Friday 23 February 2018

Louth v Meath

2011: Kildare 0-16 Meath 0-10; Carlow 0-14 Louth 0-13 (Leinster quarter-finals)

Meath were productive in the qualifiers in the second half of the last decade, using them to advance to the All-Ireland semi-finals in 2007 and '09. Overall, they have won 14 of 20 qualifiers.

Louth's strike-rate hasn't been as good, but then the only past that will count in Saturday's game is last year's clash, complete with enough controversy to pollute the Boyne.

Last c'ship clash: Meath 1-12 Louth 1-10 (2010 Leinster final)

All-Ireland odds: Meath 50/1 (pre-c'ship 20/1); Louth 500/1 (100/1)

The big questions: Can Louth gain some measure of revenge for last year? Can Meath embark on another good qualifier run? And why didn't the GAA appoint Martin Sludden as referee in order to recreate the 2010 Leinster final atmosphere (and add to the gate)?

Wicklow v Sligo

2011: Kildare 0-12 Wicklow 0-5 (Leinster 1st Round); Leitrim 1-10 Sligo 0-10 (Connacht quarter-final)

One of the highlights of the first round as Wicklow attempt to relaunch the spirit of 2009, which took them all the way to Round 4. It was the only time they have made any real progress in the qualifiers. Sligo have a better record, but must be a bit fragile after losing to Leitrim, who were well beaten by Roscommon.

Last c'ship clash: None

All-Ireland odds: Wicklow 500/1 (pre- c'ship 250/1); Sligo 250/1 (100/1)

The big questions? Will Sligo win and end Mick O'Dwyer's five-year stint in Wicklow? Will Wicklow use the 'Aughrim Factor' to rediscover the spirit of 2009?

Offaly v Monaghan

2011: Wexford 2-16 Offaly 0-8 (Leinster 1st Round); Tyrone 1-13 Monaghan 1-11 (Ulster quarter-final)

Offaly were another county who it was thought would benefit greatly from the qualifiers, but it hasn't happened as they have won only five of 14 games over the last 10 years. Still, they ran Down to two points last year, so perhaps they are warming to the second-chance route. They will need to after the big defeat by Wexford. Monaghan have a 50-50 record in the qualifiers, winning nine and losing nine.

Last c'ship clash: None

All-Ireland odds: Offaly 1000/1 (pre- c'ship 200/1); Monaghan 66/1 (40/1)

The big questions: Will Offaly react to Michael Duignan's criticisms and turn in a big performance? Can Monaghan find the luck that has eluded them all year?

Clare v Down

2011: Cork 1-23 Clare 0-11 (Munster 1st Round); Armagh 1-15 Down 1-10 (Ulster quarter-final)

It doesn't look good for Division 4 Clare against Division 1 Down, even if the latter played poorly against Armagh, whose form collapsed against Derry. Clare have won only three of 11 qualifiers.

Down made little progress through the back door for many years, but used them to spectacular effect last year, reaching the All-Ireland final after entering the qualifiers in Round 2. This time, they are a fence further back.

Last c'ship clash: None

All-Ireland odds: Clare 1,000/1 (pre- c'ship 750/1); Down 28/1 (14/1)

The big questions: Are Down up for another extended qualifier haul? Could Clare possibly land a big punch?

Laois v Tipperary

2011: Laois 0-10 Longford 0-9, Dublin 1-16 Laois 0-11 (Leinster 1st Round and quarter-final); Kerry 2-16 Tipperary 0-11 (Munster quarter-final)

Tipperary have won only three of 11 qualifier ties but one of them was against Laois, whom they beat by a point in Thurles last year.

Tipp have to travel to Portlaoise this time, which hands Laois the advantage, even if their confidence levels can't be too high after the dismal performance against Dublin, but then Tipperary are coming off an even bigger loss to Kerry.

Last c'ship clash: Tipperary 0-13 Laois 0-12 (2010 Round 1 qualifier)

All-Ireland odds: Tipperary 750/1 (pre- c'ship 400/1); Laois 125/1 (66/1)

The big questions: Will Laois show more creativity in attack than against Longford and Dublin, where they managed a combined total of 21 points? Can Tipperary find the form that has eluded them for most of the season?

Antrim v Westmeath

2011: Donegal 1-10 Antrim 0-7 (Ulster preliminary); Wexford 1-24 Westmeath 0-15 (Leinster quarter-final)

Antrim won their first ever qualifier tie against Leitrim 10 years ago, but haven't won any since then, which suggests they don't really warm to the second chance.

Crucially, though, they have home advantage on Saturday. Westmeath have a good record in the qualifiers, going back as far as 2001 when they reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Last c'ship clash: Westmeath 0-14 Antrim 1-10 (2002 Round 1 qualifier)

All-Ireland odds: Westmeath 750/1 (pre- c'ship 100/1); Antrim 750/1 (250/1)

The big questions: Can Antrim improve on their dismal qualifier record? What's Westmeath's mental state after the Wexford mauling?

Cavan v Longford

2011: Donegal 2-14 Cavan 1-8 (Ulster quarter-final); Laois 0-10 Longford 0-9 (Leinster 1st Round)

The qualifiers seemed made for counties like Cavan, who were going quite well at the time of their introduction in 2001, but it hasn't worked out that way.

They have won only four qualifier games, half as many as Longford who have captured some big scalps over the years, including Mayo, Derry, Down and Monaghan -- they also ran Kerry close in 2009.

They did quite well against Down last year too before losing by four points.

Last c'ship clash: None

All-Ireland odds: Cavan 1000/1 (pre- c'ship 500/1); Longford 500/1 (300/1)

The big questions: Which Cavan will turn up -- the spirited one as displayed by the U-21s this year, or the careless one which has had some bad qualifier experiences? Can Longford reproduce the form which sank Mayo in Round 1 last year?

London v Fermanagh

2011: Mayo 0-19 London 2-10 -- after extra-time (Connacht quarter-final); Derry 1-18 Fermanagh 1-10 (Ulster quarter-final)

London head into the qualifiers on a high after coming so close to unseating Mayo, whereas Fermanagh were well beaten by Derry.

And with the game in Ruislip, London will fancy themselves, although Fermanagh beat them by six points in the league in April, but the Erne men did have home advantage.

Last c'ship clash: None

All-Ireland odds: London 1000/1 (pre-c'ship 1000/1); Fermanagh 750/1 (250/1)

The big questions: Can London build on the good form they showed against Mayo and win a first ever qualifier tie? Will Fermanagh avail of the good draw to kick-start what has been a bad season so far?

Irish Independent

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