Wednesday 17 January 2018

Weekend previews


(Extra-time if necessary)

Donegal v Kildare, Croke Park, 6.0

D Coldrick (Meath), *Live RTE

Some pairings just demand to be made and this is one of them. Donegal have been the most improved team in the country this year while Kildare have repeated last year's summer push through the qualifiers, having earlier won two of three games in Leinster.

It means they are playing their seventh game since May 22 and their fourth in three weeks.

The regular run of games has settled Kildare into a comfortable routine and, as they proved last year, it suits their mentality. They are very much a momentum team, not just in match-to-match terms but also in the course of a game, where they tend to do their best work in the second half.

Their ability to crank up awesome power in the second half is reassuring for Kildare while it creates doubts in opposition minds as they try to figure out how to cope with it. So far this summer, Dublin were the only team to succeed.

Donegal are a pretty good second-half team, too, and arrive in Croke Park off a season built on enormous confidence after being promoted to Division 1 and winning Ulster for the first time since 1992. They bring a lot of order and structure to their game, especially defensively, but it remains to be seen if it will be as effective in Croke Park as in Ulster.

Kildare hit Laois for 3-16, Meath for 2-11 and Derry for 0-19 in their last three games, which was a step up on their Leinster returns. It suggests their strike force is improving all the time, but they will still find it difficult to break down a very strong Donegal defence which has conceded just one goal in four championship games.

However, Kildare are good point-takers and are likely to rack up enough while maintaining the required level of vigilance at the other end to book a place in the semi-final for a second successive year.

2011 championship: Donegal 1-10 Antrim 0-7, Donegal 2-14 Cavan 1-8, Donegal 2-6 Tyrone 0-9, Donegal 1-11 Derry 0-9; Kildare 0-12 Wicklow 0-5, Kildare 0-16 Meath 0-10, Dublin 1-12 Kildare 1-11, Kildare 3-16 Laois 0-10, Kildare 2-11 Meath 0-14, Kildare 0-19 Derry 0-13.

Last championship clash: Kildare 1-17 Donegal 1-16 (2002 qualifiers)

Odds: Kildare 8/13, Donegal 7/4, Draw 15/2.

Verdict: Kildare

Kildare -- S Connolly; A MacLochlainn, M Foley, H McGrillen; B Flanagan, M O'Flaherty, E Bolton; J Doyle, D Flynn; P O'Neill, E O'Flaherty, E Callaghan; R Kelly, T O'Connor, J Kavanagh.

Donegal -- P Durcan; F McGlynn, N McGee, P McGrath; A Thompson, K Lacey, K Cassidy; M McElhinney, N Gallagher; M McHugh, M Hegarty, R Bradley; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden.

All-Ireland SFc qualifiers Rd 4

Roscommon v Tyrone, Croke Park, 4.0,

M Deegan (Laois)

Ever so gradually, Tyrone are beginning to look like a side whose momentum is building nicely for an All-Ireland drive. And, as their history since 2003 has shown, they grow with the challenge once they head for Croke Park.

They are arriving earlier than usual this time for a fourth-round qualifier after progressive performances against Longford and, especially, Armagh. Indeed, there were signs last week that Tyrone are getting ever closer to the form that made them among the All-Ireland favourites for many years and there could be a whole lot more to come.

Roscommon were very disappointed with the Connacht final defeat, regarding it as an opportunity that got away amid the high winds and lashing rain of Dr Hyde Park. They defended well enough but lacked creativity in attack where Donie Shine was about the only attacker who threatened on a consistent basis.

Roscommon's inability to score goals against the better sides has greatly increased their load, but then the same applied to Dublin hurlers up to last Sunday when they hit Limerick for three goals in the first half.

Still, it's difficult to see the Roscommon attack getting any more than one goal (if indeed they manage that) against the tigerish instincts of Ryan McMenamin, Conor Gormley and Co.

Roscommon tested Cork to the limit for 45 minutes in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final and can do likewise with Tyrone, but it's unlikely they will be able to build that effort into a winning finale.

Tyrone to prevail in the end and book a quarter-final date (with Dublin) for the ninth time in 11 seasons.

