Friday 15 December 2017

Weekend previews: Martin Breheny runs the rule over all the championship action


Leinster SHC semi-final: Dublin v Galway, Tullamore, 7.0, M Wadding

*Live on RTE

Galway were the only team to beat Dublin in the Allianz League, yet it doesn't give them any psychological edge since it was a game they should have lost. Dublin undermined their chances with a string of terrible wides and were caught by a late goal which won the game.

It was noticeable that day how easily Dublin broke Galway tackles, but then that was a feature of Dublin's run through the league, during which they looked fitter than most opposition. The rest have now caught up, which means Dublin won't have as much room to work off.

Still, they are a formidable presence and with their confidence higher than at any time since the early 1960s, they will relish the opportunity to book a Leinster final place.

Galway have long since become an enigma, combining the good with the awful in an unpredictable mix that has left the squad -- and the supporters -- deeply frustrated. One interesting aspect of Galway's latest selection is that it includes four of the six defenders who played in the 2005 All-Ireland final, and if Ollie Canning hadn't retired, it would have been five.

That's a very low turnover for a squad that hasn't reached an All-Ireland semi-final for six years and is something of a surprise, given the county's success at underage level.

Still, they have a formidable strike force led by Joe Canning and Damien Hayes, which could prove the tie-breaker.

Last C'ship clash: Dublin 2-4 Galway 2-2 (1941 All-Ireland semi-final)

Odds: Galway 4/5; Dublin 5/4; Draw 10/1

Verdict: Galway

Next: Winners play Kilkenny in the Leinster final on July 3; Losers play Limerick, Clare or Tipperary in the qualifiers on July 2.

Dublin -- G Maguire; N Corcoran, T Brady, O Gough; J McCaffrey, P Kelly, S Durkin; L Rushe, A McCrabbe; C McCormack, R O'Dwyer, C Keaney; P Carton, D O'Callaghan, P Ryan.

Galway -- J Skehill; D Joyce, D Collins, F Moore; S Kavanagh, T Og Regan, A Cullinane; B Daly, D Burke; E Ryan, C Donnellan, J Gantley; D Hayes, J Canning, A Callanan.

All-Ireland SHC qualifiers

(preliminary round)

Laois v Cork, Portlaoise, 3.0,

J McGrath (Westmeath)

Not many teams can claim a 100pc winning record against Cork in All-Ireland hurling finals but Laois enjoy the distinction, having won the only clash between the counties 96 years ago.

It's not exactly a reliable form line and the best Laois can hope for today is to avoid a big defeat.

An interesting inclusion on the Cork team is Youghal's Bill Cooper, who gets his big chance at centre-forward.

Last C'ship clash: Laois 6-2 Cork 4-1 (1915 All-Ireland final)

Odds: Cork 1/66; Laois 14/1; Draw 25/1.

Verdict: Cork

Next: Winners play Offaly in the next qualifier round next Saturday; losers finished for the year.

Cork -- D Óg Cusack; S O'Neill, E Cadogan, S McDonnell; J Gardiner, W Egan, B Murphy; T Kenny, P Cronin; B O'Connor, B Cooper, N McCarthy; L Farrell, P O'Sullivan, P Horgan.

Laois -- P Mullaney; JA Delaney, B Campion, C Dunne; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, B Gavin; J Walsh, S Burke; N Costelloe, G Reddin, W Hyland,; B Dunne, N Foyle, J Brophy.

Antrim v Westmeath, Casement Park, 3.0, T Carroll (Offaly)

With Carlow awaiting the winners, both sides will consider themselves to be in with a great chance of making considerable progress. Home advantage is a plus for Antrim, but Westmeath will be buoyed by the performance against Galway. It was certainly a huge improvement on their league form, which included a four-point defeat by Antrim.

Last C'ship clash: None

Odds: Antrim 3/10; Westmeath 3/1; Draw 12/1.

Verdict: Antrim

Next: Winners play Carlow in the next qualifier round next Saturday; losers are finished for the year.

Antrim -- C O'Connell; C McGuinness, C Donnelly, K McGourty; A Graffin, M Herron, N McAuley; P Shiels, C Herron; S McCrory, K Stewart, N McManus; C McCann, D Hamill, J Black.

Westmeath -- C Scally; C Flanagan, D McCormack, A McGrath; E Price, A Mitchell, P Gilsenan; P Dowdall, B Smyth; C Curley, P Greville, B Murtagh; J Shaw, D McNicholas, D Carthy.

All-Ireland Camogie Championship

Tipperary v Offaly, Semple Stadium, 3.0, M O'Kelly (Cork)

*Highlights on RTE's 'The Sunday Game'

Teenage star Sarah Fryday will be the one to watch here.

Fryday joins veteran attacker Clare Grogan and Cora Hennessy in a formidable forward line that should pose questions for the Offaly defence, which conceded 4-17 in last week's match against Kilkenny. Doubts remain over the fitness of Offaly attacker Arlene Watkins, while a lot will depend on the performance of centre-back Michaela Morkan. Tipperary at home should collect the points.

