preparing for the Munster final after delivering a very good performance against Waterford, only to lose out to John Mullane's late goal, whereas Wexford were well beaten by Kilkenny.

However, had Wexford taken some of the goal chances that came their way in the first half, it would have given the game a completely different complexion. It's likely that Kilkenny would have won anyway but by a far less convincing margin, leaving Wexford more upbeat about today's game. However, they will be encouraged by the fact that Limerick conceded three goals against Waterford and will be hoping their forwards can be more decisive if the opportunities come their way again.

Being drawn away from home is a disadvantage for Wexford, just as playing at the Gaelic Grounds is a boost for Limerick at a time when their self-belief is pretty high anyway. The big question -- to which they provided an emphatically positive answer -- going into the Waterford game was whether they could adapt to top-flight pace after playing in Division 2 last spring.

They not only managed it but slugged it out toe-to-toe with Waterford all the way. With the confidence gained from that performance underpinning Limerick's attempt to chart a way towards the All-Ireland quarter-finals, Wexford will need to be a whole lot more secure in defence and expansive in attack to give themselves a decent chance.

They will raise their game in what is a season-defining game for both sides but it's unlikely to be enough to sustain them for the full 70 minutes.

2011 C'ship: Waterford 3-15 Limerick 3-14; Wexford 3-16 Antrim 1-11; Kilkenny 1-26 Wexford 1-15.

Last C'ship clash: Limerick 1-13 Wexford 0-14 (2009 qualifier)

Odds: Limerick 2/5; Wexford 5/2; Draw 10/1.

Verdict: Limerick

Next: Winners play Antrim or Cork next Saturday; losers finished for the year.

Limerick -- N Quaid; D Moloney, S Hickey, T Condon; W McNamara, B Geary, G O'Mahoney; D O'Grady, P Browne; N Moran, J Ryan, D Hannon; G Mulcahy, K Downes, S Tobin.

Wexford -- N Breen; P Roche, M O'Hanlon, K Rossiter; L Prendergast, D Stamp, M Travers; E Quigley, M Jacob; PJ Nolan, H Kehoe, S Banville; R Jacob, G Sinnott, J Berry.

Galway v Clare, Pearse Stadium, 7.0, D Kirwan (Cork), Live on RTE

High stakes for Clare, stratospheric ones for Galway. If Galway were to lose, it would go down as one of their worst championship seasons for a very long time, leading to all sorts for ramifications for the squad, team management and indeed the Hurling Board.

If they win, the season is back on track, re-opening a range of exciting avenues. There was nothing about Galway's last two league games or -- more especially -- the Leinster semi-final clash with Dublin to suggest they would get anywhere near Croke Park in August but, at the same time, the feeling persists that things could change quite quickly.

The re-designed team looks better structured than against Dublin but, at this stage, one suspects that it's all about the squad's mental state. Clare tested Tipperary's resolve by opening up a big early lead in the Munster semi-final but were calmly reeled in. Would Galway be capable of a similar recovery if they ran into early trouble?

Given their brittle state of mind at present, they will be all out to avoid that, instead trying to push on from the start. If they achieve that they can regain their composure, their sanity and their place in the All-Ireland queue.

2011 Championship: Galway 4-17 Westmeath 2-14; Dublin 0-19 Galway 2-7; Tipperary 4-19 Clare 1-19.

Last C'ship clash: Galway 2-18 Clare 1-11 (2009 qualifiers)

Odds: Galway 4/11; Clare 13/5; Draw 11/1.

Verdict: Galway

Next: Winners play Antrim or Cork next Saturday; losers finished for the year.

Galway -- J Skehill; F Moore, S Kavanagh, D Collins; D Barry, T Og Regan, A Cullinane; D Burke, A Smith; J Gantley, G Farragher, I Tannian; D Hayes, J Canning, A Kerins.

Clare -- P Brennan; P Vaughan, C Dillon, C Cooney; P O'Connor, P Donnellan, J McInerney; J Clancy, N O'Connell; J Conlon, F Lynch, D McMahon; C McInerney, C Morey, C McGrath.


Leinster SHC final

Dublin v Kilkenny, Croke Park, 4.0, B Kelly (Westmeath), Live on TV3

It's 50 years since Dublin last won the Leinster title, a period in which Kilkenny have reigned 31 times. It's 14 years since Kilkenny last lost a Leinster final and 69 years since they lost a provincial decider to Dublin.

