GAA Football Championship (22nd – 23rd June)

Donegal's Ryan McHugh and Cavan's Cian Mackey will be key figures in this weekend's Ulster Final.

Éanna Atkinson looks forward to this weekend’s GAA Football Championship action

This weekend football takes centre stage.

After a stirring Roscommon comeback helped them recapture the Connacht Title against Galway last Sunday, the other three Provincial Football Finals are on this weekend.

On Saturday evening, Cork host Kerry in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the Munster Football Final and it will be televised live on RTÉ2 (7pm).

On Sunday, Cavan play reigning Ulster Champions Donegal in the Ulster Football Final (2pm). Afterwards, Meath take on their old foes Dublin in Croke Park in the Leinster Football Final (4pm).

If that wasn’t enough, we also have eight intriguing All-Ireland Football Qualifiers to look forward to.

Check Out all of Bar One Racing’s GAA Football Betting here

Ulster Football Championship Final – Cavan v Donegal (Throw-in @ 2pm, live on RTÉ2, on 23/06):

Although Donegal are strong favourties @ 1/3, this is without doubt the most competitive Provincial Final of the weekend.

Cavan have overturned Monaghan and Armagh to reach their first Ulster Final in 18 years. The Breffni men last won the Anglo Celt Cup 22 years ago, back in 1997.

Donegal will be hoping to retain their Ulster crown after they beat Fermanagh in last season’s decider.

Mickey Graham is doing a similar job with Cavan as he did with Longford half-parish Mullinalaghta, when they upset the odds and won the Leinster Club Championship back in early December. Graham comes across as a very infectious character and he really seems to be able to get players playing for him.

Cavan were very impressive last time out in their semi-final replay against Armagh. To kick 23 points in an Ulster Championship match is no mean feat, especially against a decent Armagh side. However, there is no way that Declan Bonner’s men will allow the Cavan forwards the same freedom as the Orchard county did on that particular day.

Dara McVeety was brilliant once again and is really stepping up as the marquee forward that Cavan have been missing for a long time. He has been ably assisted by Gearóid McKiernan and impact sub Cian Mackey in all three of their Ulster Championship games so far.

It has to be said, though, that Donegal are a different animal to anything that Cavan have faced so far. They ambushed a fancied Tyrone side with excellent counter-attacking tactics. They drop plenty of men behind the ball, but it is the speed with which they attack that makes them so dangerous.

Michael Murphy, Paddy McBrearty and Jamie Brennan did serious damage to Tyrone that day and I expect these men to come to the fore again on Sunday.

For me, this is a step too far for Cavan as Donegal should have too much quality. This should be a highly competitive final, but I can see Donegal pulling away in the end as they have more match-winners in their side.

I think Donegal to cover the -2 Handicap @ 8/13 will be a good addition to your accumulators this weekend.

Verdict: Donegal -2 (Handicap Betting) @ 8/13

Munster Football Championship Final – Cork v Kerry (Throw-in @ 7pm, live on RTÉ2, on 22/06):

At the beginning of the Championship I called this pairing for the Munster Final in my Outright Preview.

For many, this is seen as a foregone conclusion. Cork’s league form was very poor and they were relegated to Division 3. On the other hand, Kerry have an excellent young squad and are second-favourites after the Dubs to win the All-Ireland.

However’ the two teams’ semi-final performances have led to the handicap spread being a little closer than it might have been a few months ago.

Cork dispatched Limerick with ease, and although the Treaty are a Division 4 side, they had a brilliant result in the quarter-final, knocking Tipperary out of Munster. The Rebels had that game over as a contest before half-time. Remarkably they hit 3-7 in the first 25 minutes before Limerick could register their first score of the game.

Brian Hurley was in inspired form as he rifled home the first two goals of the match.

Even though Cork have improved since the league, I think Kerry can beat the spread of 6 points and win this one comfortably. For me, Cork’s defence isn’t strong enough to handle likes of David Clifford, Sean O’Shea and Paul Geaney. There will be bigger tests to come for the Kingdom later in the Championship.

Verdict: Kerry -6 (Handicap Betting) @ Evens

Leinster Football Championship Final – Dublin v Meath (Throw-in @ 4pm, live on RTÉ2, on 23/06):

As you would expect, Dublin have been cruising through the Leinster Championship very efficiently, handing out heavy defeats to Louth and Kildare.

As I predicted in my Outright Preview, Meath have made it to the Leinster decider. The Royals have beaten Offaly, Carlow and Laois to set up a meeting with their old rivals. Along with this, Meath also regained their Division 1 status after a positive league campaign, so Andy McEntee will be very satisfied with how their year has gone thus far.

This, however, is going to be a colossal challenge for McEntee’s charges and he will need the likes of Donal Keogan at centre-back, Brian Menton at midfield and the likes of Cillian O’Sullivan and Mickey Newman in the forwards to deliver massive performances if they are to make any impression on this Leinster final.

On Sunday it will be a case of Fenton v Menton as the two Brian’s battle it out in midfield. We all know how dominant Fenton can be in this area of the field, so Meath will be hoping that Brian Menton can continue his good form and give them a foothold in the game. His two goals against Laois came from driving late runs and his second one was spectacular.

The Dubs have not been tested yet in the Championship and Meath will definitely be the best team they have played so far, but it is very hard to see anything but a Dublin win.

In terms of having a punt on this game, the value lies in the handicap market. As good as Dublin are, I think Meath can cause them a few problems. Meath showed in the Division 2 League Final against Donegal that, when they get the ball in early to Newman and co, they can cause the big teams problems.

So, for the above reason I think that Meath with a 13-point head start @ 8/11 offers decent value.

Verdict: Meath +13 (Handicap Betting) @ 8/11

(Saturday 22nd of June – Sunday 23rd of June)

All-Ireland Football Qualifiers:

Antrim v Kildare Verdict: Kildare -5 (Handicap Betting) @ 8/13 (Sat)
Derry v Laois Verdict: Derry @ 4/7 (Sat)
Longford v Tyrone Verdict: Tyrone -8 (Handicap Betting) @ 10/11 (Sat)
Westmeath v Limerick Verdict: Westmeath -5 (Handicap Betting) @ 1/2 (Sat)
Leitrim v Clare Verdict: Leitrim +3 (Handicap Betting) @ Evens (Sat)
Monaghan v Armagh Verdict: Monaghan @ 4/7 (Sat)
Down v Mayo Verdict: Down +8 (Handicap Betting) @ 4/7 (Sat)
Offaly v Sligo Verdict: Offaly -3 (Handicap Betting) @ 5/6 (Sun)


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*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article