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At a glance: The championship weekend

Updated: Saturday, 12 Jul 2014 10:19 | Comments

Galway face Mayo in the Connacht decider For the second year running, Cork and Limerick will meet in the Munster hurling final
Galway face Mayo in the Connacht decider For the second year running, Cork and Limerick will meet in the Munster hurling final

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Provincial titles are up for grabs in Munster and Connacht as well as games in the hurling and football qualifiers.

SATURDAY 12 JULY
1600
Sligo v Limerick (football qualifier) 
1645 Laois v Tipperary (football qualifier
1700 Wexford v Clare (hurling qualifier)
1800 Cavan v Roscommon (football qualifier)
1900 Tipperary v Offaly (hurling qualifier)

SUNDAY 13 JULY
1400
Mayo v Galway (Connacht SFC final)
1400 Carlow v Clare (football qualifier)
1400 Down v Kildare (football qualifier)
1500 Tyrone v Armagh (football qualifier)
1530 Derry v Antrim (Ulster SHC final)
1600 Cork v Limerick (Munster SHC final)

ON TV

SATURDAY
RTÉ Two:
Wexford v Clare (live from 1640)
Sky Sports 3: Tipperary v Offaly (live from 1830)

SUNDAY
RTÉ Two:
Mayo v Galway and Cork v Limerick live from 1315 via RTÉ Player and worldwide from GAAGO

ON RADIO

Radio 1: Sligo v Limerick, Laois v Tipperary and Tipperary v Offaly on Saturday Sport from 1445. Cork v Limerick from 1600 on Sunday Sport.
Newstalk: Wexford v Clare and Cavan v Roscommon from 1700 on Saturday; Mayo v Galway from 1400 on Sunday.

WEATHER
Some rain is likely on Saturday for a few hours. Quite mild and humid with temperatures of 17 to 22 degrees. A little fresher on Sunday with a few scattered showers. Highest temperatures 16 to 19 degrees.

By James McMahon

THE FIXTURES

ALL-IRELAND FOOTBALL QUALIFIERS ROUND 3A

Sligo v Limerick, Markievicz Park
Sligo are seeking back-to-back wins in the qualifiers for the first time since 2006. Last weekend's victory over Wicklow, while not a thing of beauty, saw the Yeats County find that extra resolve when it was needed most to carve out a 0-12 to 0-10 success.

Sub Stephen Coen and Brian Curran delivered the vital scores and Pat Flanagan's are sure to be buoyed up for the visit of Limerick.

John Brudair's men have had home wins over London and Antrim since their disappointing effort against Tipperary in the provincial series. Against the Saffrons, John Galvin's inspirational play from midfield and a brace of penalty goals from Ger Collins proved to the difference.

Sligo had a two-point victory when the sides met in the league back in February. Expect Saturday's encounter to be just as tight.

Verdict: Sligo

Laois v Tipperary, O'Moore Park
This has the makings of a really competitive affair. Many were surprised at how easy Tipperary had it when dismissing Longford. That said, Peter Creedon's side were most impressive, with Peter Acheson at number 11 really standing out.

Laois once again emerged from a tight contest following their 0-18 to 0-17 victory over Wexford last Sunday. They still, however, have to rediscover the form that Dublin worried for about 50 minutes in the Leinster quarter-final. If they do, then they are more than capable of further progress.

However, Tipp will feel that they are capable of a notable success away from home and so confirm the view that they are a coming side.

Verdict: Tipperary

ALL-IRELAND FOOTBALL QUALIFIERS ROUND 2B

Cavan v Roscommon, Kingspan Breffni Park
This game will be the third meeting of Cavan and Roscommon in 2014. The score so far is tied at 1-1 - the Rossies drawing level with their win in the Division 3 final on 26 April.

Since then, John Evans' side ran Mayo close in the Connacht semi-final. Cavan, for their part, were well below-par in losing to Armagh in Ulster and just about did enough to edge out Westmeath in their first stop off on the qualifier route.

