Saturday 20 January 2018

GAA previews

Donnchadh Boyle & Martin Breheny

Leinster SFC ROUND 1

TODAY

Westmeath v Louth, Cusack Park, 7.0, M Deegan (Laois)

Both counties are looking for their first competitive win of the year; Westmeath lost all seven games in Division 1 while Louth drew two and lost five in Division 2.

Louth beat Westmeath in the Leinster championship two years ago but Westmeath gained revenge in the qualifiers six weeks later. Westmeath beat Louth by a point in the Division 2 clash last year.

It all points to a close rivalry where results are based on tiny swings. Home advantage could be the tie-breaker.

Last championship clash: Westmeath 1-15 Louth 0-12 (2012 qualifiers)

It's a fact: Westmeath averaged only 12 points per game in the league; Louth conceded an average of 2-14.

Odds: Westmeath 4/6; Louth 6/4; Draw 8/1.

Verdict: Westmeath

Westmeath – D Quinn; D Dolan, K Gavin, K Maguire; R Foley, P Sharry, J Dolan; D Duffy, R Connellan; C McCormack, G Egan, K Martin; D Glennon, J Heslin, D Dolan.

Louth – N Gallagher; P Rath, D Finnegan, G O'Hare; J O'Brien, D Crilly, A Reid; P Keenan, M Fanning; P Reilly, B White, A McDonnell; D Byrne, S Lennon, D Maguire.

Christy Ring Cup

(Extra-time if necessary)

Round 2A

Kildare v Kerry, Newbridge, 2.30, S Cleere (Kilkenny)

Two sides who boast managers from the Kildangan club in Tipperary; Eamonn Kelly's Kerry enjoyed a superb league and that form should get them past Brian Lawlor's Kildare.

Verdict: Kerry

Round 2B

Armagh v Wicklow, Athletic Grounds, 2.30, J Keane (Galway)

Wicklow were stung by last week's replay defeat to Kildare but can bounce back here to avoid a relegation play-off.

Verdict: Wicklow

Nicky Rackard Cup QUAL ROUND 2

(Extra-time if necessary)

Louth v Donegal, Dowdallshill, 1.0, G Duffy (Antrim)

Verdict: Louth

Lory Meagher Cup ROUND 3

(Extra-time if necessary)

Leitrim v Warwickshire, Carrick-on-Shannon, 1.0, J Clarke (Cavan)

Verdict: Leitrim

Longford v Fermanagh, Pearse Park, 2.0, L McAuley (Antrim)

Verdict: Longford

Leinster MFC quarter-finaLS

(Extra-time if necessary)

Dublin v Meath, Parnell Park, 3.0, P Maguire (Meath)

Meath edged a league meeting between the sides in February but both teams were far from full strength that day. In the championship so far, the Royals were far more impressive in seeing off Wicklow than Dublin were against Longford. However, Cyril Kevlihan's side can edge this one and continue the Dubs' good underage run.

Verdict: Dublin

Longford v Kildare, Pearse Park, 4.0, F Smyth (Offaly)

Longford pushed Dublin hard in the opening round before finally succumbing but bounced back with a win over Carlow where Robbie Clarke plundered a brace of goals. They face a Kildare side who are out to defend their provincial title and saw off Westmeath first time out.

Verdict: Kildare

Wexford v Laois, Wexford Park, 2.0, B Cawley (Kildare)

Wexford have injury concerns over Stephen Lyne and Adam Swan, who picked up knocks since the win over Louth, while Laois were too good for Carlow.

Verdict: Wexford

TOMORROW

Leinster SFC ROUND 1

Wicklow v Laois, Aughrim, 3.30, R Hickey (Clare)

A scary reminder of the last time Laois played Wicklow in the championship in Aughrim reverberated around the midlands during the week as the controversial clash in 1986 was recalled in the media.

No doubt, it raised Wicklow's hopes as they prepared to take on opposition who finished 13 places above them in the league.

However, that's somewhat deceptive because if Laois had lost their last game in Division 2 and Clare had been beaten in their final outing in Division 4, both Wicklow and Laois would be in Division 3 next year.

