The Championship

GAA Matchbox - Previewing the weekend's Championship ties

Richie Hogan could return for Kilkenny against Dublin on Saturday
Pádraig Ó Meiscill

SATURDAY

Leinster SHC semi-final: Kilkenny v Dublin
(O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, 7pm)

Promisingly for Kilkenny, and ominously for Dublin, Richie Hogan could be available to play a part in Saturday’s semi-final in the midlands.

Hogan sustained a broken bone in his hand while on club duty for Danesfort against Ballyhale Shamrocks last month and it was initially feared the 2014 Hurler of the Year would miss the Leinster Championship in its entirety. However, after a specialist determined surgery was not required, Hogan has made a quicker than expected recovery and could feature against the Dubs.

Michael Fennelly is expected to line-out for Kilkenny after overcoming a hamstring injury, while Eoin Larkin and Conor Fogarty should make their returns from long stints on the sidelines.

Dublin are expected to name a similar line up to the one which comfortably overcame Wexford in atrocious conditions in the quarter-final at Croke Park last month. If the likes of Éamon Dillon, Darragh O’Connell, Niall McMorrow and David Treacy in particular can perform at the same levels as they did against the Yellowbellies, the Dubs will be confident of giving Kilkenny a game.

Normal service has largely resumed in this fixture since Dublin’s famous replay win over the Cats at the same stage of the Leinster Championship in 2013. Kilkenny beat the Dubs with six-points to spare in this year’s National Hurling League encounter, with TJ Reid scoring 11 of his side’s 23 points. Their most recent Championship encounter ended in a 12-point hammering for the men from the capital in the 2014 Leinster final.

Dublin pulled off some eyebrow raising results in the National League, most notably a five-point victory over a fancied Waterford side at Walsh Park, although they eventually exited in the quarter-finals to Limerick.

Dublin manager Ger Cunningham has admitted his side face “a huge task” in O’Moore Park on Saturday night and, if the Cats enter their Championship defence firing on all cylinders, it is hard to see the Dubs being equal to that task.

Odds: H: 2/7 D: 11/1 A: 10/3
Verdict: Kilkenny

 

Christy Ring Cup promotion/relegation play-off: Mayo v Derry
(Ballinamore, 3pm)

With 23 minutes to go in their last game against Wicklow, Derry led by a point having been seven down at half-time. By the final whistle, however, Wicklow were 13 ahead after hitting 2-8 without reply.

That previous relegation play-off against the Garden county was symptomatic of the problems that have beset the Derry hurlers this year. The loss of the Hinphey brothers - Liam Óg and Kevin - and Ruairí McCloskey to retirement has proven too much to handle in one dose.

In contrast, Mayo have been in fine form, Kenny Feeney leading the way for the westerners in their win over Armagh in last week’s Nicky Rackard Cup final. While Ruairí Convery and Mark McGuigan pose an attacking threat for Derry, Mayo’s momentum should see them into next year’s Christy Ring competition.

Odds: H: 4/6 D: 9/1 A: 11/8
Verdict: Mayo

 

Nicky Rackard Cup promotion/relegation play-off: Fermanagh v Louth
(Athletic Grounds, Armagh, 1.30pm)

Fermanagh have lost two relegation play-offs this year to Tyrone - once in the league and, more recently, in the Nicky Rackard Cup.

The Erne men lost by 15 to a Red Hand outfit reduced to 14-men that day in May to put them on the verge of Lory Meagher hurling in 2017. An incredible finish from Louth in last week’s Meagher Cup final, in which they scored four goals in the final 10 minutes against Sligo, earned them a crack at Fermanagh.

While the Erne men have endured a difficult season to date, they have proven score-getters in John Duffy and Sean Corrigan. This and Louth’s late exertions at Croke Park may swing the pendulum in Fermanagh’s favour.

Verdict: Fermanagh

 

SUNDAY

Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Donegal v Fermanagh
(Ballybofey, 2pm)

According to Karl Lacey, Donegal have had their attention fixed on this encounter since round four of the NFL, which may explain their spluttering end to a league campaign which began so brightly.

Fermanagh were comfortable winners last time out against Antrim, with Tomás Corrigan landing nine points and Sean Quigley killing the game with a major. They will find it a lot tougher against a Donegal side who have been lapping up the free time provided in being the last Ulster team to show their hand.

Michael Murphy and co. should get Donegal over the line.

Odds: H: 1/6 D: 12/1 A: 5/1
Verdict: Donegal

 

Munster Senior Football Championship semi-final: Kerry v Clare
(Killarney, 3.30pm)

Kerry got the measure of what they are up against in this year’s Championship when they lost by 11-points to Dublin in April’s National League final.

Clare also reached a National League final this year, beating Kildare by the narrowest of margins to put the icing on the cake of their promotion to Division Two. The Banner beat Limerick by three to reach this stage, while the Kingdom will be targeting nothing less than two games in Killarney and three at headquarters as their yardstick for success - much like every other year.

Clare, as good as they’ve been so far this year, are on a hiding to nothing.

Odds: H: 1/33 D: 25/1 A: 12/1
Verdict: Kerry

 

Munster Senior Football Championship semi-final: Tipperary v Cork
(Thurles, 3.30pm)

Which Cork will turn up in Thurles? Tipperary will be hoping it’s the one that was hammered by Roscommon in the league as opposed to the one that really should have beaten Kerry in last year’s Munster final.

Tipp have a comfortable victory over lowly Waterford to thank for arriving at this stage and Michael Quinlivan may cause the Rebels problems. The Premier county’s home advantage may make it difficult for Cork, but Peter Kelleher could be a key player if they are to come through unscathed.

Odds: H: 15/2 D: 16/1 A: 1/12
Verdict: Cork

 

Connacht Senior Football Championship semi-final: Roscommon v Sligo
(Dr Hyde Park, 4pm)

Roscommon will need no reminding what transpired at this stage last year. Strongly fancied to make the Connacht final, the Rossies choked and Sligo won by four.

A year on, Roscommon can have no excuses. Following a successful Division One campaign in which they beat the likes of Donegal and Kerry, they got the chance to shake off any Championship rust in the Big Apple last month.

Sligo lost out on promotion to Division Two after an inconsistent league campaign and Cathal Cregg and co. should ensure Roscommon make it into the Connacht final this time around.

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

 

Leinster Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Meath v Louth
(Parnell Park, 3.30pm)

Louth warmed up for this game with a 10-point win over Carlow in last month’s first round.

Ryan Burns and Anthony Williams both hit the net late on in that opening day victory, in which the Wee county always appeared to have the edge despite a gutsy display from the Barrowsiders. It is safe to say the intensity will go up a notch or three on Sunday.

This is Meath’s first Championship game of the summer following a mid-table finish in Division Two. Louth, for their part, came out of Division Four and beat Antrim in the Croke Park final.

Louth’s greater sharpness may just indicate a shock.

Odds: H: 2/9 D: 10/1 A: 9/2
Verdict: Louth

 

Leinster Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Westmeath v Offaly
(Cusack Park, 3.30pm)

Last time out, Offaly ended nine years of failure in the Leinster Championship with an eight-point win over Longford.

Forward Niall McNamee and combative midfielder Eoin Carroll were in fine form for the Faithful county as they broke their long duck and they will be in high spirits going into Sunday’s game.

The sides met in Division Three of the National League, with Westmeath winners on a 1-9 to 0-9 scoreline. However, there appears little between the sides.

Odds: H: 8/11 D:15/2 A: 6/4
Verdict: Offaly

Odds supplied by Paddy Power

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