The Breffni County's defensive tactics have their critics, though Roscommon employed something similar against Mayo the last day. Are we set for a dour contest on Saturday? Hopefully not!

Both sides posses a decent attacking threat in the guise of Martin Dunne, Eugene Keating, Cian Mackey, Senan Kilbride, Cathal Cregg and Donie Shine. You can add to that list Diarmuid Murtagh, a player who really caught the eye when introduced late on for the Rossies the last day.

How the respective managers use their bench could determine the outcome of what will be a tight game.

Verdict: Roscommon

Carlow v Clare, Dr Cullen Park

The win over Waterford saw Carlow restore much pride after their mauling by Meath. For that, they got a home draw against a side who also operated out of Division 4 during this spring.

However, the Banner plotted a successful escape from the bottom tier and then were competitive for a lot of their Munster semi-final tie with Kerry. That would indicate they are well up to negotiating the hurdle presented on Barrowside.

Verdict: Clare

Down v Kildare, Páirc Esler
This match will evoke memories of the classic 2010 All-Ireland semi-final. Down prevailed by two points that day, repelling a late Lilywhite surge in the process.

That was as good as it got for both counties in this current era. James McCartan is still the man at the helm of the Mourne County. His side came within seconds of beating Tyrone in their Ulster opener. A Seán Cavanagh pointed free saved the Red Hand's bacon. The concession of goals at crucial stages in the replay would cost them dearly.

A facile victory over Leitrim helped them jump the first hurdle on the back door route. Though, it would be foolhardy to read too much into that result as the Connacht men were well off the pace.

For Kildare, the nature of their defeat to Meath the last day was worrying. Okay, they did put on a bit of spurt near the end, but the Royals had dropped down a few gears by that point.

Defensively, Jason Ryan's side were all too often ran ragged and it took a while for Tommy Moolick and Padraig O’Neill to raise their game at midfield.

Down, you sense, probably feel a bit more content with their lot at present. And with home advantage, that could ensure another day out for them in this campaign.

Verdict: Down

Tyrone v Armagh, Healy Park 
These counties served up some spicy battles during the 2000s - most notably in their Ulster final drawn and replay encounter in 2005 - and the subsequent All-Ireland semi-final.

Armagh may subsequently have lost their place at footballing's top table since then - but getting one over their neighbours will be foremost in this latest coming together in the last chance saloon.

Paul Grimley's outfit travel to Omagh on the back of their Ulster semi-final replay loss to Monaghan. They can have no complaints about the outcome and will need to rediscover the resolve that earned then the replay against the Farney. Kevin Dyas was central to that retrieval mission and he has to step up to the plate again.

Tyrone are past masters at n egotiating the back-door trek, however bumpy. They will have learned nothing after the dismissal of Louth a fortnight ago. However, they should have enough to ensure they're a step closer to a Croke Park return after the 70 minutes.

ALL-IRELAND QUALIFIERS ROUND 1 REPLAY 

Wexford v Clare, Wexford Park 

After having got out of jail to force extra-time last Saturday, you would have expected Clare to kick on in those added 20 minutes and seal a place in Round 2 of the qualifiers. The expected surge did not materialise and Wexford remained competitive. At the end, a draw was a fair outcome.

Looking at the bigger picture, Liam Dunne’s side created enough goal chances to win comfortably in regulation time. Firing over a succession of wides early in the second half also didn’t help their cause. And there was the advantage of having an extra man for 35 minutes.

Wexford have improved since last year and another Leinster success at U-21 level is a sign that they are on the way back. Senior players Jack Guiney and Conor McDonald figured prominently at Parnell Park on Wednesday last.

Clare appear to have regressed since their capture of Liam MacCarthy. Their first touch is off and the form of their inspirational captain Pat Donnellan has dipped alarmingly. There is the view that the drawn game will bring them on. Any vote for them to get over the Slaneysiders this weekend is a tentative one.