Laois lost to Louth and Longford in the Leinster first round over the past two years in games they were expected to win so they will pay scant regard to their odds-on rating. Neither will Harry Murphy, who will have his Wicklow squad primed for a huge effort.

Still, Laois have the power to book a quarter-final clash with Dublin.

Last championship clash: Laois 0-15 Wicklow 0-13 (2008 Leinster quarter-final)

It's a fact: Laois lead 9-3 from their previous 12 championship clashes with Wicklow.

Odds: Laois 4/9; Wicklow 9/4; Draw 8/1

Verdict: Laois

Wicklow – R Lambert; A Murphy, P McLaughlin, A Byrne; K Murphy, P McWalter, D Healy; J Stafford, A McLoughlin; R Finn, M Kenny, D Hayden; L Glynn, S Furlong, P Cunningham.

Laois – G Brody; P McMahon, P Begley, P O'Leary; D Strong, A Attride, R Kehoe; K Meaney, J O'Loughlin; J Finn, D Kingston, B Sheehan; R Munnelly, C Meredith, D Conway.

Longford v Offaly, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 3.30, M Higgins (Fermanagh)

It's seven years since Offaly won a game in the Leinster championship, a grim statistic for the supporters to consider as they head for Longford.

Nor will the mood be lightened by the recent Division 3 campaign which yielded a draw and six defeats from seven games. And since Offaly lost their two championship games to Carlow and Tyrone last year, it leaves them seeking their first competitive success since beating Tipperary in Division 4 on April 7 last year.

They lost to Longford by five points in Tullamore in March, which raises the question as to what has changed since then to suggest they can turn that result around on an away assignment.

Offaly will argue that the league result was misleading as they kicked eight wides in the first half when enjoying plenty of possession. Longford's only wins in Division 3 came against Offaly and Fermanagh so it's not as if their confidence levels are very high either.

Last championship clash: Offaly 5-17 Longford 0-13 (1997 Leinster 1st round)

Odds: Longford 2/5; Offaly 5/2; Draw 8/1.

It's a fact: Longford's last championship win over Offaly was in the 1965 Leinster first round in Croke Park.

Verdict: Longford

Longford – D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, F Battrim; CP Smyth, E Williams, S Mulligan; J Keegan, S Doyle; M Quinn, F McGee, P Barden; M Hughes, B Kavanagh, S McCormack.

Offaly – A Walsh; D Brady, D Hanlon, N Darby; B Darby, J Moloney, M Brazil; R Allen, N Smith; E Carroll, G Guilfoyle, A Sullivan; J Maher, N McNamee, P Cunningham.

Connacht SFC ROUND 1

Roscommon v Leitrim, Dr Hyde Park, 3.0, C Lane (Cork)

It has already been an interesting year for Leitrim who, for the first time in history, have beaten Galway at senior (FBD League), U-21 and junior (Connacht championship) and minor (Connacht League) level.

All very encouraging for Leitrim but their seniors are heading into very difficult territory against a Roscommon team whose confidence is rising rapidly.

Seven wins from eight games enabled them to take the Division 3 title, having clinched promotion after five rounds. Roscommon's good work at underage level means they have a promising long-term outlook.

A home clash against a county who have beaten them only 11 times from 39 championship meetings seems the ideal way to ease John Evans' crew into a campaign where Mayo await tomorrow's winners in the Connacht semi-final. James Horan's men can start planning for a showdown with Roscommon on June 8.

Last championship clash: Roscommon 2-12 Leitrim 0-6 (2011 Connacht semi-final)

It's a fact: Leitrim's last win over Roscommon in the championship was in 2000.

Odds: Roscommon 1/9; Leitrim 13/2; Draw 16/1.

Verdict: Roscommon

Roscommon – D O'Malley; S McDermott, N Carty, N Collins; D Keenan, N Daly, C Cafferkey; C Shine, K Higgins; D O'Gara, D Shine, R Stack; S Kilbride, C Cregg, C Murtagh.

