Friday 23 February 2018

Today's football championship previews

Dermot Crowe

Munster SFC Semi-Final

Cork v Kerry

Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2.0, RTE 1

Through the league Kerry tried to find new players capable of handling matches like this. But Peter Crowley is the sole graduate and Kerry, when it comes to the bit, show a reliance on established names. The selection, named unusually early, has aroused much interest and some puzzlement.

Shane Enright's omission and that of Daniel Bohan, with an old stager like Aidan O'Mahony preferred, are decisions that worry more progressive souls. But an 'A' v 'B' training game in which Enright and Bohan were in a full-back line that leaked four goals may have weighed on management deliberations. O'Mahony had a good performance at full-back on Aidan Walsh in the league and O'Connor knows the Cork threat intimately. He will pick players that he sees as tailor-made for certain tasks. Cork have named Walsh at midfield but he'll probably start on O'Mahony with Pearse O'Neill in the middle of the field. Injury to Bryan Sheehan, assuming he doesn't make a dramatic appearance, leaves Kerry without a reliable long-range free-taker. Goalkeeper Brendan Kealy has been practising in recent training sessions. Seamus Scanlon, an honest and hard-working player, returns but has been out of the ring for a while.

The onus on the Kerry half-forwards is considerable and they will be hoping that Paul Galvin can shake off a strangely wayward showing against Tipp and rise to the challenge as he has done in the past. Kerry have such talent in their attack that you cannot discount their chances. How they handle the middle of the field and the various match-ups with the Cork forwards will determine a lot. Eoin Brosnan and O'Mahony are heading towards the end of their careers and Cork have good bench options with Daniel Goulding and Ciarán Sheehan fit but held in reserve.

Cork can lose their focus at times in matches, or from game to game -- having an all-or-nothing style of play. But they have won the last three league titles and this is a year in which they must get more of a return in the championship. Last season saw them trip up although injuries were a factor.

Kerry have won the last two Munster engagements. Cork will feel they have to win this one and they should.

Cork: A Quirke; R Carey, M Shields, E Cadogan; P Kissane, G Canty, N O'Leary; A O'Connor, A Walsh; F Goold, P O'Neill, P Kelly; C O'Neill, D O'Connor, P Kerrigan.

Kerry: B Kealy; M ó Sé, A O'Mahony, K Young; T ó Sé, E Brosnan, P Crowley; A Maher, S Scanlon; P Galvin, Declan O'Sullivan, Darran O'Sullivan; C Cooper, K Donaghy, K O'Leary.

Verdict: Cork

Ulster SFC Quarter-Final

Armagh v Tyrone

Athletic Grounds, 4.0, RTE 1/BBC 2

When these sides met in the qualifiers last July, Armagh were mugged before half-time and never recovered; Paul Hearty gifted Tyrone a goal and a lead they would never relinquish. In truth, Tyrone were much better. They could have won the match by more than the six points they finally settled on but Armagh will see that moment as pivotal.

Equally impressionistic was the licence to roam Armagh afforded Peter Harte; he can expect a heavier police presence today. Kildare had Harte's running contributions carefully noted in the Division 2 final and set up road blocks. The result was an end to Tyrone's unbeaten run that had stretched to 12 matches.

That spring defeat, some notable retirements and untimely injuries -- Seán Cavanagh, Kyle Coney and Ronan O'Neill -- will have a debilitating effect on Tyrone's longer term interests. And it leaves them vulnerable today.

Armagh have an excellent chance. Their spring ended in relegation to Division 2. Crossmaglen's extended run in the club championship also meant compromise. But they have more options now although Stevie McDonnell, chief scorer last July, will watch today from a commentary box.

If they play with excessive caution and invite Tyrone on, then it is harder to make a case for them. For Paddy O'Rourke, the game is of huge importance and a tactical challenge. Mickey Harte can point to a panel hit by key withdrawals but the Downman is less indemnified in the event of a post-mortem. Armagh haven't really kicked on under his stewardship. This is a match in many ways they have to win.

