SFC previews: Dubs enter the fray

May 25, 2018

The Dublin players stand for the national anthem before their Leinster SFC quarter-final victory over Carlow at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise in 2017.
©INPHO/James Crombie.

There are eight games down for decision across all four provinces in the All-Ireland senior football championship this weekend. Here are our previews:

 

Saturday, May 26th

Munster SFC semi-final

Cork v Tipperary, Semple Stadium, 7pm

This is set to be the third meeting in as many summers between these two and Cork have revealed a strong starting hand for their clash with Tipperary in Thurles.

However, the Rebels are set to be without injured trio Brian O'Driscoll, Killian O'Hanlon and Sean Powter while for Tipp they have question marks over the fitness of ace attacker Conor Sweeney.

The Ballyporeen man's hamstring injury saw him miss out on his county's comfortable win over Waterford last weekend and he is now racing against time to be fit for the Leesiders' visit to Semple Stadium.

Back in late January, goals made all the difference between these two in the opening round of the National League with Liam McGrath and Michael Quinlivan combining for 3-7 over the 70 minutes at Pairc Ui Rinn.

If Sweeney is unavailable come Saturday evening, you get the feeling that those two could well make the difference again if the Premier men are to put Cork into the qualifiers and set-up a final date against either Kerry or Clare.

Verdict: Tipperary

Ulster SFC quarter-final

Down v Antrim, Pairc Esler, 7pm - BBC iPlayer

Antrim head for Newry looking for their first championship win over Down in 18 long years and they're 9/2 underdogs to do so.

St Gall's midfielder Sean Burke looks set to be out for this one with a groin injury while his fellow clubman and ace attacker CJ McGourty hasn't trained with the squad since their league campaign concluded at the end of March.

As for Down, Darragh O'Hanlon (back) is thought to be the only genuine injury concern for manager Eamonn Burns as his side look to bounce back from relegation to Division 3 with another deep run in the Ulster championship.

The Mourne men will be looking to inside forwards Connaire Harrison, Ryan Johnston and Donal O'Hare to shoot down the Saffrons and, with the right supply into them, the hosts should have enough to advance in this derby.

The winners will face either Derry or Donegal in the semi-finals on June 10th.

Verdict: Down

Connacht SFC semi-final

Roscommon v Leitrim, Pairc Sean MacDiarmada, 5.30pm

Kevin McStay's Roscommon enter the championship race on Saturday evening when they head for Carrick-on-Shannon for the opening round of their Connacht title defence.

McStay has showen a strong hand for the provincial last four meeting with Leitrim, bringing in Colm Lavin, Niall McInerney, John McManus, Enda Smith and Fintan Cregg from his team's Division 2 final victory over Cavan last month.

When Roscommon crossed swords with Leitrim last year they had 17 points to spare before going on to upset Galway in the western province's decider.

Indeed the Rossies have beaten this opposition by an average of over 12 points in their last four championship meetings, so it's not hard to see why they're 1/33 favourites here.

Leitrim required extra time to get out of jail in the Bronx against New York on opening weekend and it's hard to see how they can pull off an upset in this one.

Verdict: Roscommon

Leinster SFC quarter-final

Laois v Westmeath, O'Connor Park, 5pm

This will be the first championship meeting between these two since 2004 when Westmeath edged a replay to claim the Delaney Cup for the first time.

The winners of this one are set to face Carlow or Kildare in the Leinster SFC semi-final on June 10th and Laois are the slight favourites at 4/5 to book that date at Croke Park.

Westmeath have endured the loss of several key players in recent weeks and experienced forward Kieran Martin admitted in recent days that "preparations have not been ideal to say the least".

John Heslin could also be missing for manager Colin Kelly, with speculation increasing that the Lake County captain may not be fully recovered from a troublesome hip flexor injury in time for the Tullamore clash.

Laois, on the other hand, are practically at full strength with Paul Kingston, Finbarr Crowley and Benny Carroll coming into their starting 15 from the extra time win over Wexford.