That's the wide-angle shot of the background to tomorrow's final but the close-up view isn't anywhere near that sharply focussed for Kilkenny or that blurred for Dublin. Much has changed over the last 10 months as Kilkenny dropped to No 2 in the rankings while Dublin made rapid progress throughout the league.

It culminated in a remarkable win in the final over Kilkenny, whom they restricted to 1-7 and, two weeks ago, they held Galway to 2-7 in the Leinster semi-final. Unquestionably, Dublin are now the real deal, yet it's difficult to ignore the feeling that if Kilkenny perform to maximum productivity, they will win.

After all, their only championship defeat in five seasons came against Tipperary in last year's All-Ireland final on a day when they were without the inspiring figure of Henry Shefflin.

Now that he's back orchestrating the forward play, the scoring potential is a whole lot higher.

One of the more interesting aspects of Dublin's performances this year has been manner in which they have succeeded in creating space through sensible support play. They destroyed Galway via this route and even succeeded against Kilkenny in the league final, which was indeed a rare sight.

Closing down the opposition and imposing their will on the proceedings has been one of the trademarks of this Kilkenny squad. Expect it to be back to its most effective tomorrow, enabling them to smother the resistance out of Dublin.

Kilkenny to win but Dublin to learn a lot and be a powerful force in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

2011 C'ship: Dublin 2-21 Offaly 1-20; Dublin 0-19 Galway 2-7; Kilkenny 1-26 Wexford 1-15.

Last C'ship clash: Kilkenny 4-19 Dublin 0-12 (2010 Leinster semi-final)

Odds: Kilkenny 4/11; Dublin 11/4; Draw 10/1.

Verdict: Kilkenny.

Next: Winners qualify for All-Ireland semi-final on August 7; Losers play Phase 3 qualifier winners in All-Ireland quarter-final on July 24.

KILKENNY -- D Herity; N Hickey, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, P Murphy; M Fennelly, M Rice; TJ Reid, R Power, E Larkin; C Fennelly, H Shefflin, R Hogan.

DUBLIN --G Maguire; N Corcoran, P Kelly, O Gough; J McCaffrey, J Boland, S Durkin; L Rushe, C Keaney; C McCormack, A McCrabbe, S Lambert; D O'Callaghan, P Carton, P Ryan.

Ulster SHC final

Antrim v Armagh, Casement Park, 3.30, D Magee (Down)

Armagh are appearing in the final for the first time since 1946, which makes it a great occasion for them but they are unlikely to prevent Antrim winning a 10th successive title.

2011 Championship: Armagh 5-19 Fermanagh 5-6; Armagh 2-17 Monaghan 2-7; Armagh 0-14 Down 1-10; Antrim got a bye to the final

Odds: Antrim 1/14; Armagh 7/1; Draw 16/1

Verdict: Antrim.

Next: The Ulster title isn't part of the Liam McCarthy Cup race. However, Antrim are still involved in the All-Ireland championship and will play one of the winners of today's Phase 2 games next Saturday.

antrim -- C Cunningham; C McGuinness, K McGourty, J McCouaig; K McKeague, M Donnelly, C Herron; B McFall, S McCrory; J Scullion, T McCann, E McCloskey; P Doherty, C McFall, K McKeegan

Munster SFC


Kerry v Cork, Killarney, 2.0,

D Coldrick (Meath), Live on RTE

Cork and Kerry scored 9-82 between them in the four games which took them to the final so, in theory, tomorrow's clash should be a high-scoring shoot-out with gifted forwards leaving defenders close to despair.

In reality, it's unlikely to work out like that although there's certainly no reason to believe it will be a turgid, low-scoring affair either. How could it be with such an exciting array of attacking talent in action?

Man-for-man, Kerry probably have an edge in attack but that's where their advantage stops. Cork are more settled at midfield, where the well-balanced pairing of Aidan Walsh and Alan O'Connor will be expected to control the flow of possession and prevent Colm Cooper and his adventurous colleagues from feasting on plentiful supply.

Kerry's Anthony Maher is underrated but it remains to be seen if his partner, Bryan Sheehan, can fit in as comfortably at midfield as Johnny Doyle has for Kildare. The absence of the suspended Tomas O Se is a serious blow to Kerry.

He invariably plays well against Cork and would have been a key figure in the defensive operation designed to prevent Ciaran Sheehan, Paddy Kelly and Pearse O'Neill from establishing an attacking platform.