2011 championship: Roscommon 3-21 New York 1-11, Roscommon 2-12 Leitrim 0-6, Mayo 0-13 Roscommon 0-11; Tyrone 1-13 Monaghan 1-11, Donegal 2-6 Tyrone 0-9, Tyrone 1-17 Longford 0-15, Tyrone 2-13 Armagh 0-13.

Last championship clash: None

Odds: Tyrone 2/11, Roscommon 5/1, Draw 11/1.

Verdict: Tyrone

Tyrone -- P McConnell; M Swift, J McMahon, R McMenamin; S O'Neill, C Gormley, P Jordan; K Hughes, S Cavanagh; C Cavanagh, B McGuigan, P Harte; T McGuigan, M Donnelly, K Coney.


(Extra-time if necessary)

Roscommon v Armagh, Croke Park, 2.0,

C Lane (Cork)

A superb first-half display laid the foundations for Roscommon's Connacht title success over Galway, but Ross Shannon's men will face a stern test from an Armagh team that was surprisingly turned over by Cavan in the Ulster final.

That the Orchard youngsters failed to register a single score in the second half of that game is a worry and, with Tom Corcoran in good form, the Rossies can progress.

Odds: Roscommon 4/5, Armagh 5/4, Draw 7/1

Verdict: Roscommon

Cavan v Galway, Pearse Park, 3.0,

D Brazil (Offaly)

A total of just six points against an organised Roscommon side in the Connacht final doesn't bode well for Galway and Conor Rabbitte and Co will have to do more against a Cavan side that conceded just seven scores in the Ulster final.

With players like Joe Dillon and captain Paul Graham in their ranks, Dermot McCabe's Cavan can build on their first provincial title at this grade in 37 years.

Odds: Cavan 1/1, Galway 1/1, Draw 7/1

Verdict: Galway


All-Ireland SFc q/f

(Extra-time if necessary)

Kerry v Limerick, Croke Park 2.0

P McEnaney (Monaghan), *Live RTE

It's Limerick's bad luck that the first time they reach the All-Ireland quarter-final, they find themselves up against the county who would be their last choice if they were allowed to nominate opposition.

Still, that's the hand they have been dealt so they will try to make the best of it, drawing from the positive experiences of last year when they ran Kerry closer in the Munster final and Cork closer still in the qualifiers. Indeed, they had chances to win both games but, as has happened so often in the past against Munster's 'Big Two', they couldn't see the deal through.

Kerry destroyed Limerick in the opening half of this year's Munster semi-final and will be attempting to do the same again so that they can book a semi-final spot with the minimum of fuss. Limerick will be better prepared this time and are likely to reinforce their defence with players from further out in order to congest the channels in front of Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy.

That's their best hope to keep the Kerry return down as they try to play their way into the game. Jack O'Connor will have been trying to guard against over-confidence but it can't be easy, not just because of the most recent clash but also because of Kerry's historical dominance over Limerick.

It's likely to be more competitive than the early June meeting, but it would still be a surprise if Kerry didn't win comfortably.

2011 championship: Kerry 2-16 Tipperary

0-11, Kerry 1-26 Limerick 3-9, Kerry 1-15 Cork 1-12; Kerry 1-26 Limerick 3-9, Limerick 3-13 Offaly 0-15, Limerick 0-14 Waterford 0-9, Limerick 1-17 Wexford 1-16.

Last championship clash: Kerry 1-26 Limerick 3-9 (2011 Munster semi-final)

Odds: Kerry 1/16, Limerick 10/1, Draw 18/1.

Verdict: Kerry

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

Limerick -- B Scanlon; T Stack, S Gallagher, S Lavin; J Riordan, J McCarthy, P Ranahan; S Buckley, J O'Donovan; S Kelly, J Mullane, M Sheehan; G Collins, S O'Carroll, I Ryan.

Cork v Mayo, Croke Park, 4.0

R Hickey (Clare), *Live TV3

It says little for the esteem in which the Connacht championship is held that its top two -- Mayo and Roscommon -- are priced at 33/1 to complete a double over Cork and Tyrone this weekend.

Still, there's an upside for both in that it leaves them perfectly placed to launch an ambush. Mayo, in particular, will feel that there's a whole lot more substance to them than they are being given credit for and that this is the ideal stage to make a real statement.

After all, they beat Cork in the league and while that might seem irrelevant now, Mayo will be encouraged by it. They did what they had to against Galway and Roscommon in the Connacht championship and it was noticeable after the final how bullish they were about taking things on to a higher level.

