The All-Ireland football qualifiers get under way this weekend and there’s a place in the Leinster SHC final up for grabs as well. We go through all you need to know.
SATURDAY 21 JUNE
1500 Limerick v London (football qualifier)
1530 Laois v Fermanagh (football qualifier)
1700 Down v Tyrone (Christy Ring play-off)
1700 Derry v Longford (football qualifier)
1900 Wicklow v Offaly (football qualifier)
1900 Sligo v Galway (Connacht SFC semi-final)
1900 Cork v Tipperary (Munster SFC semi-final)
SUNDAY 22 JUNE
1400 Donegal v Antrim (Ulster SFC semi-final)
1530 Clare v Kerry (Munster SFC semi-final)
1600 Kilkenny v Galway (Leinster SHC semi-final)
Sky Sports: Sligo v Galway (live from 1830)
RTÉ One: Donegal v Antrim, Kilkenny v Galway (The Sunday Game Live from 1340, in Ireland via RTÉ Player and Worldwide from GAAGO)
Radio 1: Sligo v Galway - Saturday Sport from 1445
Radio 1: Donegal v Antrim, Kilkenny v Galway - Sunday Sport from 1400
Newstalk: Laois v Fermanagh - Saturday, 1530; Clare v Kerry - Sunday 1530
Dry conditions are forecast for the weekend, with slightly higher temperatures in Munster and Leinster (16-22C) than Ulster and Connacht (15 to 19C) and a higher chance of cloud and drizzle in the North and West.
ALL-IRELAND SFC QUALIFIERS ROUND 1A
Limerick v London
The home side come in on the back of a six-point loss to Tipperary and, in truth, never really got going, being ten points down on two separate occasions during the tie. Their first-half tally of 0-06 included just one score from play.
That may give Paul Coggins' Exiles some hope but they find themselves in the qualifiers after a 19-point trimming at home to Galway. Given what they achieved last year – a place in the Connacht final – the margin and manner of defeat can be considered a major setback.
London captain Lorcan Mulvey is hoping that their west of Ireland family connections pull a big crowd to the match but home advantage hands the Treaty County another edge in the first ever championship meeting between the sides.
Laois v Fermanagh
The O’Moore County impressed in the Leinster quarter-final, leading at half-time but ultimately succumbing to the might of Dublin.
Previous to that they had seven points to spare over Wicklow in Aughrim and both of those experiences will stand to Tomás O’Flatharta’s side.
Fermanagh fell to a shock loss to Antrim in a thrilling Ulster quarter-final but the draw has not been kind, with manager Pete McGrath justifiably claiming that Laois away is as tough as it could have been. “We must get off to a positive start,” he says.
It’s another first-ever championship meeting and, playing to their potential, Laois should be too strong for their visitors.
Derry v Longford
Derry may have felt they had the measure of Donegal in the Ulster quarter-final and, having led by two at the break, were left to rue a sluggish start to the second half.
Brian McIver was also aggrieved at some of the referee’s decisions during their three-point loss at Celtic Park.
Longford were good value for their first-round win over Offaly at Pearse Park in a low-quality affair but couldn’t match Wexford at the same venue in the quarter-final, eventually going down by two points.
Home comfort may once again be a telling factor in the fourth clash between the sides since the back-door system was introduced in 2001.
Wicklow v Offaly
Wicklow hosted Laois in the quarter-final and held their own for most of the game before the quality of the visitors' Ross Munnelly and Donie Kingston came to the fore and resulted in a seven-point reverse.
Boss Harry Murphy is thankful for the home draw against Offaly, who were beaten by Longford in the first round of Leinster. “There are no guarantees in football but obviously the fact that we have a home draw will give us a slight advantage,” he said.
The Faithful County have a notoriously poor appetite for the qualifiers and the trip to Aughrim is unlikely to have them licking their lips.
They faded badly in the second half in Pearse Park and it will be a surprise if Emmet McDonnell can lift his charges to the required level.
MUNSTER SFC SEMI-FINALS
Cork v Tipperary
Tipperary last beat Cork in 1944 and some bookies are offering 10/1 for them to repeat that 1-09 to 1-03 win. Not many will take that up with Cork having real ambitions of being involved in the All-Ireland series.
Tipperary did impress, however, in seeing off Limerick in the quarter-final but manager Peter Creedon has already admitted that Cork are “10 or 12 points a better team” than the Premier County.
Páirc Uí Chaoimh is the venue on Saturday night and Tipp will do well to get within Creedon’s assessment.
Clare v Kerry
Kerry open their championship campaign against a Clare side who have been in action for the last two weekends. They needed two bites of the cherry against Waterford and, while that momentum may help to some extent, it won't be enough in Cusack Park.
Even without the talents of Johnny Buckley, James O'Donoghue and long-term injury victim Colm Cooper, Eamonn Fitzmaurice will be confident that his men can book a place in the final, most likely against rivals Cork as the Munster seeding system looks set to produce the desired decider.
CONNACHT SFC SEMI-FINAL
Sligo v Galway
Sligo make their seasonal championship bow against Galway knowing they’ve had the better results against their opponents in recent years. From the last five clashes, Sligo have won three and drawn one.
Galway have already tasted action this summer, accounting for London without fuss in Ruislip and, on the back of that, will fancy their chances of progressing to a final against Mayo next month.
However, it hasn’t been plain sailing off the field with Johnny Duane and Eoin Concannon dropped for “internal” reasons.
New Sligo manager Pat Flanagan will be desperate to begin with a victory as he seeks a first Connacht title for the Yeats County since 2007.
ULSTER SFC SEMI-FINAL
Donegal v Antrim
Donegal saw off Derry in a hard-fought quarter-final and may have been expecting to face Fermanagh at this stage. Antrim, who finished sixth in Division 4 of the league, had other ideas and pulled off a deserved two-point win in Enniskillen.
However, there is daunting news for the Saffrons in that Donegal have a fully-fit squad to select from, while Rory Kavanagh and Neil Gallagher return from suspension.
Jim McGuinness admits he’ll have a selection headache for the Clones showdown. “Some of the lads have been moving really well since the Derry match and pushing hard so we'll sit down and have a think about it,” he said.
His counterpart Liam Bradley, who will be without injured forward Michael Armstrong, is insisting they’ll keep playing open football but Donegal have the manpower to punish anything too naive on that front.
LEINSTER SHC SEMI-FINAL
Kilkenny v Galway
Galway and Kilkenny meet for the third time this season, with the Cats having won both league encounters.
It’s their first championship clash since the All-Ireland final and replay in 2012 and, amazingly, in the 210 minutes of those games and that year’s Leinster final there was only one point between the sides, 67 to 66 in Kilkenny’s favour.
While Kilkenny have never really prioritised the Bob O’Keeffe Cup in the last decade, it’s three years since they held it aloft and they’ll want to re-establish what they would consider to be the natural pecking order in Leinster hurling, after two years of interruptions from Galway and Dublin.
More importantly, victory in Leinster offers the best route to All-Ireland success and that’s the main incentive for both on Sunday.
The run-ins to this game have been polar opposites. Kilkenny slaughtered Offaly, never being required to get out of second gear, while Galway were severely tested by Laois, eventually winning by two points.
Galway will need to lift their game but they have the ability to do so. On the back of the narrow league losses, manager Anthony Cunningham said: “All I can say is that we are confident and ready for battle, and we are going to Tullamore to win that game.”