Sport

Matchbox: 'Gooch' finally back

Colm Cooper is back in Championship action for the first time since August 2013 
Padraig Kelly

Today

Leinster Senior Football Championship quarter-final replay

Kildare v Laois

(O’Connor Park, 7.15pm)

KILDARE’S three late points ensured a second meeting of these sides after last weekend’s exciting 0-16 draw in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

Both Tomas O’Flatharta and Jason Ryan have resisted the urge to tinker with their line-ups, even if the latter must have been severely tempted following Tommy Moolick’s positive impact off the bench last week, which included kicking the equaliser deep in injury time. Kildare seem like the side that can make the most improvement from last week. Their starting forwards only scored two points from play, they conceded more converted frees than their opponents and they missed a number of goal chances. The bookies have these sides almost inseparable going into the rematch, but it’s the Lilywhites who should secure a date with Dublin, ensuring a qualifier clash with Antrim for Laois.

Odds: Kildare: evens D: 15/2 Laois: 11/10

Verdict: Kildare

Nicky Rackard Cup promotion/relegation play-off

Fermanagh v Louth

(Kingspan Breffni Park, 3pm)

FERMANAGH feel they shouldn’t have to play this game after claiming the Lory Meagher Cup, but they will have the momentum going into this game. Louth will be no pushovers, and they showed some positive glimpses in the Nicky Rackard with Armagh struggling to shake them off in the opening fixture.

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Verdict: Fermanagh

Tomorrow

Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final

Armagh v Donegal

(Athletic Grounds, 2pm, live on BBC2 and RTE2)

MATTHEW McNeice has been handed a surprise Championship debut in goals as Armagh try to gain revenge on Donegal following last year’s one-point All-Ireland quarter-final defeat. Donegal win the experience battle hands down, and that should be decisive in the closing stages.

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Odds: H: 2/1 D: 7/1 A: 4/7

Verdict: Donegal

Munster Senior Football Championship semi-finals

Tipperary v Kerry

(Semple Stadium, 3.30pm)

COLM Cooper returns to the Championship arena against Tipperary tomorrow after injury ruled him out of last year’s All-Ireland winning season. Only seven players who started in the final win against Donegal last September play here. Tipperary, buoyed by recent underage success, continue to be an emerging force in the game, but they are still a long way off the Kingdom.

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Odds: H: 11/2 D: 14/1 A: 1/7

Verdict: Kerry

Cork v Clare

(Pairc Ui Rinn, 3.30pm)

CORK will be expected to easily take care of Clare tomorrow, securing their fifth successive Munster final appearance in the process. The Rebels, bar a no show against Dublin in the final, looked a much improved side in the League. Their ability to change style depending on the opposition should stand to them. Brian Cuthbert has made a raft of changes to the side that lost to Dublin, and Alan O’Connor, who recently came out of retirement, has been named in midfield. Clare finished mid-table in Division Three, but their concession average of over 15 points per game was simply too high. They will be without Podge Collins who will be getting surgery on a snapped ACL at the start of next month after picking up the injury in a club hurling game two weeks ago. The Banner already have a game under their belts following a two-point win over Limerick, but they will be in the qualifiers on Sunday evening.

Odds: H: 1/25 D: 25/1 A: 10/1

Verdict: Cork

Connact Senior Football Championship semi-final

Galway v Mayo

(Pearse Stadium, 4pm, live on RTE2)

MAYO are aiming for their fifth Connacht final appearance and their fifth consecutive Championship victory over Galway. Cillian O’Connor has been passed fit and will lead their attack while Tom Parsons is a surprise inclusion in midfield. Galway have had problems in defence all year and they must tighten up if they are to have any chance. Shane Walsh misses out after he was involved in a serious car crash last week.

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Odds: H: 9/4 D: 15/2 A: 1/2

Verdict: Mayo

Leinster Senior Football Championship quarter-finals

Meath v Wicklow

(Pairc Tailteann, 3.30pm)

AMAZINGLY, this will be Meath’s first Leinster Championship match in Navan since 1995. A home win is an almost certainty as Meath try to re-establish themselves as a top team after too many years in the wilderness. The League was pleasing, and promotion was only lost on their head-to-head record with Roscommon. Manager Mick O’Dowd will be without the likes of Kevin O’Reilly, Conor Gillespie and Mickey Newman due to injury, but it should matter little. Wicklow had a horrible time of it in Division Four with the one-point win over Leitrim proving to be their only victory. The Garden county pushed Meath hard in 2013 and 2014, but Johnny Magee’s men will be preparing for a game with the losers of Armagh and Donegal.

Odds: H: 1/50 D: 33/1 A: 12/1

Verdict: Meath

Westmeath v Wexford

(Cusack Park, 3.30pm)

WESTMEATH bounced back to their bad League season with a comfortable win over Louth last time out. Manager Tom Cribben has drafted Denis Carroon into his attack after he returned from working abroad. Westmeath are looking to reach the last four in Leinster for the first time since 2010 while Wexford have featured in the semi-finals for the last four seasons. Their league form – they were relegated to Division Four – would suggest that they will not be making the last four for a fifth season in a row, David Power took his side to Waterford to finish their preparations, and he will hope that can inspire a better showing.

Odds: H: 4/11 D: 8/1 A: 3/1

Verdict: Draw

Christy Ring Cup promotion/relegation play-off

Mayo v Roscommon

(Pearse Stadium, 1.45pm)

ROSCOMMON will enter this game on a high following their dramatic last-gasp Nicky Rackard win against Armagh last Saturday.

Despite being down to 14 men, they took the game to Armagh in the final stages and Michael Kelly’s stunning goal was well deserved.

Mayo manager JP Coen will be without the services of Keith Higgins as he will be involved in the Connacht SFC directly after this game. It shouldn’t matter and Mayo should have another year of Christy Ring hurling to look forward to.

VERDICT: Mayo

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