We have another weekend that is packed with Championship action.
The Provincial Football and Hurling Championships continue as normal, but we also have the welcome addition of eight football qualifiers to get our teeth into.
There are two football double-headers that should attract huge interest on Sunday.
The Leinster Championship Semi-Finals – Meath v Laois, 2pm, and Dublin v Kildare, 4pm – are in Croke Park and the Monaghan v Fermanagh All-Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifier (1:45pm) and the Ulster Championship semi-final replay between Cavan and Armagh (4pm) take place in St. Tiernach’s Park, Clones.
You’d be hopeful of good attendances for both of these double-headers, given the fact that none of the games are being televised live.
The previews below feature two games that will be televised live on RTÉ2. On Saturday evening Donegal and Tyrone travel to Breffni Park in Cavan for the other Ulster semi-final, whilst in hurling, Galway travel to Nowlan Park to take on table-toppers Kilkenny.
Ulster Football Championship Semi-Final – Donegal v Tyrone (Throw-in @ 5pm, live on RTÉ2, on 08/06):
You could argue that this is the first meeting of two of the elite counties in this season’s football Championship.
These were the two favourites to win Ulster and, with Monaghan crashing out in the 1st round against Cavan, you would expect the winner of this game to go on and claim the Anglo Celt Cup. As such, this is a massive game.
Both of these counties have been playing a more-attractive brand of football so far this year, so it has the potential to be a great game. However, the danger is, given what is at stake, that these two teams may revert to more defensive and cautious tactics. Fingers crossed, the latter won’t be the case.
As I have mentioned before, Cathal McShane continues to be a revelation at full forward. Although Tyrone were only up against Division 4 opposition in Antrim last time out, some of the movement and kick-passing into the forward line was exquisite.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) May 25, 2019
Mickey Harte had the luxury of taking off three of his star men just after half-time – McShane, Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly – as they were winning the game at a canter at that stage.
That trio had already combined for 10 points between them before they were called ashore, and Donegal will need to keep close tabs on all three if they are to book their place in the Ulster Final.
To be fair, Donegal have some serious footballers of their own. Michael Murphy is one of the best footballers in the country and they have also welcomed back sharp-shooter Paddy McBrearty from last year’s season-ending cruciate injury in the last few weeks.
McBrearty hit the ground running with 5 points against Fermanagh in the last round. Jamie Brennan is another Donegal forward that can cause Tyrone’s defence a few problems. He hit 4 points from play in a vibrant display against the Ernesiders.
Tyrone have won the last three Championship meetings between the teams, Donegal won the previous four. This could well be a tit-for-tat game that goes right down to the wire, but I think Tyrone can get the job done and make it four Championship wins in a row against their rivals.
Verdict: Tyrone @ 4/7
Leinster Hurling Championship – Kilkenny v Galway (Throw-in @ 2pm, live on RTÉ2, on 09/06):
This is a big game in this round-robin Leinster Championship. Kilkenny have won their first two games against Dublin and Carlow, so a win on Sunday will almost certainly secure a Leinster final spot for the Cats going into the last game with Wexford.
For the Tribesmen a win against Carlow on the opening day and a draw last time out against Wexford means that, if they don’t win on Sunday, they will have to get a result against Dublin in their final game.
Brian Cody’s charges have been tipping along nicely without any real fuss. They have also been doing so with a depleted squad because of injuries. Reports suggest that several of their players are back in full training including Cillian Buckley, Conor Delaney, and Richie Hogan. This should give them a real boost on Sunday and enhance their chances for the remainder of the Championship.
Micheál Donoghue’s Galway have been a lot less convincing so far in the Championship. As I have mentioned before, they are really missing their talisman Joe Canning. They were poor in their last game against Wexford, and were very fortunate to get a draw out of that game. Colm Callinan saved from a gilt-edged Cathal Dunbar chance in the dying minutes to earn Galway what could prove to be an important point.
Cathal Dunbar misses a fantastic to chance to win it for Wexford.
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) May 26, 2019
Their over-reliance on Canning was quite evident that day, from open play and from placed balls. Niall Burke struggled with the frees against Wexford, and with Kilkenny’s T.J Reid so reliable from dead ball situations, Galway can’t afford to be missing too many. I would expect Conor Cooney to take responsibility for the frees on Sunday as he is a prolific free-taker for his club St. Thomas’.
I think Kilkenny can make it three wins from three on Sunday as they are the team playing with more cohesion at the moment. The aforementioned T.J Reid can be the difference between the sides as he has been consistently putting up big scores in the last number of years. He has also shown that he has a brilliant eye for goal. His goal against Dublin was exceptional and swung that game in Kilkenny’s favour.
Verdict: Kilkenny @ 4/6
(Saturday 8th of June – Sunday 9th of June)
Ulster Football Championship:
Armagh v Cavan Verdict: Armagh +1 (Handicap Betting) @ Evens (Sun)
Leinster Football Championship:
All-Ireland Football Qualifiers:
Offaly v London Verdict: Offaly -5 (Handicap Betting) @ 4/6 (Sat)
Leitrim v Wicklow Verdict: Leitrim @ 1/2 (Sat)
Wexford v Derry Verdict: Derry @ 1/3 (Sat)
Louth v Antrim Verdict: Louth @ 4/9 (Sat)
Monaghan v Fermanagh Verdict: Monaghan -2 (Handicap Betting) @ 1/2 (Sun)
Down v Tipperary Verdict: Down -1 (Handicap Betting) @ Evens (Sun)
Westmeath v Waterford Verdict: Westmeath -7 (Handicap Betting) @ Evens (Sun)
Carlow v Longford Verdict: Longford @ 4/7 (Sun)
Munster Hurling Championship:
Leinster Hurling Championship:
Wexford v Carlow Verdict: Wexford -12 (Handicap Betting @ 10/11 (Sat)
Joe McDonagh Cup: