Wednesday 25 April 2018

Today's championship previews

Dermot Crowe

Emlyn Mulligan's return from horrendous injury troubles has given the team an attacking presence they'd sorely lacked and Conor Beirne has also embellished a sector that has even in better times been short on sorcery. With home advantage, and an expected full house of around 17,000, they'll warm to this challenge, a rival entering their own dominion, placing all newly accumulated winnings on the line. Leitrim haven't won two matches in a row in the championship since their glorious season in 1994; they have a lot of hunger in their bellies.

Roscommon did Gaelic football some service last year. In the last round it was equally gratifying to see Leitrim throw off the shackles and play enterprising football. The beatific point by Wayne McKeown should inspire Leitrim garsuns from Gortletteragh to Manorhamilton. Any supporter will tell you that results are what count but what supporter's inner child is impervious to the kind of trick McKeown executed in selling that dummy against Sligo. Today's coalition could be a further manifestation of all that is good about football but there is a fierce visceral cut to the rivalry too.

Roscommon won this fixture in each of the last two years but Leitrim have been almost completely overhauled in the meantime and pressed them hard in this year's league. But, beware all romantics: there is a note of warning in Donegal's recent hefty beating of Leitrim in a challenge. Roscommon should be able to handle whatever comes their way.

Leitrim: C McCrann; D Reynolds, R Gallagher, P Maguire; B Prior, G Reynolds, W McKeon; T Beirne, D Lowe; P Brennan, E Mulligan, R Lowe; A Croal, C Beirne, J Glancy.

Roscommon: G Claffey; S McDermott, P Domican, N Carty; I Kilbride, D Keenan, D Ward; M Finneran, K Mannion; S O'Grady, K Higgins, C Cregg; C Devanney, S Kilbride, D Shine.

Verdict: Roscommon

Leinster SFC Quarter-Final

Carlow v Louth

Portlaoise, 3.30

Louth's championship prospects have taken an upward projection with the recall of Mick Fanning after he cut short an adventure abroad. Fanning resumes duties at centre-back in his first match since last year's championship but another prodigal son, John O'Brien, hasn't been cleared to play. It is only a matter of time and Brian White is also linked to a move back home.

Louth have been managing in the meantime, earning promotion to Division 2 in spite of a rocky patch in the middle of the campaign. Brian Donnelly has earned a midfield spot beside Paddy Keenan, but Ronan Carroll misses out with the return of Shane Lennon after injury.

The attack also sees David Reid and JP Rooney introduced.

Carlow, who haven't won in Leinster since 2006, remain marooned in Division 4 and have had a troublesome league. Problems in the full-back line were among the issues needing to be resolved and today they name a novice full-back in Conor Lawlor, reportedly on the basis of impressive displays in recent challenge matches.

The goalkeeper and right corner-back are also debutants, with five in all making their championship entrance.

With Brendan Murphy and Thomas Walsh around the middle of the field, Carlow should be competitive under kickouts while Shane Redmond is a fall-back option for No 3 if they struggle with the Louth inside forwards.

Lennon may be a little rusty after injury. If he's on form then Carlow could be in for a busy day of it.

Carlow: T O'Reilly; A Murphy, C Lawlor, B Kavanagh; P Cashin, S Redmond, K Nolan; B Murphy, D Foley; P Hickey, T Walsh, E Finnegan; B Murphy, S Gannon, D St Ledger.

Louth: S Connor; D Byrne, A Hoey, D Finnegan; R Finnegan, M Fanning, L Shevlin; P Keenan (capt), B Donnelly; D Crilly, D Reid, A Reid; D Maguire, S Lennon, JP Rooney.

Verdict: Louth

Ulster SHC Semi-Final

Armagh v Down

Casement Park, 3.30

Armagh hurlers, who had ten points to spare over Monaghan in the quarter-finals, are gaining recognition as Ulster's third seed. But the gap to second-to-the-throne, occupied by Down, remains a difficult one to bridge. These games are valuable learning experiences provided they can maintain the development structures underlying the senior team's advances. A respectable showing is the target, anything over that is a serious bonus.

Verdict: Down

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