The All-Ireland senior football championship truly comes into focus this weekend with seven games in total down for decision. Here are our previews:
Saturday, May 25th
Connacht SFC semi-final
Mayo v Roscommon, MacHale Park, 7pm - Sky Sports
It’s a clash of big guns in Connacht on Saturday night in Castlebar as these two square off in the western province for the first time since 2014.
Mayo won on that occasion by a point but experts are expecting a wider margin of victory this time round for James Horan’s team, with Offaly boss John Maughan going as far as saying he “would be absolutely shocked if Mayo didn’t come out comfortable winners”.
Roscommon fans worldwide will be hoping their former manager's words are pinned to the away dressing room wall at MacHale Park on Saturday, as their team look to return to another JJ Nestor Cup final against Galway.
Manager Anthony Cunningham has named the same 15 which started against Leitrim the last day, while Horan has welcomed back captain Diarmuid O’Connor from the New York trip with Chris Barrett and Michael Plunkett also coming into the Division 1 champions’ defence.
Leinster SFC quarter-finals
Carlow v Meath, O'Moore Park, 5pm
The Leinster championship really kicks into action this weekend and here Carlow are entering the fray for summer against Andy McEntee’s Meath side in Portlaoise.
The Royals were unconvincing against Offaly in Round 1 but got the job done nonetheless and now face another tricky assignment in the form of Turlough O’Brien’s charges, which are often unpredictable this time of year.
The Barrowsiders, who will be without manager Turlough O’Brien, coach Steven Poacher and star midfielder Brendan Murphy through suspension, have never beaten Meath in championship football and when the two sides crossed swords at this same juncture five years ago, it was the latter that scored a whopping 7-13 to 0-6 victory.
The margin will be nothing of the sort on Saturday evening, but it’s Meath that still get the nod to book a provincial semi-final date with either Laois or Westmeath next month.
Dublin v Louth, O'Moore Park, 7pm
This one sees Jim Gavin’s Dublin side officially starting their bid for an unprecedented fifth All-Ireland senior football championship title in-a-row, with Louth standing in their way at the first hurdle.
The last summer meeting between these two was back in 2012 when the Dubs scored a 16-point win at the Leinster quarter-final stage and Saturday will mark the 56th championship meeting between the counties.
Ryan Burns came off the bench to inspire the Wee County to a come from behind victory over Wexford in their opener two weeks ago, and Wayne Kierans’ charges will know they’ll need a huge overall improvement if they are to keep within touching distance of the capital juggernaut this weekend.
The winners of this one face either Kildare or Longford on June 9th for a place in the Leinster SFC final.
Ulster SFC quarter-final
Antrim v Tyrone, Athletic Grounds, 6pm - BBC live
After two pulsating derbies last weekend, the Ulster championship kicks right back into action on Saturday when Tyrone take on Antrim at the Athletic Grounds.
Mickey Harte’s men required a late Darren McCurry goal to get the job done against Derry last time out and the general feeling here is that they’ll be a bit more comfortable at the finish against the Saffrons.
Antrim haven’t defeated the Red Hands in championship football in 55 years and don’t look like doing so this weekend, as they get set to head for Armagh as 20/1 outsiders against the outright favourites for The Anglo-Celt Cup.
McCurry’s impact the last day may see him rewarded with a starting berth by Harte this time out, but, given their form, Peter Harte and Cathal McShane are certain to be two danger men Lenny Harbinson’s defence will have earmarked from the start.
Sunday, May 26th
Leinster SFC quarter-finals
Westmeath v Laois, O'Connor Park, 2pm
Sunday afternoon marks the third meeting this season between these two with Westmeath holding the upper hand on Laois following victories in Round 4 of the National League and in the Division 3 final itself.
Both were three-point margin wins which perhaps suggests only a score will separate them again this weekend and, to no surprise, it’s the Lake County whom are slight favourites with the bookies ahead of the Tullamore showdown.
Things could not have gone more according to script for Jack Cooney since taking the reins of his home county last September, with O’Byrne Cup and National League honours already in the bag, and how he’d love to take this group to a Leinster final.
It all starts with a stern opening task though as the O’Moore men, whom have also been on the rise since John Sugrue’s appointment in 2017, will be eager for more progress along with some revenge along the way no doubt.
Longford v Kildare, O'Connor Park, 4pm
Kildare looked far from impressive in Round 1 against Wicklow and face into a potential summer spoiler in this one.
Longford were eliminated by the Lilywhites from last year’s All-Ireland SFC in the second round of the qualifiers and have since come under new management in the form of ex-U21 boss Padraig Davis.
Davis was without his Mullinalaghta contingent for a good spell of the National League and will no doubt be hoping his side can mount a summer run after fizzing out of the promotion race in Division 3 at a relatively early stage.
It should be a close battle, with the winners down to face Dublin or Louth in the last four on June 9th.
Ulster SFC quarter-final
Fermanagh v Donegal, Brewster Park, 2pm - BBC live
The last of the four Ulster SFC quarter-finals is a repeat of the 2018 provincial decider up north and how Fermanagh would love to avenge that loss to Donegal on home turf this weekend.
Rory Gallagher’s men have already defeated The Anglo-Celt Cup holders this season with a three-point win in Ballyshannon back in February, but it wasn’t enough to see them promoted ahead of the Tir Chonaill men whom finished Division 2 champions when all was said and done in the league campaign.
Patrick McBrearty is expected to make his first Donegal start of 2019 in Enniskillen and the Kilcar marksmen is just another deadly threat the Ernesiders’ defence are going to have to come to terms with if they are to avoid an early path to the qualifiers.
It was in the 2004 qualifiers that Fermanagh last beat their neighbours in the championship and they’ll need to come up with a five-star display to avoid a fourth consecutive summer loss to this opposition on Sunday.
Follow Mayo v Roscommon, plus all this weekend's Leinster and Ulster SFC quarter-final action live on the hoganstand.com match tracker.Tweet