It was as if they felt they hadn't done themselves justice in Connacht. They know that a huge improvement will be required against a Cork outfit which, despite the absentees through injury, is still a very formidable force, as Down discovered last Saturday.

Mayo's biggest problem may be in trying to win possession around the middle third of the field, an area where Cork are particularly strong. Aidan and Seamus O'Shea did well at midfield against Galway and Roscommon but Aidan Walsh and Alan O'Connor will present a totally different level of opposition and that's before Nicholas Murphy and Pearse O'Neill bring their fetching skills to bear on the sector.

It looks like Cork will advance to the semi-finals for a seventh successive season.

2011 championship: Cork 1-23 Clare 0-11, Cork 5-17 Waterford 2-8, Kerry 1-15 Cork 1-12, Cork 2-20 Down 0-14; Mayo 0-19 London 2-10 (after extra-time), Mayo 1-12 Galway 1-6, Mayo 0-13 Roscommon 0-11.

Last championship clash: Cork 0-16 Mayo 1-10 (2002 All-Ireland quarter-final)

Odds: Cork 2/9, Mayo 9/2, Draw 10/1.

Verdict: Cork

Cork -- A Quirke; E Cotter, M Shields, E Cadogan; N O'Leary, J Miskella, P Kissane; A Walsh, A O'Connor; F Goold, P Kelly, P O'Neill; D O'Connor, N Murphy, P Kerrigan.

Mayo -- R Hennelly; K Higgins, G Cafferkey, T Cunniffe; R Feeney, D Vaughan, T Mortimer; A O'Shea, S O'Shea; K McLoughlin, A Dillon, A Moran; E Varley, A Freeman, C O'Connor.


All-Ireland MFC q/f

(Extra-time if necessary)

Tipperary v Meath, Portlaoise, 2.0,

B Cassidy (Derry)

A first Munster title since 1995 represents a significant coup for Tipperary, who beat both of the province's big two on the way to the crown.

On that basis, they are deserving favourites against Davy Dalton's side.

Meath were comprehensively beaten by Dublin last time out, but that may not prove to be such a bad result against a very highly rated side and the Royals can upset the odds here.

Odds: Tipperary 2/5 Meath 5/2 Draw 7/1

Verdict: Meath

Dublin v Cork, Portlaoise,

4.0, C Branagan (Down)

Dessie Farrell's Dublin looked every bit the All-Ireland champions elect in the Leinster final when they comprehensively dismissed Meath.

Ciaran Kilkenny, Cormac Costello and Jack McCaffrey caught the eye in that 10-point victory and Cork, who were stunned by Tipperary in the Munster final, will have to be at their very best to keep in touch.

Odds: Dublin 1/3 Cork 3/1 Draw 15/2

Verdict: Dublin

Connacht U-21 HC s/f

(Extra-time if necessary)

Roscommon v Sligo, Athleague, 7.0,

C Brown (Galway)

Verdict: Roscommon

Mayo v Leitrim, Charlestown, 7.0,

J Doyle

Verdict: Mayo

TG4 Ladies Senior Championship RD 1 Qualifier

Clare v Tipperary, Birr, 4.15,

K Tighe (Dublin), *Live TG4

The Banner County have been impressive this season, beating Fermanagh in the Division 3 final to cap off an encouraging league campaign, but they came back down to earth with a bang when they were outclassed by Cork in the Munster championship semi-final last month.

Tipperary were also beaten in the Munster championship semi-final with Kerry making light work of the Premier County's defence. Tipp's youth teams are going from strength to strength but it may be a couple of years before the senior side are a serious threat in the championship.

As for this weekend, expect an evenly matched contest and even though they are without the injured duo of Anne Marie Callinan and Gracy Lynch, we can expect the winning feeling to return to Clare.

Tipperary -- N Noonan; T McGrath, C Condon, C Carroll; S Condon, S Lambert, B Ryan; J Grant, S Carew; G O'Brien, M Morrissey, S Costello; A Stauton, T Hickey, C Walsh.

Clare -- E O'Driscoll; C Hester, L Kelly, S Eustace; C Considine, E O'Connor, L Woods; M Considine, L Henchy; C Corry, N Keane, F Lafferty; E Condidine, N O'Dea, A Considine.

Irish Independent

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