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This weekend's GAA previews

Ulster SF semi-final

Derry v Fermanagh, Omagh, 6.0

Ref: S Doyle (Wexford)

Live on RTE 2 & BBC 2

Surprisingly, it is all of 18 years since this pair last met in the Ulster championship, a period in which both have experienced a wide variety of highs and lows.

For Derry, the peak was the 1993 All-Ireland success, while Fermanagh's best season was in 2004 when they came so close to reaching the All-Ireland final.

Fermanagh's dogged persistence in recent years has taken them on a great adventure, but they need a title to cement their place as the best squad the county has ever produced.

Unfortunately for them, it's unlikely to happen. Ulster is a mighty competitive battle ground, all the more so with Derry's significant improvement.

Derry had 16 points to spare when they last met Fermanagh in 1990, and while it will be a whole lot more competitive this evening, Derry still look highly likely to reach the final for the first time since 2000.

Last C'ship clash: Derry 4-14 Fermanagh 1-7 (1990 Ulster quarter-final).

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Ladbrokes betting: Derry 2/5; Fermanagh 13/5; Draw 8/1.

Verdict: Derry.

Tomorrow

Connacht SF semi-final

Mayo v Sligo, Castlebar, 3.30

Ref: J Bannon (Longford)

If Sligo had been told last July after winning the Connacht title for the first time in 32 years that relegation to Division 4 awaited them in the National League, they would have regarded it as an overdose of sour grapes by jealous rivals.

However, that's exactly what happened and now they are battling for championship survival.

Defeat tomorrow would leave them ineligible for the Qualifiers, a truly shocking reflection on one of the most bizarre and unfair policies ever implemented by the GAA.

Frankly, Sligo's case looks closed. There may be a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding Mayo, but it is still unlikely that they will lose this one on home soil. They will have only eight of the side that exited the All-Ireland Qualifiers so tamely against Derry last year, which is hardly surprising as it really was an awful summer for Mayo.

John O'Mahony has re-shaped the squad and is now confident that they can not only dethrone the reigning Connacht champions, but go on to win the final against Galway on July 13. The first leg of that double is well within their scope tomorrow.

Last C'ship clash: Mayo 0-14 Sligo 0-11 (2003 Connacht semi-final).

Ladbrokes betting: Mayo 1/6; Sligo 9/2; Draw 12/1.

Verdict: Mayo.

Leinster SF semi-final

Laois v Wexford, Croke Park, 2.0

Ref: R Hickey (Clare)

Live on TV3

Played four, lost four.

That is Wexford's frustrating experience over the last four years, having lost Leinster semi-finals to Laois, Offaly, Dublin and Westmeath. On the law of averages, they must be due a breakthrough, which would take them into the final for the first time since 1956.

Unbeaten in nine league and championship matches this year, they have the best record of all counties, which is quite a tribute to their consistent endeavours under new manager Jason Ryan, who has adapted very quickly to his new role.

Wexford had every chance to beat Laois in last year's semi-final but came up short, a failing that haunted them in previous years too.

However, their stunning comeback against Meath will have given them a huge sense of self-esteem, although they know that if they concede 2-13 against Laois it is most likely that they will be making yet another semi-final exit.

Laois lived very dangerously against Wicklow in the quarter-final, but they are likely to be more consistent this time around. They still have several big-day players aboard, enough perhaps to steer them through the really difficult periods and into a fifth Leinster final in six years.

Last C'ship clash: Laois 1-13 Wexford 0-13 (2007 Leinster semi-final).

Ladbrokes betting: Laois 21/20; Wexford 21/20; Draw 6/1.

Verdict: Laois.

Munster SH semi-final

Clare v Limerick, Thurles, 4.0

Ref: E Morris (Dublin)

Live on RTE 2

Clare's win over Waterford has completely changed the complexion of a county whose supporters really are beginning to dream again.

This was Clare at their most defiant, hurling with the drive and intensity of old, albeit against a Waterford team whose resistance was flimsy to say the least as trouble brewed within the camp.

The big question is did this Waterford side make Clare look better than they really are? Limerick beat Clare by seven points in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final, a heavy defeat that Banner supporters put down to the background problems that beset the camp throughout the season.

However, it must also be pointed out that Limerick beat Clare by nine points in this year's league after falling six points behind in the first 15 minutes.

Clare have improved considerably since then, but the fact remains that they conceded 0-23 against Waterford, a giveaway rate that would lose more games than it would win.

Limerick need their big attacking guns to fire loudly again, especially Andrew O'Shaughnessy, Michael Fitzgerald and Ollie Moran who between them scored 4-80 in last year's championship.

If that trio repeats the form of 2007, Limerick could be on their way to a Munster final clash with Tipperary on July 13.

Last C'ship clash: Limerick 1-23 Clare 1-16 (2007 All-Ireland quarter-final).

Ladbrokes betting: Limerick 20/21; Clare 21/20; Draw 10/1.

Verdict: Limerick.

Leinster SH semi-final (replay)

Dublin v Wexford, Croke Park, 3.50

Ref: M Wadding (Waterford)

Dublin will be hoping that their experience of 1994 against Wexford won't be repeated when, after producing a fine effort to earn a second chance, they were beaten by 14 points in the replay. That's most unlikely to happen this time, as Dublin have shown over the past year that they are on equal terms with Wexford.

In fact, they were far superior for long spells last Saturday before a gritty recovery by Wexford brought the sides level.

Wexford will feel that the psychological edge has swung their way but, even if it has, they will need to deliver a lot more energy than was in evidence in the first half a week ago.

However, it was their first game in the championship whereas Dublin had a previous outing against Westmeath, so Wexford are likely to switch into serious competitive mode much earlier this time. If they do, they can clinch a place in the final for an eighth successive year, dispatching Dublin to the treacherous waters of the All-Ireland Qualifiers where they would play Cork or the losers of Clare v Limerick.

Last C'ship clash: Dublin 0-19 Wexford 2-13 (2008 Leinster semi-final).

Ladbrokes betting: Wexford 20/21; Dublin 21/20; Draw 9/1.

Verdict: Wexford.


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