Monday 18 December 2017

GAA previews

Martin Breheny and Donnchadh Boyle

Munster SFc quarter-final


Limerick v Tipperary, Gaelic Grounds (7.0), A Nolan (Wicklow)

When Tipperary beat Waterford in Walsh Park on May 25, 2003 they would never have expected that more than 11 years later, they would still be looking for their next Munster championship win. They have lost first time out to Kerry (six times), Limerick (three) and Cork (one) over the past decade.

They could live with the Cork and Kerry defeats, but would have expected to beat Limerick on occasion.

They start as favourites this evening on the basis of their impressive Division 4 campaign, which took them to the title (and promotion) with six wins, a draw and one defeat from eight games.

Limerick won three of seven games in Division 3. It can't be overlooked that they were operating at a higher level than Tipperary, and with home advantage, they might well extend their neighbours' disappointing run in Munster.

Last c'ship clash: Limerick 1-11 Tipperary 1-9 (2009 Munster quarter-final)

It's a fact: Tipperary lead 19-9 with three draws from the previous 31 championship meetings between the counties.

Odds: Tipperary 4/5, Limerick 11/8, Draw 15/2.

Verdict: Limerick

Limerick – D O'Sullivan; C Moran, J McCarthy, S O'Dea; I Corbett, S Lucey, P Brown; T Lee, D Tracey; M Brosnan, C Sheahan, S Buckley; E Hanrahan, G Collins, I Ryan.

Tipperary – P Fitzgerald; G Mulhair, P Codd, C McDonald; C O'Riordan, R Kiely, P Acheson; S O'Brien, G Hannigan; P Austin, I Fahey, B Fox; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, B Grogan.


(Extra-time if necessary)

Mayo v Kerry, MacHale Park, 1.0,

J O'Brien (Galway)

Competition favourites Kerry lost the toss for home advantage, but they have been on an upward graph this season and they can advance to the final.

Verdict: Kerry

Meath v Kildare, Trim, 2.30, J Keane (Galway)

Two sides who crashed out at this stage last year, but Meath have put off-field issues aside and Stephen Clynch can fire them to a final.

Verdict: Meath


(Extra-time if necessary)

Down v Armagh, Newry, 2.30,

G McGrath (Dublin)

Last year's Christy Ring champions Down have fallen dramatically but can recover to beat an Armagh side who have struggled for traction all year.

Verdict: Down


Limerick v Tipperary, Gaelic Grounds, 5.0

Verdict: Tipperary


Donegal v Derry, Letterkenny, 3.0,

Verdict: Derry


Munster SH semi-final

Limerick v Tipperary, Semple Stadium, 4.0, B Kelly (Westmeath). *Live RTE 2

Tipperary go into this game as Division 1 runners-up after losing a high-quality game with Kilkenny; Limerick head into the championship having failed to escape from Division 1B, before losing heavily to Galway in the quarter-finals.

The combination of circumstances points to a Tipp win, but that's before last year's experiences are fed into the mix. Then, as now, Tipp were league runners-up and Limerick were regretting their failure to get out of 1B, but nether counted for anything once the Munster championship scent descended on the Gaelic Grounds.

Limerick wiped out Tipp's four-point 50th-minute lead to win by three, atoning for the misery experienced in Thurles a year earlier when they surrendered a seven-point lead to lose by four.

All of which suggests that whether it's in Semple Stadium or the Gaelic Grounds, or irrespective of how the teams have been playing over previous months, Tipp and Limerick spark of each other with enough intensity to generate lots on electricity on championship days.

Limerick manager TJ Ryan has been reflecting on how it seems to be forgotten that they are the reigning Munster champions. There's also the motivation derived from the departure of Donal O'Grady and the assumption that it has damaged Limerick's prospects.

Tipp have their own driving forces, led by the feeling that they let themselves down badly last year. That, plus their greater panel depth, should be enough to guide them into the Munster final.

Last c'ship clash: Limerick 1-18 Tipperary 1-15 (2014 Munster semi-final)

It's a fact: Limerick have won only five (they also drew five) of 23 Munster championship games in the new millennium. Tipperary have won 21, drawn three and lost nine in the same period.

Odds: Tipperary 2/7, Limerick 3/1, Draw 14/1.

Verdict: Tipperary

Limerick – N Quaid; S Hickey, R McCarthy, T Condon; P O'Brien, W McNamara, G O'Mahoney; J Ryan, P Brown; S Dowling, D O'Grady, D Hannon; G Mulcahy, K Downes, S Tobin.

