Hurling Matchbox: Down look to secure Joe McDonagh status with win over Meath
Joe McDonagh Cup Group B: Down v Meath (today, Ballycran, 3pm)
DOWN may have succumbed to Kerry for the second time this year last weekend, but in both that performance and their league campaign they have proved themselves more than capable of the standard demanded in Division 2A and the Joe McDonagh Cup. Essentially, the winner today confirms their status at this level for another year.
Down were will in the game at Austin Stack Park for most of the contest. Paul Sheehan, Donal Hughes Pearse Óg McCrickard caused Kerry problems throughout the first-half. Eoghan Sands and Ryan McCusker did similar in the second period and a six-point defeat to the Kingdom could have been a good deal closer but for some wayward free-taking and a bit of slack defending from the Ards men.
Down manager Ronan Sheehan says not much should be looked into his side's trouncing of Meath in the final day of the National League at McKenna Park but given that the Royals only victory in Division 2A came against relegated Wicklow, the Ards men must surely be confident of securing their Joe McDonagh Cup status this afternoon.
This will be Meath's first competitive outing since that league defeat in the middle of June and they will be hoping they have learnt a useful thing or two about Down despite the chastening experience. Daithí Sands, Eoghan Sands, Oisín McManus and Chris Egan were on fire that afternoon and they will be hoping at least one of them can fill their boots again today. Paul Sheehan, meanwhile, finished Down's top scorer in the National League campaign with a total of 2-36 and he is crucial to their ambition of remaining at Joe McDonagh Cup level.
Jack Regan is the main danger man for Meath and they will need him to be on fire this afternoon to give their chances of avoiding the drop to Christy Ring Cup action for next year a realistic look about them.
Meath: C Ennis; G Murphy, S Whitty, S Geraghty; J Kelly, D Kelly, K Keoghan; S Morris, J Toher; I Birmingham, J Regan, M O'Sullivan; A Gannon, A Douglas, P Coneelly; Subs: C Ryan, S Brennan, M Burke, C Rogers, C O'Sullivan, C Kelly, É Ó Donnchadha, J Walsh, N Potterton, P O'Hanrahan, S Quigley
Odds: H: 1/4; D: 11/1; A: 10/3
Leinster SHC semi-finals
Dublin v Galway (2pm, Croke Park, live on Sky Sports)
DUBLIN'S victory 18-point over Antrim last weekend will give them the world of confidence going into today's Leinster semi-final.
The half-forward line of Danny Sutcliffe, Chris Crummey and Donal Burke are key to Mattie Kenny's men and a lot will be expected of them at Croke Park this afternoon.
Galway were imperious form in topping Division 1A of the National League, however, and they will be fully expected to progress. Brothers Cathal and Pádraic Mannion are central to their style of play while Evan Niland is usually unerring from dead ball situations.
Odds: H: 5/1; D: 12/1; A: 1/6
Kilkenny v Wexford (4.30pm, Croke Park, live on Sky Sports)
WEXFORD were impressive in their rout of Laois last Saturday at Nowlan Park, where they had 13 different scorers over the 70 minutes of their Championship opener.
TJ Reid remains the talisman for Kilkenny, while Alan Murphy is an important player. In the likes of Lee Chin and Paul Morris, however, the Yellowbellies may have enough to cause a minor upset and make it to a Leinster final.
Odds: H: 4/9; D: 10/1; A: 9/4
Munster SHC semi-final
Cork v Limerick (Semple Stadium, Thurles, 7pm, live on Sky Sports)
THE All-Ireland champions found their form late on in their league campaign, while Cork faded after a positive start to Division 1A.
When the sides met in the league, Cork started the game with 14 players aged 24 or younger, while Limerick had a dozen starters with experience of an All-Ireland final. This experience should make the difference today.
Odds: H: 4/9; D: 10/1; A: 9/4
Joe McDonagh Cup Group A
Carlow v Westmeath (Netwatch Cullen Park)
CARLOW got their McDonagh campaign up and running last weekend with a battling one-point extra-time victory over Kildare. Westmeath, meanwhile, had a difficult league campaign, suffering a string of heavy defeats in Division 1A.
Odds: H: 11/8; D: 8/1; A: 8/11
Christy Ring Cup Group A
Roscommon v Derry (Waldon Park, Athleague, 2pm)
ROSCOMMON were beaten by Wicklow last weekend, which came hot on the heels of a disastrous league campaign, where they lost four from four and were relegated to Division 3A.
Derry beat the Rossies by 15 points on the final day of that campaign and guided by Brian Cassidy and Cormac O'Doherty they should have too much again today.
Odds: H: 6/1; D: 14/1; A: 1/10
Sligo v Offaly (Markiewicz Park, Sligo, 3pm)
EXPECT a big victory for Offaly over the Yeats men.
Odds: H: 14/1; D: 33/1; A: 1/500
Nickey Rackard Cup Group A
Mayo v Leitrim (McElverys MacHale Park, Castlebar, 3pm)
MAYO should have far too much in the locker for their fellow westerners.
Odds: H: 1/100; D: 25/1: A: 12/1
Lory Meagher Cup Group A
Louth v Monaghan (Darver, 7pm)
LOUTH got their campaign off to a disastrous start against Longford last weekend, conceding eight goals in a heavy defeat. Monaghan survived in Division 3A and could nick this.
Odds: H: 9/2; D: 12/1; A: 1/7
Munster SHC semi-final
Tipperary v Clare (LIT Grounds, Limerick, 3.45pm, live on RTÉ2)
WHEN Clare travelled to Belfast at the start of the league and lost to Antrim, alarm bells may been ringing in the Banner county, but they have since steadied the ship.
Three wins in Division 1B left them sitting comfortably mid-table while last weekend's Munster opening day win over Waterford will have boosted confidence massively.
Tipperary may be a tougher proposition tomorrow though.
Odds: H: 2/5; D: 10/1; A: 5/2
Lory Meagher Cup Group B play-off
Cavan v Fermanagh (Kingspan Breffni, 1.30pm)
CAVAN and Fermanagh drew their league meeting and this should be another tight encounter.
Odds: H: 5/6; D: 8/1; 11/10