Verdict: Clare

ALL-IRELAND QUALIFIERS ROUND 2
Tipperary v Offaly

It’s four years since these counties last met in the championship. Again, it was a qualifier clash, with the Premier prevailing by six points in Portlaoise. By the end of that campaign, Tipperary were All-Ireland champions.

After last week’s win over Galway, Tipp have put themselves back in frame as a genuine contender for September honours. In a sensational final 20 minutes, they blew the Tribesmen away on a 2-10 to 0-01 scoreline. Seamus Callanan bagged a total of 3-08.

Offaly’s showed great resolve to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Antrim in the last round – a reminder of what those great Offaly teams of the 1980s and 90s did more often than not.

Manager Brian Whelahan will be looking for a similar never say die attitude on Saturday and so help to further banish the memory of that trimming by Kilkenny on 7 June.

Tipperary, after getting their season back on track, will be looking to push on. This game in Portlaoise can set them up for nicely for the test that is the All-Ireland series.

Verdict: Tipperary

CONNACHT SFC FINAL
Mayo v Galway

And so the traditional powers collide again in the Connacht decider after a gap of five years. Since Roscommon’s success in 2010, Mayo have ruled the roost in the province and are now going for a four-in-a-row. They are favourites to do just that on Sunday.

It’s been over a decade since Galway last dined at football’s top table. Recent success at U-21 level is a sign that they are capable of re-joining the elite group. Last summer’s showing against Cork in the qualifiers was a throw-back to Galway in their pomp - accurate foot-passing, intelligent running off the ball and some delightful scores – made many observers stand up and watch.

We are still waiting for Alan Mulholland’s side to reproduce that form this year. If they can turn it on at MacHale Park, then we can take it that Galway are well and truly back.

That said, you’d expect Mayo to still have the craft, guile and experience to stem any maroon tide. Andy Moran, who made such an impact when coming on against Roscommon, is in from the start on Sunday. Also recalled to the starting XV is Alan Dillon, who along with Moran and Cillian O’Connor  will look to make hay in the inside forward line.

Barry Moran is fit again and he will take his place alongside Seamus O’Shea in midfield. In the full-back line, Tom Cunniffe is injured, so allowing for Chris Barrett to make his first start since last year’s All-Ireland final.

Those changes indicate the strength of Mayo’s squad. Just as important was the mental strength shown by James Horan’s side in the way they responded when the Rossies got up a head of steam in the semi-final. Such fortitude and more will be required if they are to land to ultimate prize later in the year.

Verdict: Mayo

MUNSTER SHC FINAL

Cork v Limerick, Páirc Uí Chaoimh

In a repeat of last year’s decider, Cork and Limerick will once again battle it out for the biggest prize in Munster hurling. The Shannonsiders are eyeing back-to-back titles and deservedly booked their place in the decider with a late surge that took them past Tipperary for a 2-18 to 2-16 win. That game took place on 1 June. Is it fair that Limerick have to wait six weeks to play the final?

Since then, Cork have played twice. Admittedly one of those games was a replay against Waterford, but the common thread for the Rebels was the convincing nature of the way they disposed of the Déise and subsequently Clare in the semi-final.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy has strengthened the spine of the team from last year and the good news for the manager is that defenders Damien Cahalane and Mark Ellis have shrugged off injury concerns and will start on Sunday. JBM has kept faith with the XV that started against Clare.

After the upheaval of Donal O’Grady’s departure on Easter Sunday, we feared for the well-being of Limerick heading into championship. However, TJ Ryan’s troop’s allayed any fears with that gutsy win over Tipp. Their direct approach, more in keeping with Limerick’s traditional style, served them well on the day. For the final, David Breen replaces Sean Tobin at corner-forward.

It’s eight years since Cork last won a Munster title. Their greater strength in midfield and Pat Horgan’s marksmanship from placed balls may just about get them over the line.

Verdict: Cork

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