Sunday 18 March 2018

Gaelic games previews

Martin Breheny and Donnchadh Boyle

All-Ireland SF quarter-finals


Armagh v Donegal, Croke Park, 4.0,

J McQuillan (Armagh).

*LIVE Sky Sports 3

Team managers never offer a preference for whom they would like to meet in the next game, so there was no point asking Jim McGuinness if he hoped for a Kildare win over Monaghan last Saturday. A Lilywhite victory would have led to a draw for the quarter-finals, giving Donegal a 50-50 chance of avoiding Armagh.

Whether or not Donegal admit it, they would have preferred a clash with Kildare, rather than facing Ulster opposition. It's not that they fear any of their northern rivals, it's just that they know this will, in effect, become an extension of the Ulster championship, albeit in a different setting.

And since Armagh have combined doggedness with a flourishing sense of adventure in an expanding mix since being relegated to Division 3 in April, this is a tricky tie for Donegal. Indeed, the form lines are more favourable to Armagh than their outsiders rating suggests.

They drew with Monaghan, before losing the replay, and later beat Tyrone, who had lost to Monaghan by a point. Donegal beat Monaghan by three points, so when it's all fed into the equation, it suggests that Armagh are close enough to Donegal.

Donegal have reverted to the defensive instincts which launched their new era in 2011, conceding the low total of 1-32 against Derry, Antrim and Monaghan. Their average score against Derry and Monaghan was 16 points, while they hit Antrim for 3-16. However, the latter haul has to be seen in the context of a weak Antrim defence, which conceded a total of 5-29 against Fermanagh and Limerick.

Apart from the replay against Monaghan when they were hit for 1-18, Armagh have been defensively secure, conceding just one goal in their other five games.

This has all the hallmarks of a dourly defensive contest, with Donegal just doing enough to book a semi-final place.

Last C'ship clash: Armagh 2-14 Donegal 0-11 (2010 All-Ireland qualifiers).

It's a fact: Armagh beat Donegal in their previous three championship clashes in Croke Park in the 2003 All-Ireland semi-final and the 2004-06 Ulster finals.

Odds: Donegal 1/ 4; Armagh 4/1; Draw 10/1.

Verdict: Donegal

Dublin v Monaghan, Croke Park, 6.0, M Duffy (Sligo), *LIVE Sky Sports 3

Here's an odd thing. If Dublin and Donegal reach the semi-finals, a strong case will be made for how Donegal's defensive excellence will cause serious problems for the All-Ireland champions.

Yet, apart from last Saturday's clash with Kildare, where they conceded two avoidable goals, Monaghan have been a model of tight security this year and last. They conceded no goals and an average of marginally under 10 points in four championship games last year and while it increased to just over 12 points in this season's Ulster championship, it's still a very low giveaway. So, why are Donegal and Monaghan seen so differently in a Dublin context? That's down to Donegal's All-Ireland win in 2012, plus their suffocation of the Dublin attack for so long in the 2011 semi-final.

Despite their progress, Monaghan are not regarded as being that far advanced when it comes to big Croke Park shoot-outs. After being so secure for so long, Monaghan's problems against Kildare last week might be attributable to the awful conditions, rather than a systems failure.

Either way, the reality is that Monaghan haven't met an attack with Dublin's potency, which is why there's no reason to believe that Jim Gavin's high achievers won't score enough to build a relatively easy win. They have already hit Laois, Wexford and Meath for a total of 7-66 and while none of that trio are as defensively stable as Monaghan (usually), it still leaves Dublin with a lot to play with, even if their strike rate is reduced.

Monaghan can take some encouragement from Dublin's functional rather than inspirational performances in quarter-finals over the last two seasons, but it's asking too much of them to beat a team which has been so dominant since the start of last year. Holding Dublin to a five-point margin is about the best Monaghan can hope for.

Last C'ship clash: Dublin 2-5 Monaghan 0-0 (1923 All-Ireland semi-final).

It's a fact: Dublin haven't conceded a goal in their last four All-Ireland quarter-finals against Tyrone (2010-11), Laois (2012) and Cork (2014). Monaghan last reached the All-Ireland semi-final in 1988.

Odds: Dublin 1/20; Monaghan 10/1; Draw 22/1.

