SFC previews: Castlebar set for cracker

May 11, 2018

Cillian O'Connor will lead Mayo out again in 2018.
©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan.

The All-Ireland senior football championship really kicks into action this weekend and here we preview the five games taking place across three different provinces.


Saturday, May 12th

Leinster SFC round 1

Wexford v Laois, Innovate Wexford Park, 6.30pm

Laois head for Wexford Park on Saturday to kick off the 2018 Leinster senior football championship and John Surgue's side are hotly fancied to do the business in round one.

Following their promotion from Division 4 (and victory in last month's final against Carlow), the O'Moore men are 1/3 to send the Slayneysiders into the qualifiers this weekend.

Both Robbie Pigott and Colm Murphy will be unavailable to Surgue after heading Stateside for the summer but the Kerry man has recently confirmed that top-scorer Gary Walsh is back in the panel, having been dropped for the Croke Park clash against Carlow.

Wexford only managed one win in Division 3 during the spring against an already promoted Armagh side and will have their work cut out for them when the Division 4 champions come to visit.

Verdict: Laois


Sunday, May 13th

Connacht SFC quarter-final

Mayo v Galway, MacHale Park, 4pm - RTE

This is the one that so many have been looking forward to really kick off the championship and all the right ingredients are there for a cracker in Castlebar on Sunday afternoon.

Galway have arguably been the top football side in the country on form thus far this season and a victory over Stephen Rochford's Mayo here would perhaps cement their number two ranking behind the mighty Dubs, leapfrogging their neighbours.

A win here would also likely see the Tribesmen become favourites to collect Connacht title no 46, which would move them level with Mayo for most provincial crowns out west, so a shortage of incentive will be nowhere to be seen in MacHale Park this weekend.

The hosts are going to be without their injured talisman Lee Keegan and will need others to step up to the plate if they're to avoid a third straight championship defeat against their great rivals.

Verdict: Draw

Leinster SFC round 1

Carlow v Louth, O'Moore Park, 2pm

Carlow's rise since revealing themselves as last summer's surprise package has saw them promoted from Division 4 and many fancy them to inflict an eighth consecutive competitive defeat on Louth in Portlaoise this Sunday.

Turlough O'Brien has lost the services of star midfielder Brendan Murphy for the next couple of months but his charges will no doubt be confident that they can fill the void given some of the results they've already earned this season.

Jim McEneaney and John Bingham will both miss out for Louth on Sunday but they're expected to have sharpshooter Ryan Burns after suffering a knee injury.

The 21-year- old Hunterstown man has the potential to wreak havoc on the Barrowsiders' defence and this one could well come down to a shoot-out between him and opposing marksman Paul Broderick.

Verdict: Draw

Offaly v Wicklow, O'Moore Park, 4pm

The second part of Sunday's double-header in Portlaoise sees Wicklow looking to upset Offaly and gain their first competitive win of 2018 in the process.

John Evans's men struggled throughout the league, with their last outing ending in a 2-15 to 0-10 defeat to Leitrim, and this weekend's assignment sees them looking to upset 7/2 odds against the Faithful County.

Offaly boss Stephen Wallace, who was hit with a two-month ban last month over an incident during a club match in his native Kerry, saw his charges finish out their Division 3 campaign with an impressive three-point win over Westmeath to ensure their status in the third tier for another year.

Nigel Dunne and Peter Cunningham did some severe damage to a weakened Lake County that day and could well end up with a couple more large personal tallies when all's said and done in this one.

Verdict: Offaly

Ulster SFC preliminary round

Donegal v Cavan, Ballybofey, 4pm

The 2018 Ulster senior football championship gets underway this Sunday afternoon when Donegal welcome Mattie McGleenan's Cavan side to Ballybofey.

After a league campaign which ended in relegation, many fancy Declan Bonner's charges to lay down a marker in this preliminary round clash especially with ace attacker Paddy McBrearty back from injury and restored to their attack.

The Breffni men will have other ideas though and after another league final ended in disappointment against Roscommon last month they'll be desperate to take a scalp against one of their province's big guns.

Captain Dara McVeety was perhaps the Blues' most influential player during their successful return to Division 1 and it's unknown at present whether or not he'll start, having torn his hamstring in the defeat to the Rossies at Croke Park. There are also said to be doubts over the fitness of both Martin Reilly and Caoimhin O'Reilly for the trip to MacCumhaill Park.

As for Donegal, they're expected to have a full deck available and, along with home advantage, it's why they get the nod here.

Verdict: Donegal

Be sure to follow the hoganstand.com Live Match Tracker this weekend for all the latest action from the senior football and hurling championships.

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