What drama we had last weekend in the GAA Championship fixtures! With the Football Qualifiers narrowed down to just six teams from eight, with two Ulster teams in Tyrone and Cavan looking to stay in the championship via the back-door route.
On Sunday we probably had the most exciting day of action, with former Kilkenny forward Eddie Brennan leading his Laois side to Joe McDonagh Cup victory in securing a Leinster championship spot. Quite remarkable considering Laois where on par with counties such as Antrim, Offaly and Carlow in the past…
Wexford and Davy Fitz conjured up a master-plan to defeat Brian Cody’s usual wise cats, in Kilkenny to win the Leinster Hurling final for the first time in 15 years. Current All-Ireland champions Limerick stopped the hype train around the rejuvenated Liam Sheedy led Tipperary, to win the Munster final and progress to an All-Ireland quarter-final stages.
Tyrone v Cavan-Football Qualifiers
Six teams will fight it out hammer and tongs, in the quest to continue their Football season for 2019 as we head into the summer’s Super Eights.
Two Ulster teams in Cavan and Tyrone, will face off at 5pm on Saturday at Clones to decide who will progress and who will exit. Tyrone exited in the Ulster championship at the hands of Donegal, while Cavan lost out on the Ulster title to the same opponents by reaching the final.
A second chance will allow the victors to continue, while one will be dumped out of the competition completely! A little harsh but that’s the nature of the competition this time of the year with knockout football…
Can Mickey Harte continue his marvelous backdoor record? Or will the new kids on the block Cavan be hopeful on upsetting the odds? I can’t see a shock but who knows?
For me Cavan are a team for the future, with not much championship Football experience to feed off I expect the Red Hands in Tyrone to continue their run. Experienced men like Peter Harte and Matty Donnelly with the talent of free-scoring Cathal McShane, should be too much for the Breffni side on Saturday.
Some have disagreed with Tyrone’s style of play, but I’m sure they will have a plan drawn up to stop the Cavan forwards like Georoid McKernan, Dara McVeety and Oisin Kiernan. Progression is all that matters and whether it’s a one point win, or ten point victory Tyrone will be more than happy.
Only three teams can progress…
Cork v Laois
Galway v Mayo
Prelims Hurling Championship-Dublin v Laois
The Joe McDonagh Cup is a tournament that has maxed out its coverage this year, with the ‘second tier’ teams getting more coverage and incredible action. The two finalists are guaranteed a place in the preliminary rounds of the Hurling championship, those games take place this Sunday afternoon.
The winners of the McDonagh, Laois are back in action against Dublin in Portlaois with a 4.15 throw in. Dublin have had a mixed bag of performances this season. But manager Mattie Kenny has developed some talent in his first year, while his opposition in Eddie Brennan’s Laois have shocked and surprised many, topped off with a recent 3-26 to 1-21 victory over Westmeath.
Both managers are in their first season at the reigns of their respected counties. And have done well to get to where they are now, so how will the game go?
I expect Laois to continue to allow their free flowing forwards like key-man Ross King to free roam and interchange, going man to man against the Dubs. Dublin have had money pumped into their Hurling roster and a second resurgence is incoming, I feel. This will be a tight game but expect Dublin to just edge it and their championship experience to shine through.
Don’t forget Dublin beat Tipp in the National League this year, so they’ll have a bit of confidence from that. This is a dangerous road for any side, but if you can get over that All-Ireland quarter-final, you are back in the semis with huge momentum.
Westmeath v Cork
Beaten Munster and McDonagh Cup finalists Cork and Westmeath, is a match up that will be very one-sided and not much promise but hope for Westmeath, unfortunately.
Westmeath have done well to reach the Joe McDonagh final two years running, nullifying Antrim in the process who had a real good run of form. They will travel to Mullingar to face The Rebels at 3pm on Sunday evening.
Cork however, are a different kettle of fish. David Meyler has had a host of talent to pick from, with the excellent Darragh Fitzgibbon, Mark Coleman, Conor Lehane and of course Mr Cork and free-taker Patrick Horgan on fire!
Both sides sit in different league divisions, and that tells the tale. I don’t see much hope for Joe Quaid’s team this Sunday, but you can’t completely write them off just yet.
Westmeath have to look at their own ability to slot over the bar from frees, with Killian Doyle an assured presence in the team and their tactics to halt any teams play style. I feel this is a step too far for Westmeath, I don’t see them being in this contest for much long with Cork pushing to reach an All-Ireland later stage.