Ulster SFC semi-final
Tyrone v Donegal, 5pm, Kingspan Breffni
Ulster SFC semi-final replay
Armagh v Cavan, 4pm, Clones
There will be live match trackers on RTÉ online and the News Now app on both games starting 30 minutes before throw-in.
Live updates and commentary on both matches on RTÉ Radio 1 – Tyrone v Donegal on Saturday Sport and Armagh-Cavan on Sunday Sport.
Tyrone versus Donegal is live on RTÉ 2 and BBC Two. Highlights of both games on The Sunday Game on RTÉ2 at 9.30pm.
On Saturday, the weather forecast for Cavan Town is a mixture of sunshine and heavy showers with light winds and maximum temperatures of 14 degrees. Very similar on Sunday over St Tiernach’s Park, though with a chance of heavier rain.
Heavyweight clash in Cavan
This has become the Ulster rivalry over the past decade and Saturday will be their eighth meeting in nine seasons. The bitterness that marked their earlier meetings in this decade may have receded, but make no mistake – this game matters.
It matters on a local scale, but it also matters nationally too as these are two teams with genuine ambitions of playing at Croke Park this season at the pointy end of the Championship.
Donegal are bidding to extend their impressive run in Ulster as they aim to make an eighth Ulster final in nine years. In fact, the only time they missed out in that period was when Tyrone beat them in the 2017 semi-final.
They bounced straight back up to the league’s top flight last spring, beating Meath in the final to take the Division 2 title. Given the players they have and their exciting style of play, this is where they belong.
Paddy McBrearty made his return to the starting line-up in the impressive Ulster semi-final victory over Fermanagh, when they eased their winning margin out to six points in the face of their opponents’ defensive tactics.
McBrearty’s return from a year-long absence due to a knee injury is offset by midfielder Odhrán Mac Niallais’s decision not to rejoin the panel this season, placing an extra burden on captain fantastic Michael Murphy to be the team’s main ball-winner in the middle as well as the target-man in attack at times.
Tyrone did what was expected of them in the quarter-final, demolishing Antrim, though they got sloppy in the second half and allowed their Division 4 opponents in for a couple of goals, which will have given manager Mickey Harte something to work on.
Last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists are showing definite signs of further development this season, though whether or not that’s going to be enough to lift Sam Maguire in September is another issue.
One thing the Red Hand always have is footballers – players comfortable on the ball, who are good off left and right and who can generally be counted on to do the right thing under pressure.
They are tactically aware too and this year’s tweak has seen Cathal McShane and Mattie Donnelly form a dangerous two-man inside forward line.
Too close to call
If this game is as close as last week’s drawn match, which provided us with 90 minutes-plus of quality entertainment, then we have the history-making prospect of a penalty shoot-out deciding a provincial championship encounter.
Certainly, on the evidence of 1-14 to 0-17 thriller at St Tiernach’s Park the last day, there won’t be much between the sides.
Armagh will be without centre-back Brendan Donaghy and Cavan will have to do without Ciaran Brady, who were both sent off on straight red cards. They may appeal, though time is running out and it would appear that the GAA have pretty water-tight cases against the pair.
The Orchard County haven’t been in an Ulster final since 2008 while the Breffni Blues haven’t gone to the big dance since way back in 2001 and this represents a great chance for either side to move within two games of a place in the Super 8s. The prize is significant.
Armagh finally got their first Ulster championship win under Kieran McGeeney in his fifth season in charge when they beat Down by a point in an entertaining local derby at Páirc Esler.
By contrast, new Cavan boss Mickey Graham, the man who brought Longford’s Mullinalaghta to an All-Ireland club semi-final earlier in the year, got a win at the first attempt when they unseated favourites Monaghan in the quarter-final.
Jarlath Óg Burns was the star man for Armagh the last day, scoring 1-02 from midfield, though the son of 1999 Ulster winning captain Jarlath senior did pick up a head injury. At the other end of the football age-scale, veteran Cian Mackey shot the lights out for Cavan.
The former All Star nominee came off the bench to sculpt three beautiful points, all of which were equalisers and Graham is likely to hold him in reserve again.
Their last five championship meetings have brought two wins apiece and a draw while their last replay in the Ulster was in 1959 when Cavan won at the second attempt. Cavan and Armagh both lost their last provincial replays, to Tyrone in 2016 and Monaghan in 2014 respectively.
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