With McDonnell absent, the reliance on Jamie Clarke increases and Tyrone are good at pinning down players like him and starving the supply lines. Brian McGuigan's comeback from retirement has stopped short of actual selection but he could see some game-time.

For Armagh, only two Crossmaglen players start and there are five changes from the team that lost the qualifier in Omagh last year. Little separating the respective claims. Tyrone will probably find a way, even if requires a second go.

Armagh: P McEvoy; A Mallon, B Donaghy, D McKenna; A Kernan, C McKeever, F Moriarty; K Toner, M Mackin; A Forker, K Dyas, A Duffy; J Clarke, B Mallon, C Rafferty.

Tyrone: P McConnell; A McCrory, Justin McMahon, D Carlin; C McCarron, C Gormley, Sean O'Neill; Joe McMahon, C Cavanagh; R McNabb, M Donnelly, P Harte; M Penrose, Stephen O'Neill, O Mulligan

Verdict: Tyrone

Leinster SFC Quarter-Final

Carlow v Meath

Tullamore, 2.0

Meath's rehabilitation from a damaging league should continue here.

In the Leinster championship, Carlow are the lowest ranked although there are positive information feeds circulating about morale and preparations since the league. Meath make two changes from the side that overpowered Wicklow. Back comes Stephen Bray after injury and Donal Keoghan replaces cruciate victim Seamus Kenny. Graham Reilly, who may have recovered the form that made him an exceptionally promising footballer a couple of seasons ago, is likely to start again at midfield.

Carlow lost 1-25 to 0-8 to Meath in 2008, and won just three of their eight games in Division 4 this year. There is no place for Derek Hayden and the side features Brendan Murphy in the middle of the field. Luke Dempsey embarks on his fourth season with the qualifiers looking an odds-on part of the itinerary.

Carlow: T O'Reilly; P Murphy, C Lawlor, B Kavanagh; K Nolan, S Redmond, T Bolger; B Murphy, D Foley; B Murphy, P Reid, E Ruth; JJ Smith, S Gannon, D St Ledger.

Meath: D Gallagher; D Keoghan, K Reilly, B Menton; D Tobin, S McAnarney, M Burke; C Gillespie, B Meade; A Forde, S Bray, G Reilly; B Farrell, J Sheridan, C Ward.

Verdict: Meath

Leinster SFC QUARTER-Final Replay

Longford v Wexford

Tullamore, 4.0

Lessons aplenty for both from an exciting joust a week ago. Longford need to closely examine a system that enables an opposing wing-back score five points from play -- even if each one was a top-drawer score from Adrian Flynn. Add in corner-back Robert Tierney's spectacular effort near the end and that's half a dozen scores from play scored by the opposing defence.

But some of the fundamentals could not be questioned; Longford fought to the death and secured an unlikely draw on the back of a turnover. Wexford didn't show the same stomach for battle for a good while although they now have a match under their belt and will be content that they finished the last 20 minutes the stronger side.

They will hope to do well in the middle of the field where Longford haven't prospered and get more swiftly-dispatched ball into their inside forward line.

Defensively, they have to up their game. While Paul Barden's goal owed much to the attacker's predatory instincts and finishing skills, for a defence it was a troubling concession. The loss of possession to cough up a final chance of reprieve to Longford did not cast them in a good light either. Longford know their limitations but spiritually they are in a good place. The season is enormously in credit and they are unchanged for the third match in succession. They have tremendous team-work, belief and momentum and Wexford will not better that with a middling performance. Yet now, up and running, Wexford are still fancied.

Longford: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly; C Smith, M Quinn, S Mulligan; B McElvanney, J Keegan; D Barden, P Barden, N Mulligan; D McElligott, B Kavanagh, S McCormack.

Wexford: A Masterson; N Murphy, G Molloy, R Tierney; A Flynn, B Malone, L Chin; D Waters, R Quinlivan; P Byrne, S Roche, B Brosnan; C Lyng, E Bradley, R Barry.

Verdict: Wexford

Sunday Indo Sport

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport