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Weekend previews: Martin Breheny runs the rule overall the championship action

Leinster SH semi-final: Wexford v Kilkenny, Wexford Park, 7.0

Ref: J Ryan (Tipperary)

*Live on RTE

A Wexford win would stun the hurling world to much the same degree as did their 17-point win over Kilkenny in the 1976 Leinster final. To add to the intrigue, Kilkenny go into the championship against an uncertain background following their heavy league final defeat by Dublin.

However, Henry Shefflin, Richie Power and Michael Fennelly return, a development which will ensure a much busier time for the scoreboard operator than was the case against Dublin.

Wexford improved in the latter stages of the league but then they badly needed to since even a few of their former stars were suggesting they were headed towards Christy Ring status after some poor performances.

Players and management held their nerve and are now much better placed for the big challenge. They would need to be since this Kilkenny team, not to mention Brian Cody, is one driven force right now. Their gritty opponents will feel the full brunt of it and while they will stand up bravely, it's impossible to make a case for a Wexford win.

Last C'ship clash: Kilkenny 5-21 Wexford 0-17 (2008 Leinster final)

Odds: Kilkenny 1/8; Wexford 11/2; Draw 14/1.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Next: Winners play Dublin/Galway in Leinster final on July 3; Losers play beaten Munster semi-finalists in the qualifiers on July 2.

Wexford -- N Breen; P Roche, M O'Hanlon, K Rossiter; L Prendergast, D Stamp (captain), C Kenny; W Doran, D Redmond; PJ Nolan, H Kehoe, S Banville; R Jacob, G Sinnott, J Berry.

Kilkenny -- D Herity; P Murphy, N Hickey, J Tyrrell; P Hogan, B Hogan, JJ Delaney; M Fennelly, M Rice; TJ Reid, R Power, E Larkin; C Fennelly, H Shefflin, R Hogan.

Leinster SF quarter-final

Wexford v Westmeath, Wexford Park, 5.0, P Hughes (Armagh)

It's 35 years since Wexford last beat Westmeath in the Leinster championship, but the long wait can end today.

Home advantage, the benefit of a first-round win over Offaly, plus the confidence booster of having beaten Westmeath in the league deal Wexford a decent hand so now it's up to them to exploit it.

Conversely, Westmeath will be encouraged by their good championship record against Wexford and their solid league run, which earned them promotion to Division 2, whereas Jason Ryan's crew missed out narrowly for the second year.

With Louth and Carlow also on their side of the draw, there's a real prospect of today's winners reaching the Leinster final, adding to the incentive levels since it's not often that Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Laois are on the same side.

Wexford look set to avail of the big chance.

Last c'ship clash: Westmeath 2-15 Wexford 1-14 (2004 Leinster semi-final)

Odds: Wexford 4/6; Westmeath 6/4; Draw 15/2

Verdict: Wexford

Next: Winners play Carlow or Louth in the Leinster semi-final on June 26; losers will be in tomorrow's first-round qualifier draw.

Wexford -- A Masterson; J Wadding, G Molloy, B Malone; A Flynn, D Murphy, A Doyle; R Quinlivan, D Waters; S Roche, C Lyng, B Brosnan; C Morris, E Bradley, R Barry.

Westmeath -- G Connaughton; F Boyle, K Gavin, A Finnan; G Egan, K Martin, D Harte; D Daly, D Corroon; P Sharry, David Glennon, C Lynam; P Greville, Denis Glennon, D Dolan.


all-ireland championship

Wexford v Galway, 3.0, Bellefield, Enniscorthy, M O'Kelly (Cork)

Wexford and Galway renew rivalries once again. The Leinster side outshone their Connacht rivals in last year's All-Ireland final, and they recently retained the League Division 1 crown at the expense of the westerners.

JJ Doyle will have his charges well primed to make a positive start to the championship campaign in front of a strong home crowd.

A win today is vital for Galway, primarily to dispel any lingering notions and to boost morale. However, Wexford's greater firepower and more robust style of play, should see them secure the opening points.