Cork seem the more settled all-round team but it shouldn't be forgotten that Kerry are, in fact, the reigning Munster champions who have home advantage as an assist in their bid to retain the title. Nor can it be ignored that Cooper, Donaghy and Co are the best attacking force that the Cork defence has encountered since last year's two championship clashes with the Kingdom.

The markets can't separate this pair, which is hardly surprising, given the number of replays this rivalry has produced over the last decade.

However, on the law of averages, it's unlikely to produce a replay for a fourth successive season. Cork to edge it.

2011 C'ship: Cork 1-23 Clare 0-11; Cork 5-17 Waterford 2-8; Kerry 2-16 Tipperary 0-11; Kerry 1-26 Limerick 3-9;

Last C'ship clash: Kerry 1-15 Cork 1-14 (2010 Munster semi-final -- after extra-time)

Odds: Kerry 11/10; Cork 11/10; Draw 13/2

Verdict: Cork.

Next: Winners qualify for All-Ireland quarter-finals on July 30/31/Aug 1; losers to play in round-four qualifiers on July 23/24

Kerry -- B Kealy; S Enright, M O'Se, T O'Sullivan; A O'Mahony, E Brosnan, K Young; B Sheehan, A Maher; Darran O'Sullivan, Declan O'Sullivan, D Walsh; C Cooper, K Donaghy, K O'Leary.

Cork -- A Quirke; J O'Sullivan, G Canty, M Shields; N O'Leary, J Miskella, P Kissane; A O'Connor, A Walsh; C Sheehan, P Kelly, P O'Neill; D Goulding, D O'Connor, P Kerrigan.



Leinster SFC semi-final

Dublin v Meath, Naomh Mearnog, 1.0, D McEnery (Westmeath)

Dublin will start as raging hot favourites to reach another Leinster final but manager Tommy Brown is wary of the Meath threat and has identified captain Grainne Nulty and Mary Sheridan, sister of Meath footballer Joe, as players with the potential to cause an upset.

Dublin's starting line-up features nine of last year's All-Ireland-winning team but Siobhan McGrath and Amy McGuinness both miss out through injury.

Verdict: Dublin

Kildare v Laois, St Conleth's, Kildare, 2.0, K Tighe (Dublin)

The last time the counties met in the last four of the provincial championship was back in 2009 -- when Kildare won by six points.

Verdict: Kildare



All-Ireland Championship

Tipperary v Kilkenny, 1.0, The Ragg, Alan Lagrue (Kildare)

Tipperary suffered a surprise defeat to Clare and today's clash will be a stern test of their All-Ireland credentials. Manager John Lillis will be relying on Jill Horan and Clare Grogan to steady the ship. Ann Downey will be looking to her defence with Lizzie Lyng and Elaine Alyward as the key figures. Up front, Michelle Quilty and Aoife Neary will be expected to get the scores.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Clare v Wexford, Cusack Park, Ennis, 1.30, K O' Brien (Dublin)

Buoyed by last weekend's win over Tipperary, Clare will relish the visit of All-Ireland champions Wexford to Cusack Park. Substitute Nora Murphy made an instant impact in their round-three win and will be looking for a place in the starting line-up. Claire McMahon along with Deirdre Murphy also played key roles and their performances along with Chloe Morey will be crucial to Clare's chances. Wexford's Kate Kelly, attacker Ursula Jacob and Mary Leacy in defence are key for JJ Doyle's side.

Verdict: Wexford

Cork v Dublin, Glanmire, 2.30, F McNamara (Clare)

A difficult tie for Dublin, who have endured a tough campaign and are still looking for their first win. The Blues have been unlucky in a number of games to date and face a mammoth task away to Cork. The Munster side, with Jennifer O'Leary, Sile Burns and Gemma O'Connor all in excellent form, should prove too strong for the Dubs.

Verdict: Cork

Galway v Offaly, Pearse Stadium, 5.0, E Mac Suibhne (Dublin) *Highlights on the 'Sunday Game'

A confident Offaly side travel to Galway after their win over Dublin last weekend. The Faithful County hit 2-15 and with Elaine Dermody and Arlene Watkins going well, along with Michaela Morkan, they will fancy their chances. Galway, despite last week's heavy defeat, are expected to name an unchanged side. Vital points are at stake for both. Galway, with home support may shade it.

Verdict: Galway

Irish Independent