TODAY'S FOOTBALL AND HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEWS (3.30 unless stated)TODAY'S FOOTBALL AND HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEWS (3.30 unless stated)
Ulster SFC Quarter-final
Derry v Fermanagh
Fermanagh registered a memorable win over Derry three short years ago but they are now a different proposition. A spring blighted by internal strife and the loss of some central players has left them shorn of the raw fundamentals needed for a sustained challenge. Derry's 1/7 with the bookies is a stark illustration of Fermanagh's diminishing powers; today they show six championship first-timers: James McGrath, John Woods, Terry O'Flannagan, Brian óg Maguire, Tomás Corrigan and Seán Quigley.
Not that Derry can be said to enter this championship with sky-high hopes. Without Paddy Bradley they don't pose the same danger near goal and concern isn't uncommon in other departments like midfield and full-back. For today's purposes, though, they have more forward talent than their opponents and a surplus of better footballers through the field.
Derry include three players new to championship football: goalkeeper Danny Devlin, midfielder Michael Friel and forward Cailean O'Boyle. Barry McGoldrick must undergo a late fitness test. They should do enough to book a date with Armagh or Down, who play next Saturday.
Derry: D Devlin; M Bateson, K McCloy, D McBride; G O'Kane, C Kielt, B McGoldrick; J Diver, M Friel; M Lynch, C O'Boyle, E McGuckian; SL McGoldrick, E Bradley, C Gilligan.
Fermanagh: J McGrath; J Woods, B Owens, M Jones; M O'Brien, H Brady, B Mulrone; K Cosgrove, R Jones; T O'Flanagan, B Maguire, P Ward; T Corrigan, D Kille, S Quigley.
Connacht SFC Quarter-Final
Sligo v Leitrim
Leitrim won the last meeting six years ago and they go to Sligo with a well-earned reputation as a sticky and dogged opponent. This is a golden ticket for Sligo, however, to a crack at Roscommon who defeated them in last year's provincial final. Relegation to Division 3 was a setback but they were tested by teams of higher rank than those encountered by Leitrim two floors down.
Mickey Moran has named a striking seven debutants at full-back, corner-back, midfield and attack, where there are no fewer than four new faces. The front six has been Leitrim's least impressive sector but Emlyn Mulligan, who has missed the last two championship campaigns through injury, is back to add some teeth.
Sligo have notable injuries -- Mark Breheny, David Kelly and Jonathan Davey -- and they are still learning how to play as favourites. A passage to the next round, even an unconvincing one, is the only acceptable option.
Sligo: P Greene; C Harrison, R Donovan, N Ewing; P McGovern, B Curran, D Rooney; S Gilmartin, T Taylor; A Costello, E O'Hara, F Quinn; S Coen, K Sweeney, A Marren.
Leitrim: C McCrann; D Reynolds, R Gallagher, P Maguire; B Prior, G Reynolds, W McKeon; T Beirne, D Lowe; P Brennan, E Mulligan, R Lowe; A Croal, C Beirne, J Glancy.
Leinster SFC Preliminary Round
Laois v Longford
Longford's feisty finish to the league has left them in good spirits approaching a team they have no cause to fear and who played poorly for much of the Division 2 final.
Laois have made some adjustments. Pádraic Clancy is replaced at midfield by Colm Begley, with Dáithí Carroll taking over on the half-forward line where Begley had been stationed. Despite an impressive appearance in the league final, Donie Kingston is named in the substitutes. In another move Cahir Healy is chosen at corner-back in place of Declan Booth.
Laois still managed to win promotion to Division 1, which required a level of consistency, and Justin McNulty will have trained minds on this match from a good way out. Seeing Longford do so well in the Division 4 final makes his message easier to convey. Longford introduce three newcomers in Kevin Diffley, Michael Brady and Donal McElligott. But there is only one change from the league final win over Roscommon. Diffley, an under 21 player, lines out at centre-back as injury rules out Diarmuid Masterson. Laois are favourites but if you were to pick out a shock today then this is a contender.
Laois: E Culleton; C Healy, K Meaney, M Timmons; D Strong, S Julian, P O'Leary; C Begley, B Quigley; D Carroll, J O'Loughlin, N Donoher; R Munnelly, B Sheehan, MJ Tierney.
Longford: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, D Reilly; S Mulligan, K Diffley, N Farrell; B McElvanney, M Brady; D Barden, P Dowd, P Barden; D McElligott, B Kavanagh, S McCormack.
Kildare v Wicklow
Kildare begin another conquest for silverware, having fallen short last year and been left with plenty to reflect ruefully on over the winter. They have built up a strong panel but the only new face to championship is goalkeeper Shane Connolly. Wicklow won't be taken lightly by Kildare or their manager whose first championship match saw them defeat the Lilywhites in Croke Park. Two years ago, they also rattled Kildare in the qualifiers at this venue.