Verdict: Dublin

Dublin – S Cluxton; M Fitzsimons, R O'Carroll, P McMahon; J McCarthy, J Cooper, N Devereux; MD Macauley, C O'Sullivan; P Flynn, K McManamon, D Connolly; A Brogan, E O'Gara, B Brogan.

Monaghan – R Beggan; C Boyle, D Wylie, C Walshe; D Mone, V Corey, F Kelly; D Clerkin, D Hughes; P McKenna, P Finlay, K Hughes, T Kerr, C McGuinness, C McManus.


(Extra-time if necessary)

Sligo v Kerry, Cusack Park, 3.0, F Barry (Kildare)

A 10-point win over Cork in the Munster final underlines Kerry's strength and they include a number of established players at this grade, including midfielder Andrew Garnett. Sligo have also tasted success at this grade recently, winning the All-Ireland in 2010, but have lost players since their Connacht final and might struggle here.

Verdict: Kerry

Scotland v Cavan, Granton Road, 6.30,

P Neilan (Roscommon)

Scotland booked their place here thanks to a win over Warwickshire and they will become the first team from the country to play in this competition. Cavan have used this competition as a proving ground for young players and should have too much.

Verdict: Cavan


(Extra-time if necessary)

Cork v Wexford, Nowlan Park, 3.0, A Kelly (Galway)

Wexford's encouraging year can continue here after securing their first Leinster title in this grade in seven years. Ex-senior star Redmond Barry provides the cutting edge up front, but Cork dismissed Galway in their semi-final and might just edge it.

Verdict: Cork


(Extra-time if necessary)

Armagh v Westmeath, Athletic Grounds, 12.0, L McAuley (Antrim). Verdict: Westmeath.

Wicklow v Kerry, Arklow, 3.0, S Cleere (Kilkenny). Verdict: Kerry.

Roscommon v Donegal, Athleague, 3.0, B Sweeney (Cavan). Verdict: Roscommon.




(Extra-time if necessary)

Mayo v Westmeath, Pearse Park, Longford, 2.15, M Farrelly. *LIVE TG4

MAYO are still smarting from another Connacht final defeat to Galway, but have the chance to get their summer back on track.

Mayo suffered a third successive provincial final defeat to Galway last month. But the Westerners will be confident of getting past a Westmeath side that bounced back from a heavy defeat to Dublin in Leinster with an impressive qualifier victory over Clare. While Westmeath, managed by Martin Flanagan, will provide stiff opposition, the Connacht side get the nod to advance.

Betting: Mayo 1/10 Draw 16/1 Westmeath 5/1.

Verdict: Mayo

Cavan v Laois , St Peregrine's, Dublin, 3.45, M Doherty

LAOIS may have been operating in Division 1 this year, with Cavan a tier below, but the Breffni girls have been installed as favourites for today's qualifier. They have been given that billing on the basis of an impressive victory over Meath, a game that saw Claragh O'Reilly score 0-7. Caron Fay was also in stellar form between the sticks, saving a penalty from Katie O'Brien and, while Cavan had to battle for the win, they were worthy winners. Laois, in contrast, were demolished by Dublin in the Leinster final and already brittle confidence will have taken another massive dent.

Betting: Cavan 8/13 Draw 10/1 Laois 11/8.

Verdict: Cavan

Monaghan v Tyrone, Pearse Park,

Longford, 4.0, Y Duffy. *LIVE TG4

Tyrone have regressed since contesting the 2010 All-Ireland senior final against Dublin, but they remain a force to be reckoned with. The Red Hands lost heavily to provincial champions Armagh in Ulster, but they revived their campaign with a comfortable 10-point victory over Kildare.

Gemma Begley is Tyrone's leading light in attack, but despite losing to Armagh in the Ulster final, Monaghan still have hopes of a strong championship run. They have a shrewd manager in John Morrison and he will have analysed the Armagh defeat in detail. Monaghan have some big-game players to call upon, including the McAnespie twins, Aoife and Ciara, along with Sharon Courtney and Angela Casey and the Farney ladies should do enough.

Betting: Monaghan 1/5 Draw 12/1 Tyrone 7/2.

Verdict: Monaghan



Cork v Offaly, The Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 2.0, G O'Dowd

Cork have won five All-Irelands in the last decade, but have not added to their overall tally of 24 since 2009. It would be easy for the likes of this year's captain Anna Geary, recently-married Jenny O'Leary, Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley, Aoife Murray, Gemma O'Connor and co to have called it quits, but they retain their appetite for glory.