Leitrim – C McCrann; B Prior, D Wrynn, P Maguire; W McKeon, G Reynolds, P Brennan; D Sweeney, D Moran; K Conlon, R Lowe, B McWeeney; E Mulligan, J Glancy, S McWeeney.

Ulster SFC ROUND 1

Tyrone v Down, Omagh, 4.0, D Coldrick (Meath) *Live RTE2

It's 20 years since Down last won the Ulster title, a wait that's likely to be extended for another year at least. They won't have any hang-ups about playing Tyrone in Omagh – the sides drew there in the 2008 Ulster quarter-final – but everything points to Mickey Harte's squad being some way ahead of Down at present.

Tyrone were unlucky to be eliminated from the league (Division 1) when Seán Cavanagh's attempt for the equalising point in the final seconds against Dublin in the last game drifted wide. A point would have seen Tyrone, rather than Dublin, qualify for the semi-final.

Down finished fourth in Division 2 after an inconsistent campaign where the high points were a win over Donegal and a draw with Monaghan. However, they lost away games against Galway, Meath and Laois, which suggests they aren't quite as efficient away from Newry. It doesn't augur well for the trip to Healy Park.

Last championship clash: Tyrone 0-14 Down 0-10 (2010 Ulster quarter-final)

It's a fact: Seán Cavanagh begins his 13th senior championship season with Tyrone.

Odds: Tyrone 2/7; Down 10/3; Draw 9/1.

Verdict: Tyrone

Tyrone – N Morgan; A McCrory, D McBride, B Tierney; T McCann, M Donnelly, P Harte; C Cavanagh, C Clarke; P McNiece, S Cavanagh, C McGinley; D McCurry, N McKenna, K Coney.

Down – B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McArdle, R Boyle; D Rooney, A Carr, C Garvey; P Turley, A Rogers; C McGinn, M Poland, K McKernan; D O'Hara, N Madine, B Coulter.

Connacht JFC final

(Extra-time if necessary)

Leitrim v Sligo, Dr Hyde Park, 1.0

Sligo can call on the experience of Johnny Martyn – a member of the 2007 Connacht SFC winning side – and can continue their recent good record at this grade.

Verdict: Sligo

Ulster MFC first round

(Extra-time if necessary)

Tyrone v Down, Omagh, 2.15, N Cullen (Fermanagh)

Tyrone ran out comfortable winners when the sides met in an Ulster minor league semi-final and can repeat that here.

Verdict: Tyrone

Leinster SHC Round 3

London v Laois, Ruislip, 12.30, J Keenan (Wicklow)

Laois boss Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett is no fan of the round-robin format but his side can put secure progress to the Leinster quarter-final with a win here. Defeat would put Tommy Harrell's London side firmly in the relegation picture.

Verdict: Laois

Carlow v Westmeath, Dr Cullen Park, 2.0, F Horgan (Tipperary)

The momentum from Mount Leinster Rangers' All-Ireland club final appearance hasn't provided a boost for Carlow – they have managed only a draw so far from three outings. With the bottom side condemned to Christy Ring Cup hurling next year, this is a game of real significance for both sides.

Verdict: Carlow

LADIES FOOTBALL

AISLING McGINN U-21 CHAMPIONSHIP

Galway v Roscommon, Kilkerrin-Clonberne, 12.0, M Kenny. Verdict: Galway

Meath v Cavan, Simonstown, 2.0, K McKeever. Verdict: Cavan

Cork v Kerry, Eire Og, 2.0, J Mullins.

Verdict: Cork

Dublin v Louth, Ballyboden St Enda's, 4.30, C Forde. Verdict: Dublin

CAMOGIE

GAEL LINN SENIOR INTER-PROVINCIALS

SEMI-FINALS

Leinster v Ulster, Rathleague, Portlaoise, 12.15, M O'Kelly. Verdict: Leinster

Connacht v Munster, Rathleague, Portlaoise, 12.45, A Lagrue. Verdict: Munster

FINAL

Winner of semi-final 1 v winner of semi-final 2, Rathleague, Portlaoise

Irish Independent

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