Verdict: Laois

 

Sunday, May 27th

Leinster SFC quarter-finals

Carlow v Kildare, O'Connor Park, 2pm

These two neighbours haven't crossed paths in the championship since 2001 (Kildare won that one by five points) and they've only met twice in the last 50 years in the Delaney Cup race.

Kildare were relegated from Division 1 in the spring after a couple close encounters with some of the country's elite sides and Sunday's clash in Tullamore will see them looking for their first competitive win since defeating Meath by nine points in a Leinster SFC semi-final last June.

The Lilywhites are 1/12 to score that long-awaited win and manager Cian O'Neill has said in the build-up to this one that his charges won't be taking Turlough O'Brien's Carlow side anyway lightly.

The Barrowsiders were one of the surprise packages last summer before achieving promotion from Division 4 this past spring and starting their Leinster SFC campaign with an 11-point win over 14-man Louth.

"We know ourselves from the last two years how a promotion can lift you and lift the mood in the squad. Obviously we had a slightly different trajectory this year but we are still in a good place mentally," O'Neill stated in the build-up to this Sunday's game at O'Connor Park.

Verdict: Kildare

Longford v Meath, Pearse Park, 3pm

This looks a close one to call going on form thus far this season and when the two met at the start of the year in the O'Byrne Cup it took 80 minutes and a shoot-out to decide a winner.

Meath's sharpshooting helped them emerge victorious on that occasion but they're facing a much stiffer task in heading to Pearse Park on Sunday afternoon for a first championship clash with Longford in 23 years.

The Midlanders missed out on promotion from Division 3 by a single point loss to Fermanagh in the final round while their opponents on Sunday needed a win over Louth to ensure their Division 2 status.

Royals boss Andy McEntee has had a few players depart his squad since then but, nonetheless, they are still 4/9 for this provincial quarter-final.

It'll be the likes of Cillian O'Sullivan and Donal Lenihan that will be looked to by the favourites to get them rolling in this one and they'll need to do so from the start as the hosts looks set to provide them with a difficult opening test.

Verdict: Meath

Wicklow v Dublin, O'Moore Park, 4pm

Dublin get set to open their championship defence in Portlaoise once more this Sunday against a Wicklow side which upset Offaly in their round one clash two weeks back.

In the 30 meetings between these two sides in both league and championship, Dublin have won on all occasions and Sunday marks the first championship encounter since 1990 when the Dubs won out by 2-14 to 0-12 in a Leinster semi-final.

This time round the All-Ireland champions are heading for O'Moore Park as whopping 1/500 favourites against their neighbours whom have been under the rule of Kerry native John Evans this season.

Much of the discussion in the build-up has been over the GAA's choice of venue for this one, with Wicklow left infuriated that Aughrim was passed up after earning home advantage by virtue of their opening round win over Offaly.

Nonetheless, they'll head for Portlaoise looking to battle a capital juggernaut with a championship record that reads: played 31; Won 28, Drew 2 and Lost 1 since Jim Gavin took charge in October 2012.

Verdict: Dublin

Ulster SFC quarter-final

Derry v Donegal, Celtic Park, 4pm

All roads lead to Celtic Park up north on Sunday as Derry look to bounce back from their shock relegation to Division 4 by upsetting Declan Bonner's Donegal side on home soil.

It's the first championship encounter between these two in three years, when Donegal edged an Ulster semi-final by 1-9 to 0-10, and the bookmakers are not expecting as close an affair this time round.

After an impressive showing against Cavan in Ballybofey, the Tir Chonaill men are heading for Derry as 1/6 favourites to book their place in another Ulster semi final and the rich form of talisman Michael Murphy lately gives them a considerable edge.

Derry have got their Slaughtneil players fully back since their disappointing league campaign concluded, but it may not be enough to stop the likes of Murphy, Jamie Brennan and Paddy McBrearty doing the irreversible damage this weekend.

The winners will play either Down or Antrim in the northern province's last four on June 10th.

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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