As team selections go, Wicklow is the more interesting. Mick O'Dwyer will give former Mayo full-forward Austin O'Malley his Leinster championship debut, the player having switched allegiance this year. He forms part of a promising full-forward line also containing Seanie Furlong and Leighton Glynn. Goalkeeper Meryvn Travers reclaims his place after a serious knee injury ruled him out for a year.
Wicklow under O'Dwyer are a championship team and will delight in another shot at Kildare but the white shirts shouldn't surrender this time.
Kildare: S Connolly; A MacLochlainn, M Foley, H McGrillen; G White, B Flanagan, E Bolton; D Flynn, H Lynch; M O'Flaherty, E O'Flaherty, P O'Neill; J Doyle, R Sweeney, J Kavanagh.
Wicklow: M Travers; C Hyland, A Byrne, S Kelly; M McLoughlin, B McGrath, D Hayden; J Stafford, R Finn; T Hannon, P Dalton, P Earls; A O'Malley, S Furlong, L Glynn.
Munster SFC Quarter-Finals
Kerry v Tipperary
Eoin Brosnan's centre-back reinvention has been carried through to the championship and Kerry arrive for the start of another campaign with the usual bundle of items for discussion. Marc ó Sé (pictured) and his colleagues in defence will survive today but whether that backline will be good enough to see them through a successful championship is another matter. Midfield, too, has been out of sorts. But the attack is, as ever, graced with outstanding footballers who can, when in the mood, compensate for other deficiencies.
Tipperary may even suffer a county's-honour backlash on account of their minors' audacious victory during the week. Last year when the sides met, Tipp bailed out water for two thirds of the tie before finally sinking. John Evans calls up two players new to senior championship, Cathal Dillon and Lorcan Egan, placing them along the half-back line. They have mixed luck with injuries: Peter Acheson is unable to start but Barry Grogan has recovered from a knock as has Ciarán McDonald.
Kerry: B Kealy; K Young, M Ó Sé, T O'Sullivan; T Ó Sé, E Brosnan, A O'Mahony; A Maher, B Sheehan; Darran O'Sullivan, Declan O'Sullivan, D Walsh; C Cooper, K Donaghy, K O'Leary.
Tipperary: M O'Connell; A Morrissey, P Codd, C McDonald; C Dillon, L Egan, C Aylward; G Hannigan, B Jones; B Fox, P Austin, H Coghlan; C Sweeney, S Grogan, B Grogan.
Cork v Clare
Páirc Uí Chaoimh
Cork have named 13 of last year's All-Ireland team and reintroduce Graham Canty after a long lay off, and their 'keeper Alan Quirke for a match they aren't only expected to win, but win well. Clare travel as long outsiders, having failed, again, to get out of Division 4 of the league. Cork won Division 1 almost with one eye closed. Regrettably, some players good enough to play for Clare have decided not to, but at least they can include former Kildare footballer Niall Browne who has been the best of their 'imports' over the spring. They need to maintain their discipline at all costs today and learn as much as they can before the qualifiers. Nothing daft in other words.
Cork: A Quirke; R Carey, M Shields, J O'Sullivan; D O'Sullivan, N O'Leary, G Canty; A O'Connor, A Walsh; P Kerrigan, P Kelly, P O'Neill; D Goulding, D O'Connor, C Sheehan.
Clare: Joe Hayes; K Hartnett, B Duggan, L Healy; John Hayes, G Kelly, M McMahon; N Browne, G Brennan; G Kelly, D Tubridy, C O'Connor; R Donnelly, D O'Neill, A Clohessy.
Leinster SHC Preliminary Round
Carlow v Westmeath
Dr Cullen Park
UNTIL very recently, Westmeath would have had no reservations about this tie but with a prize game against Galway at stake in the next round, they can't be reassured after a bad league and a managerial change. Kevin Martin left citing insufficient player commitment and Athenry's Brian Hanley has taken on the task. A number of key players have returned including Paul Greville, John Shaw, Darren McCormack and Paddy Dowdall. Carlow won't need to be told the danger presented here. Forewarned, they should get by.
Carlow: K Keogh; A Corcoran, S Kavanagh, D Shaw; E Coady, E Nolan, R Coady; J Kavanagh, J Rogers; E Byrne, C Doyle, M Brennan; A Gaule, R Dunbar, P Keogh.
Westmeath: AN Other; C Flanagan, D McCormack, A McGrath; E Price, A Mitchell, P Gilsenan; N Flanagan, B Smyth; C Curley, P Greville, J Shaw; D Carthy, B Murtagh, A Devine.
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