SFC previews: Three provincial crowns on the line

June 21, 2019

Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny with Michael Newman of Meath during the 2016 Leinster SFC semi-final at Croke Park

There are three provincial titles up for grabs this weekend in the All-Ireland senior football championships while the second round of the qualifiers sees eight games down for decision across the country. Here are our previews:


Munster SFC final

Cork v Kerry, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 7pm – RTE

These two great rivals will kick off the weekend’s provincial finals with Cork hoping for a change in fortunes from the recent past meetings against Kerry on this stage.

The Kingdom are gunning for a seventh Munster title in-a-row and are strong 1/7 favourites to get the job done against their neighbours and advance back into the Super 8s.

Manager Peter Keane has made four changes to the side which defeated Clare by 1-15 to 0-12 earlier this month, including handing Dara Moynihan his first championship start in the green and gold at left corner-forward in place of the injured James O’Donoghue.

Paul Murphy, Gavin White and Jack Barry also get the nod from Keane while his opposite number Ronan McCarthy has stuck with the same side which dished out a 21-point hammering to Limerick in the semis.

The Rebels haven’t beaten their neighbours in the championship since 2012 and know they’ll require a five-star showing if they are to buck that unwanted trend on home turf this weekend.

Verdict: Kerry

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round 2

Antrim v Kildare, Corrigan Park, 3pm

With Casement Park still out of commision, it is Corrigan Park or nowhere for the Lilywhites who are unsure of their form at present.

A draw with Longford, in which Kildare were heavily fancied, was followed by a comfortable win in the replay - and then Dublin did what Dublin do next time out.

Antrim were well beaten by Tyrone but did manage to score 2-9 and they followed that up with 2-16 in an eyecatching win over Louth in Drogheda.

That will give them belief, as will their decent home form in the league. Kildare won't have it all their own way but anything other than an away win would be a seismic upset.

Verdict: Kildare

Derry v Laois, Owenbeg, 5pm

Laois have been heading in the right direction for the last couple of years under Kerry man John Sugrue. They gound out a win over Westmeath in their opening match in Leinster before coming unstuck in disappointing fashion against Meath two weeks ago.

Derry, for their part, cruised to the Division 4 title (the general feeling, even among their own fans, was that a county of their standing and talent never should have been there in the first place).

Damian McErlain's side lost by six to Tyrone first time out before walloping a very poor Wexford. This could be very close but Derry have a strong qualifier record at this venue and that could make the difference.

Verdict: Derry

Longford v Tyrone, Pearse Park, 5pm

Longford have made little headway in the Leinster Championship of late but have become back door specialists, routinely taking the scalps of counties higher up the league standings including Cavan, Monaghan, Down and Mayo (twice).

The Midlanders showed glimpses of real quality against Kildare in the drawn match and their 2-11 to 0-7 away win over Carlow last time out was a solid one.

Tyrone, though, are the back door's kings. They cannot be as poor as they looked against Donegal two weeks ago in Kingspan Breffni. Reports of the demise of Mickey Harte's men have been greatly exaggerated since and, if they can get some scores on the board early, they could well win this one with a bit to spare.

Verdict: Tyrone

Westmeath v Limerick, TEG Cusack Park, 6pm

The Treaty men were ranked 31st out of 32 teams in the league but tore up the script with an emphatic and memorable 3-11 to 1-10 win over Tipperary in the opening round of the Munster Championship. Cork, though, brought them right back down to earth with a 3-18 to 0-6 reversal next time out.

Westmeath away represents a difficult draw for them and the bookmakers' odds of 1/14 on Westmeath to win tells its own tale.

The Lake men got back in the groove with a 1-22 to 0-7 win over Waterford and a similarly one-sided victory could be in store here.

Verdict: Westmeath

Leitrim v Clare, Pairc Sean MacDiarmada, 6pm

Leitrim made a long-awaited breakthrough when comfortably securing promotion from Division 4 of the National League under new manager Terry Hyland, earning a rare day out in Croker for their troubles.

However, they lost heavily to Roscommon in the opening round of the Connacht championship, a result which will have come as a real blow as Hyland's side had some momentum and would have fancied their chances against the relegated Rossies.

In hindsight, the Rossies have turned out to to be a very good side but Leitrim still carried a hangover into their qualifier against Waterford (whom they beat by eight in the league).

Still, they got the job done. Clare had a poor league campaign, staying in Division 2 on score difference with just two wins, although they have the benefit of two games under their belts in Munster. The Banner have been operating at a higher level of late but have it all to do here.