Verdict: Tipperary

Cork v Wexford, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 1.0, F McNamara (Clare)

A resurgent Cork face a Wexford side smarting from last week's defeat to Galway. Sile Burns racked up 3-4 for the Leesiders, while colleague Jennifer O'Leary put in another sterling display.

Wexford's forwards struggled last weekend, relying on the free-taking prowess of captain and full-forward Ursula Jacob. Wexford need to secure a win to get their campaign back on track. Cork at home will be difficult to beat but Wexford's greater urgency should see them through.

Verdict: Wexford

Galway v Clare, Kenny Park, Athenry, 2.0, C Egan (Cork)

This is a difficult one to call considering the intense rivalry between both sides.

Galway have made a number of changes to their defence, most noticeably the positioning of Therese Maher at centre-back, with Ann Marie Hayes operating at wing- back, while Sinead Cahalan returns to full-back, after missing last season with injury.

Clare suffered a second-half collapse against Cork but will fancy their chances against their neighbours. Galway should sneak it, but only just.

Verdict: Galway

Kilkenny v Dublin, Thomastown, 3.30, A Lagrue (Kildare)

Dublin will be disappointed following last weekend's defeat to Tipperary. The Blues will be pleased with the creation of their scoring chances, but were left to rue two missed goal chances, as a wily Tipp side applied the pressure in the second half.

This weekend's tie will provide Denis Murphy's charges with the opportunity to redeem themselves against Kilkenny, who, coincidentally, beat Dublin very heavily in this season's league.

Ann Downey has a full panel to pick from and, with Ann Dalton pulling the strings at midfield, the Cats should win out.

Verdict: Kilkenny


Munster SHC semi-final

Clare v Tipperary, Gaelic Grounds, 4.0

Ref: J Owens (Wexford)

*Live on TV3

It's looks pretty straight-forward for Tipperary but then the same applied two years ago, yet Clare pushed them all the way, eventually losing by just two points. Tipperary manager Declan Ryan will reinforce a cautious message to his players, although it's probably not necessary.

They know that Clare will be dangerous if they are allowed to build up any sort of momentum so expect Tipperary to apply heavy pressure from the start. If they do, they have the forwards to rack up a big score as they showed in all of their championship games since losing to Cork in the Munster quarter-final last year.

Last C'ship clash: Tipperary 3-18 Clare 1-22 (2009 Munster semi-final)

Odds: Tipperary 1/12; Clare 8/1; Draw 14/1.

Verdict: Tipperary

Next: Winners play Waterford in the Munster final on July 10; losers play Wexford, Galway or Dublin in a qualifier tie on July 2.

Clare -- P Brennan, P Vaughan, C Cooney, C Dillon; P O'Connor, J McInerney, P Donnellan; N O'Connell, J Clancy, J Conlon, F Lynch, C McInerney, D McMahon, D Honan, C McGrath.

Tipperary -- B Cummins; J O'Keeffe, P Curran, M Cahill; D Young, C O'Mahony, Padraic Maher; G Ryan, S McGrath; S Callanan, N McGrath, Patrick Maher; E Kelly, J O'Brien, L Corbett.

Ulster SF semi-final

Armagh v Derry, Clones, 2.0

Ref: D Coldrick (Meath)

*Live on RTE/BBC

There was something very refreshing about Armagh's performance against Down and now the big question is whether they can repeat it against a Derry team that wasn't really tested by Fermanagh in the quarter-final.

That's a disadvantage and leaves them uncertain about exactly where they stand, whereas Armagh are in confident mood after their impressive dismissal of Down. Their direct game yielded a high dividend and with an inside strike force built around Steven McDonnell and Jamie Clarke, the aim will be to deliver as much quick ball as possible.

Derry have a strong full-forward line, with Enda Muldoon, Eoin Bradley and Conleth Gilligan all capable of exploiting openings, so it's likely to be a far better game than when this pair clashed in last year's first round.

The wind is very much in Armagh's sails as they attempt to reach an eighth Ulster final since 1999.

Last C'ship clash: Armagh 1-10 Derry 1-7 (2010 Ulster 1st round)

Odds: Armagh 5/6; Derry 11/8; Draw 7/1

Verdict: Armagh

Next: Winners play Donegal or Tyrone in the Ulster final on July 17; losers head for round 2 qualifiers on July 9.

Armagh -- P Hearty; A Mallon, B Donaghy, K Dyas; A Kernan, C McKeever, P Duffy; K Toner, C Vernon; T Kernan, BJ Padden, M Mackin; M O'Rourke, S McDonnell, J Clarke.

Derry -- D Devlin; S McGoldrick, K McCloy, D McBride; B McAlary, C Kielt, M Bateson; J Diver, M Friel; M Lynch, C O'Boyle, B McGoldrick; E Muldoon, E Bradley, C Gilligan.

Munster IHC semi-final

(extra-time if necessary)

Clare v Cork, Gaelic Grounds, 1.45, S Hourigan (Limerick)

Verdict: Cork

Ulster MFC semi-final

Fermanagh v Armagh, Clones, 12.15, S Hurson (Tyrone)

Verdict: Armagh

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