Derry v Clare, Croke Park, Saturday June 25, 3.45, Sky
I almost feel sorry for Sky. They lost out on the big match the weekend before last – Donegal v Armagh. And with all due respects to the four teams playing on Saturday they have got the thin end of the wedge here as well.
I don’t believe either Clare or Cork have a realistic chance of winning.
This will be only Clare’s fifth ever Championship game in Croke Park.
Hopefully it won’t be as one-sided as the 2016 quarter-final in which Kerry cantered to an 11-point win.
The Banner have done brilliantly this season. One could only admire their neversay-die approach – five points down in the closing stages last weekend they outscored Roscommon 1-3 to 0-0 in the closing minutes.
They have an excellent defensive structure in place, and they stick to the process.
Manager Colm Collins gave a masterclass in tactical planning against Roscommon.
Pearse Lillis dropped back and did a superb man-marking job on Roscommon dangerman Enda Smith, while Kieran Russell was a very effective sweeper.
They are a strong running and counter attacking side; their shot efficiency in the first half was unbelievable – 11 scores from 13 shots. That’s simply Dublinesque.
Despite their heroics in the last five minutes they seemed a tired team for a lot of the second half because their running game is virtually impossible to maintain for an entire match. They endured a similar fade out against Meath in Round 1, scoring just 0-4 in the second half.
They got only five scores (1-4) against Roscommon after the break and Jamie Malone’s sensational winning point in injury-time was their only score from play in the half.
Clare hosted Derry in Round 4 of the League and the visitors won by nine points.
They’re even better now, having beaten three Division 1 teams (Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal) in the Ulster Championship.
Derry’s fitness and conditioning is their trump card and then there is the Rory Gallagher factor. He has moulded them into a serious outfit.
This group of Derry players may never get as good an opportunity again to contest an All-Ireland Football Final as the one presenting itself in 2022. They will take the first step toward fulfilling that dream on Saturday.
Cork v Dublin, Croke Park, Saturday 25 June, 6.0. Sky
Dublin have their mojo back; their first half performance against Kildare was pure class. They are at back at full strength playing front foot, kicking football.
I rate Dublin at number two in the rankings but frankly I don’t know where exactly they should be because nobody has laid a glove on them so far in the Championship.
I believe their full back line is vulnerable and, unlike in the middle of the last decade, I don’t see any of their players on the bench changing a game.
They are likely to reach an All-Ireland semi-final without knowing their full potential. I imagine their A v B training games are more competitive.
Under replacement manager John Cleary, who should have got this managerial gig years ago, Cork have steadied the ship.
Defensively they were superb for 40 minutes against Kerry and sweeper Sean Powter plays a key role in marshalling their defence.
I thought their fitness was suspect against Kerry but last Sunday they outscored Limerick when they were down to 14 men in the last 15 minutes. But I still don’t give them a chance of pulling off an upset.
They are over dependent on Brian Hurley and Steven Sherlock up front and Limerick managed to chalk up 1-16 against them.
Dublin by at least six or seven points though they will learn nothing from the game.
Don’t miss Pat’s Galway v Armagh and Kerry v Mayo predictions in this week’s Sunday World