Verdict: Wexford

Clare v Cork, 2.30, Clooney Quin, E MacSuibhne (Dublin)

The clash of Munster rivals Clare and Cork is expected to throw up some interesting fare.

Clare suffered managerial difficulties earlier in the season and will hope to have shaken off this setback in time for a formidable Cork outfit.

While the bookies expect Wexford to retain the title outright, it would be foolhardy to write off Cork, a team boosted by the return of Briege Corkery.

Cork's mental resolve and stronger panel should see them through.

Verdict: Cork

Offaly v Kilkenny, 2.30, St Brendan's Park, Birr, K O'Brien (Dublin)

Offaly, narrowly beaten by Wexford in the Leinster final, will be eager to snatch the points from their fiercest rivals.

Kilkenny, under Ann Downey, have kept a low profile this season while Joachim Kelly's charges have put in a solid league campaign.

Home venue and a greater sense of hunger on the part of Offaly should see them prevail.

Verdict: Offaly

Dublin v Tipperary, 3.0, Naomh Mearnog, O Elliot (Antrim)

Dublin, under Denis Murphy, are a team in transition and will need to persevere during what is bound to be a tough championship.

John Lillis, who takes over the reigns in Tipperary this year, will be keen to lay down a marker.

Verdict: Tipperary


Munster SH semi-final

Limerick v Waterford, Thurles, 4.0

Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath)

*Live on RTE

Limerick are seeking their first win in the Munster championship since 2007, a challenge made all the more difficult by last year's internal chaos which wiped out their summer and left them in Division 2 this year.

It's never easy stepping up to top championship pace after coming out of Division 2, especially against such a powerful force as Waterford.

Limerick plotted a safe passage to promotion but will now have to adapt to a much quicker pace against the defending Munster champions.

Still, Donal O'Grady will have Limerick well prepared for the new challenge and with all the pressure on Waterford this is likely to be a close encounter. Waterford haven't been beaten in their first Munster outing since the disastrous defeat by Clare in 2008 which precipitated the departure of Justin McCarthy and the arrival of Davy Fitzgerald.

He has done an excellent job over the last three years and, judging by Waterford's general consistency levels in the recent league campaign, they are good enough to book a place in the Munster for a third successive year.

Last C'ship clash: Waterford 0-25 Limerick 0-17 (2009 Munster semi-final replay)

Odds: Waterford 2/5; Limerick9/4; Draw 10/1

Verdict: Waterford

Next: Winners play Clare/Tipperary in Munster final on July 10; Losers play beaten Leinster semi-finalists in the qualifiers on July 2.

Limerick -- N Quaid; D Reale, S Hickey, T Condon; W McNamara, B Geary, G O'Mahony; D O'Grady, P Browne; J Ryan, R McCarthy, N Moran; S Tobin, K Downes, G Mulcahy.

Waterford -- C Hennessy; D Fives, W Hutchinson, N Connors; T Browne, M Walsh, K Moran; S O'Sullivan, R Foley; P Mahony, s Molumphy, M Shanahan; J Mullane, S Walsh, B O'Sullivan.

Connacht SF semi-final

Leitrim v Roscommon, Carrick-on-Shannon, 2.0, P McEnaney (Monaghan), *Live on RTE

Roscommon haven't qualified for successive Connacht finals since 1988-91 when they reached four in a row; nor have they retained the title since 1991.

Leitrim are bidding to reach the final for the first time since 2000 -- which was also the last time they beat Roscommon in the Connacht championship.

Roscommon are well fancied to keep on track but then Sligo were expected to beat Leitrim too, only to find that Mickey Moran had his new-look side cleverly set up for an ambush.

Now Leitrim are back in Carrick, which increases their prospects and the fact that they ran Roscommon to two points in the league will further encourage them.

For all that, Roscommon appear to have a real sense of solidity, which is likely to be enough to take them through to the Connacht final, where they would enjoy home advantage against Galway or Mayo.

Last c'ship meeting: Roscommon 1-13 Leitrim 0-11 (2010 Connacht semi-final)

Odds: Roscommon 2/5; Leitrim 11/4; Draw 13/2.