Leinster SH quarter-finals

Antrim v Wexford, Portlaoise, 2.0,

A Kelly (Galway)

The word coming from various opponents who played Wexford in challenge games since the end of the league is one of high regard for the efficiency of Liam Dunne's men, but the Model manager is wise enough to know that pre-championship talk-ups don't always materialise into anything tangible.

Besides, Antrim ran Wexford to a point in their opening Division 1B game in February. Also, Antrim beat Offaly in a 1B relegation play-off. All of which suggests that Wexford can expect a feisty resistance before asserting themselves strongly enough to book a semi-final clash with Dublin.

Last c'ship clash: Wexford 3-18 Antrim 0-17 (2013 All-Ireland qualifiers)

It's a fact: Antrim are seeking their first championship win over Wexford, having lost the previous four ties in 1954, 2003, 2011 and 2013.

Odds: Wexford 1/10, Antrim 15/2, Draw 16/1.

Verdict: Wexford

Wexford – M Fanning; L Ryan, M O'Hanlon, K Rossiter; L Chin, A Shore, C Kenny; D O'Keeffe, H Kehoe; P Morris, P Doran, J Guiney; R Jacob, C McDonald, L Og McGovern.

ANTRIM – C O'Connell; O McFadden, C McKinley, M Bradley; A Graffin, N McAuley, N McManus; E Campbell, C Johnson; C McCann, C Carson, C Clarke; C Johnson, P Shiels, PJ O'Connell.

Laois v Galway, Portlaoise, 4.0

C McAllister (Cork)

A clever tactical set-up by Séamus Plunkett presented Galway with a very difficult challenge in O'Moore Park last year.

Indeed, it was only in the final 10 minutes that Galway pulled clear, having betrayed an underlying malaise which undermined them against Dublin and Clare.

That's why they will be looking to see off Laois quite comfortably and builds confidence for the much bigger tests ahead.

Last c'ship clash: Galway 2-17 Laois 1-13 (2014 Leinster quarter-final)

It's a fact: This is Galway's sixth season in the Leinster championship. Their record reads: Played 13, Won 8, Drew 1, Lost 4.

Odds: Galway 1/20, Laois 9/1, Draw 14/1.

Verdict: Galway

GALWAY – C Callanan; F Moore, R Burke, D Collins; A Harte, I Tannian, Daithi Burke; J Coen, P Brehony; N Burke, C Cooney, David Burke; C Mannion, J Glynn, J Canning.

Ulster SFc quarter-final

Fermanagh v Antrim, Brewster Park, 3.30, C Branagan (Down)

Antrim were one of the big flops in the league, finishing sixth in Division 4 after starting the campaign as promotion favourites. Fermanagh did much better in Division 3, where they finished third behind Cavan and Roscommon, who won 13 of 14 games between them.

League form can't always be taken as ultra-reliable in the championship, but Antrim were so sluggish in most of the spring campaign that it's difficult to see how they can make up enough ground to beat Fermanagh on home soil.

Donegal await tomorrow's winners in the Ulster semi-final and Jim McGuiness can start planning for a tactical head-to-head with Pete McGrath, a double All-Ireland winning manager with Down in 1991 and 1994.

Last c'ship clash: Fermanagh 1-9 Antrim 0-9 (2006 Ulster quarter-final)

It's a fact: They have met only seven times in championship history, with Fermanagh leading 4-3.

Odds: Fermanagh 4/9, Antrim 5/2, Draw 15/2.

Verdict: Fermanagh

FERMANAGH – C Snow; J Woods, S Cullen, L Cullen; T McElroy, R McCluskey, D McCusker; O Donnelly, R O'Callaghan; E Maguire, R Jones, P McCusker; S Quigley, B Owen, T Corrigan.

Antrim – P Flood; K O'Boyle, R Johnston, N Delargy; M Johnston, J Crozier, J Laverty; M McCann, N McKeever; C Murray, M Sweeney, P McCann; B Neeson, K Niblock, T McCann.

Ulster MFC quarter-final

Fermanagh v Antrim, Enniskillen, 1.45,

N McKenna (Monaghan)

Antrim won the minor league clash between the sides in March and can repeat the trick here.

Verdict: Antrim


(Extra-time if necessary)

Tipperary v Limerick, Semple Stadium, 2.0

Verdict: Tipperary

Irish Independent

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