Tuesday 20 February 2018

Weekend GAA verdicts: Who will emerge victorious?

Sean Cavanagh
Sean Cavanagh
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

There are some very trappy encounters in the championship this weekend. Let's try and determine who will be the winners and losers.

- Westmeath v Louth, Leinster SFC, Cusack Park, Westmeath, Saturday @7pm

The worst team from Division One takes on the worst team from Division Two in the opening bout of the Leinster football championship.

Louth boast some of the most potent forwards in the province with the likes of Brian White and Shane Lennon in their ranks but many have been unconvinced by the defensive setup they have adopted under Aidan O'Rourke.

Keep an eye out for teenager Ryan Burns who should make an appearance from the bench for the Wee County.

Westmeath were hopelessly out of their depth in Division One.

John Heslin's return is a massive boost for Paul Bealin's side and Dessie Dolan, beginning his 15th inter-county campaign, will be pivotal.

Louth beat Westmeath in the O'Byrne Cup earlier this year but it's difficult to predict who will be victorious on Sunday.

Home advantage could sway it.

Verdict: Westmeath

Best Bet: Under 34.5 points scored @ 5/6 (Both sides have been scoring very poorly this year)

Dolan in action against Carlow

- Wicklow v Laois, Leinster SFC, Aughrim, Sunday @3.30pm

Even the All Blacks would find it hard to win in Aughrim!

It's a statement that has been drummed into teams. It's a difficult place to go and Laois know it.

Aughrim is a place that dredges up very negative memories for the people of Laois following the infamous Battle of Aughrim in 1986 when the then league champions were humbled in an ill-temper encounter that saw four red cards.

Can the Garden men replicate this on Sunday? They can.

Wicklow came within a whisker of promotion to Division Three this year having been without the influential Leighton Glynn though injury for quite some while.

Harry Murphy's side have attitude and at Aughrim will not fear anyone.

Last year, a very fortuitous Kevin Reilly goal following a Paddy O'Rourke penalty save rescued the Royals in Aughrim in the qualifiers.

Laois introduce three championship debutants for the game in the shape of Graham Brody, James Finn and Robbie Kehoe and they will have to hit the ground quickly.

Verdict: Meath

Best Bet: Seanie Furlong to be first goalscorer @ 13/2 (A clinical finisher)

Wicklow's Leighton Glynn: 'Harsh' red card

- Offaly v Longford, Leinster SFC, Pearse Park, Sunday @ 3.30pm

Despite positive early reports from the Offaly camp they endured a torrid league campaign securing just one point as they propped up the Division Three standings.

Longford were five points better then the Faithful men in their league meeting and there is little to suggest a turnaround in fortunes here.

Emmet McDonnell desperately needs to unearth some forward talent to lessen the burden on Niall McNamee.

The last time Offaly met Longford in Leinster they won by 19 points on their way to a provincial title... don't expect a repeat.

It would be Longford's first championship win over Offaly since 1965 but they have been making a lot more headway than their opposition in underage football in recent years and should have too much for them.

Jack Sheedy's side were relegated alongside Offaly but can get their season back on track in front of their own fans.

Verdict: Longford

Best Bet: Longford (-3) @ 11/10 (Should be able to emulate their winning margin in the league

Offaly's Niall McNamee shows his disappointment after last year's defeat to Kildare. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

- Roscommon v Leitrim, Connacht SFC, Dr Hyde Park, Sunday @ 3pm

Roscommon will ply their trade in Division Two next year and are the reigning Division Three champs after a fine win over a fancied Cavan team.

The added boost of having their under-21s contest an All-Ireland final means that for the first time in a number of years Mayo might have some credible competition in Connacht.

Their inside forward line of Kilbride, Cregg and young Ciaran Murtagh should prove too much for Leitrim to handle.

Leitrim did win another FBD Connacht League this year beating Roscommon in the decider but this should be a different kettle of fish.

Verdict: Roscommon

Best Bet: Roscomon winning margin of 7-9 @ 7/2

Donie Shine of Roscommon

- Tyrone v Down, Ulster SFC, Omagh, Sunday @ 4pm (Live on RTE)

Undoubtedly the fixture of the weekend with the white heat of the Ulster Championship getting underway in Omagh.

Mickey Harte has revamped Tyrone and just seven starters from their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo start this weekend.

The 2008 All-Ireland minor hero Kyle Coney will start his first ever championship match and his scintillating form towards the end of the league suggests he could be in line for a very big championship campaign.

Mattie Donnelly looks at home at centre-back while Darren McCurry is now one of the best left-footers in the game.

Can Down spoil the party in Omagh? They have been on the slide since their All-Ireland final appearance in 2010 and there is little to suggest that the slide will be halted.

James McCartan has lost too many key men and another factor is their form away from home which is very poor.

In Mark Poland Down have one of the cleverest players in the game but they need some more substance to feed off his guile.

Verdict: Tyrone

Best Bet: Mattie Donnelly to be named man of the match @12/1

Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly in action against Mayo's Kevin Keane

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