Verdict: Roscommon

Next: Winners play Galway/Mayo in Connacht final on July 17; losers play in second-round qualifiers on July 9.

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.

Roscommon -- G Claffey; S McDermott, P Domican, N Carty; I Kilbride, D Keenan, D Ward; M Finneran, K Mannion; S O'Grady, K Higgins, C Cregg; C Devaney, S Kilbride, D Shine.

Leinster SF quarter-final

Carlow v Louth, Portlaoise, 3.30, D Fahy (Longford)

It's Louth's to lose as last year's unlucky Leinster runners-up take on a team a division below them (it will be two next year as the Wee men were promoted to Division 2). Also, Carlow are seeking their first win in the Leinster championship since 2006.

They would need to produce a performance level not seen from them since they beat Offaly (who were going better back then) in the '05 qualifiers to have a chance of upsetting Louth, who have a return to the Leinster final very much in their sights.

Carlow manager Luke Dempsey believes there's a better balance to his squad this year. They ran a very mixed league campaign but did beat Leitrim, who showed much improved form when knocking Sligo out of Connacht.

That's encouraging but Carlow are still likely to come up short tomorrow.

Last c'ship meeting: Louth 1-11 Carlow 1-9 (2009 Leinster 1st round)

Odds: Louth 1/6; Carlow 5/1; Draw 10/1

Verdict : Louth

Next: Winners play Westmeath/Wexford in the Leinster semi-final on June 26; losers will be in tomorrow's first-round qualifier draw.

Carlow -- T O'Reilly; A Murphy, C Lawlor, B Kavanagh; P Cashin, S Redmond, K Nolan; B Murphy, D Foley; P Hickey, T Walsh, E Finnegan; B Murphy, S Gannon, D St Ledger.

Louth -- S Connor; D Byrne, A Hoey, D Finnegan; R Finnegan, M Fanning, L Shevlin; P Keenan B Donnelly; D Crilly, D Reid, A Reid; D Maguire, S Lennon, JP Rooney.

Ulster SF quarter-final

Cavan v Donegal, Kingspan Breffni Park, 3.30, Marty Duffy (Sligo)

Cavan last beat Donegal in the Ulster championship 35 years ago, but they did win the last clash between the counties, edging home by a point in the 2005 qualifiers.

Donegal appear to have all the aces, having run a very progressive Division 2 league campaign which yielded promotion and the overall title. Cavan were much less impressive in Division 3.

Still, home advantage should be a help but may be outweighed by the sharpness acquired by Donegal in their first-round clash with Antrim. Granted, it wasn't a particularly impressive display but Cavan are easier to play against than Antrim in a pure football sense.

Cavan's stock rose with their U-21 Ulster title success and, when the mood takes them, the seniors can punch above their weight too. If they do that, they will extend Donegal but it still looks as Jim McGuiness will enjoy a further boost in this first year as manager.

Last c'ship clash: Cavan 1-11 Donegal 1-10 (2005 qualifiers, round two)

Odds: Donegal 1/4; Cavan 4/1; Draw 8/1

Verdict: Donegal

Next: Winners play Tyrone in the Ulster semi-final on June 26; losers will be in tomorrow's first-round qualifier draw.

Cavan -- J Reilly; J McEnroe, P Carroll, D O'Dowd; N Murray, J McCutcheon, D Reilly; R Cullivan, D Givney; G McKiernan, M Lyng, F Flanagan; N McDermott, E Keating, S Johnston.

Donegal -- P Durcan; K Lacey, N McGee, P McGrath; K Cassidy, A Thompson, M Boyle; R Kavanagh, K Rafferty; M McElhinney, M Hegarty, R Bradley; M McHugh, M Murphy, C McFadden.


Armagh v Down, Casement Park, 3.30, E Hasson (Derry). Verdict: Down


Derry v Armagh, Casement Park, 1.45, J Clarke (Cavan). Verdict: Derry


Limerick v Waterford, Semple Stadium, 1.45, J O'Connell (Cork)

Verdict: Waterford

Irish Independent