Verdict: Draw 

Monaghan v Armagh, Clones, 7pm

The tie of the round, this, without a doubt. Both teams lost to Cavan in the Ulster championship and the line of form through the Breffni men doesn't help solve the riddle - Monaghan were blown away in the first half but dominant in the second, Armagh probably should have won first time out and then made things hard for themselves in the replay.

Farney boss Malachy O'Rourke has been juggling keeping the veterans on the road while introducing fresh talent and he seems to have found it more difficult this year, with the National League - which started with a brilliant win over Dublin - not inspiring confidence.

Armagh, for their part, have struggled with consistency. In flashes, they have been outstanding but they can look dreadful too. Can they turn Monaghan over in St Tiernach's Park? If they put it together for longer spells and Jamie Clarke sustains the improved form he showed against Cavan, absolutely. Will they? Who knows with this Armagh side?

Monaghan, with their experience and home advantage, are the safer bet.

Verdict: Monaghan

Down v Mayo, Pairc Esler, 7pm

Mayo are on the road again. Their famously-staunch followers will have needed three different currencies, as Colm Keys noted in the Irish Independent this week, already in this championship with trips to New York and Newry as well as a home game in Castlebar.

That one was, of course, lost to Roscommon but there is no reason to believe that Mayo - who were league champions just a couple of months ago - have diminished greatly because of that one result. David Clarke, Colm Boyle, Fionn McDonagh and Andy Moran have been recalled for this match which should freshen and strengthen things up. 

James Horan and his management will feel that Mayo threw away the Roscommon game themselves and the road to redemption - and what a familiar one it is for the westerners - starts here.

Down lost a rip-roaring Ulster classic against Armagh before eking out a home win against a Tipp side who aren't the force they were. Still, the bookmakers' odds of 11/2 about the Mourne men look very generous. They were very close to promotion in the league and, on their day, are capable of causing any team problems.

That said, on all known form, Mayo are on a different level.

Verdict: Mayo


Sunday, June 23rd

Leinster SFC final

Dublin v Meath, Croke Park, 4pm – RTE

The Delaney Cup will be on the line when these two cross swords at Croker on Sunday with Meath looking for their first championship win over the Dubs in nine long years.

Andy McEntee’s men head for the capital as massive outsiders at 16/1 against a side which have been basically untouchable in their home province since that breakthrough All-Ireland win in 2011.

Should Jim Gavin’s charges lift another piece of silverware on Sunday it would mark a 27th consecutive win in the Leinster championship and, to put it simply, it’s hard to see how they’ll be stopped.

The Royals have only won against their neighbours once in their last 10 championship meetings and have been beaten by a combined total of 34 points in the last three summer outings against this competition.

The winners here will move into the Super 8s, joining Connacht champions Roscommon, the Ulster and Munster runner-up or Round 4 qualifier winners.

Verdict: Dublin

Ulster SFC final

Cavan v Donegal, Clones, 2pm - RTE/BBC live

Clones will be packed out on Sunday afternoon when Mickey Graham’s Cavan bid to try and dethrone Donegal of The Anglo-Celt Cup.

The Breffni men have waited 18 long years to return to the Ulster final and they’re certainly there on merit following impressive wins over Monaghan and Armagh (after a replay), respectively.

Donegal firmly delivered the goods against Tyrone last time out off the back of another Michael Murphy master class and the big Glenswilly man will once again be the target for Graham’s defence to try and shackle, along with fellow marksmen Paddy McBrearty and Jamie Brennan.

In Padraig Faulkner, Jason McLoughlin and Conor Moynagh, Cavan certainly have the tools to limit the damage the holders can do at St Tiernach’s Park this weekend, which would leave it down to the scores the likes of Dara McVeety and Martin Reilly rack up at the other end.

The general feeling is it could be a close one between these two and Tir Chonaill men have a clean bill of health heading in, while speedy wing-back Gerry Smith (hamstring) is the only casualty for the underdogs.

Verdict: Donegal

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round 2

Offaly v Sligo, O'Connor Park, 2pm

Offaly boss John Maughan has opted to keep the faith with the same side which defeated London two weeks ago for this one.

It means Bernard Allen, Niall McNamee and Ruairi McNamee will once again lead the attack for the Faithful men against a Sligo side which are coming to Tullamore as 7/2 outsiders.

Allen landed 0-11 the last day against the Exiles, making him a top priority for the Yeats men’s defence which could well end up having their hands full for the 70 minutes at O’Connor Park.

Verdict: Offaly

Be sure to follow all this weekend's football championship action live on the hoganstand.com match tracker.

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