Cork will be wary of the fact that Offaly almost shocked Wexford in last year's quarter-finals. The Leesiders will need to improve on what they have delivered to date, but they will be favourites to advance.

Verdict: Cork

Clare v Galway, The Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 4.0, M O'Kelly

This is a heavyweight pairing, with the All-Ireland champions playing the League finalists. Clare already have taken Galway's scalp this year, but despite their progress in recent seasons, they have yet to topple one of the big guns in the knockout stages.

Clare are physically strong and they have shown good mental fortitude, too, to recover from a 14-point defeat in the league final by Kilkenny. That was their first national senior decider. Eimear Considine is recovered from a knee ligament injury suffered in that final.

Verdict: Clare


All-Ireland SH semi-final

Kilkenny v Limerick, Croke Park, 3.30, J McGrath (Westmeath), *LIVE RTE 2

Kilkenny have won 13 of their last 15 All-Ireland semi-finals, the two defeats coming against Galway in 2001 and 2005. Twelve of the wins were achieved by Brian Cody, who returns to Croke Park with a team that has won nine, drawn one and lost two of 12 league and championship games this year.

The two defeats (Clare, Dublin) came in their first four games, but once the season opened up in late March, Kilkenny grew with it in impressive style. Apart from the lapses in concentration which allowed Galway in for three goals late in the drawn Leinster semi-final, Kilkenny have been typically reliable. They beat Offaly, Galway (replay) and Dublin in the championship by a combined total of 46 points, compared with a 39-point aggregate-winning total for Tipperary against the same trio. Coming after Kilkenny's League final win over Tipperary in extra-time, it suggests there's little between the powerful neighbours, which will be encouraging for Limerick.

They beat Tipperary by two points in Thurles in the Munster semi-final on a day when their resilience took them through in the closing minutes. There's real steel in Limerick these days, leaving them a much more powerful force than the outfit that ran a disappointing 1B League campaign.

Donal O'Grady's departure in April left supporters wondering it would be another lost season, not due to any inadequacies on TJ Ryan's part, but because pre-championship upheaval is often followed by summer woes. Limerick's response was to dig in and once they beat Tipperary, they were set up for an extended season, even if they lost the Munster final, which they duly did.

The shooting spree in the quarter-final will have restored their confidence and while the Kilkenny resistance is a different proposition to Wexford's defence, the fact remains that Limerick have shot a total of 6-68 in their last three games.

That's an average of 2-23, a return more usually associated with Kilkenny, whose strike rate is much higher than last year. Limerick are primed for a brave showing but lack the strength in depth to match Kilkenny once Ryan and Cody start looking to their benches for reinforcements,

Last C'ship clash: Kilkenny 4-16 Limerick 1-16 (2012 All-Ireland quarter-final).

It's a fact: Top scorer, Shane Dowling (4-29), has scored almost 45pc of Limerick's 8-68 championship total over three games; TJ Reid (3-35) has scored almost 34pc of Kilkenny's 11-97 total from four games.

Odds: Kilkenny 4/9; Limerick 9/4; Draw 10/1.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Kilkenny – D Herity; P Murphy, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; J Holden, B Hogan, C Buckley; R Hogan, C Fogarty; P Walsh, M Fennelly, TJ Reid; C Fennelly, M Kelly, E Larkin.

LimericK – N Quaid; T Condon, R McCarthy, S Hickey; P O'Brien, W McNamara, G O'Mahony; J Ryan, P Browne; D Breen, D O'Grady, D Hannon; S Dowling, K Downes, G Mulcahy.


(Extra-time if necessary)

Kilkenny v Waterford, Croke Park, 1.30, J Keenan (Wicklow). *LIVE TG4

Waterford are on course to repeat last year's trick where they lost the Munster final after a replay, but recovered to win the All-Ireland. Shane Ryan's two goals helped them win their quarter-final against Dublin.

The Cats recovered a disastrous opening-round defeat to the Dubs to win Leinster. Many of their players contested the All-Ireland Colleges 'A' final and that experience could see them home.

Odds: Kilkenny 8/15 Waterford 9/4 Draw 9/1.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Irish Independent

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