Week­end Pre­views

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[Matches at 2.0 un­less stated]

Saturday

Mun­ster SF – Mc­Grath Cup fi­nal

Clare v Cork, Mil­town-Mal­bay After all the cov­er­age of Cork’s foot­ball vi­sion of the fu­ture, it’s down to brass tacks here. With Kerry sit­ting this out for the se­cond year, the next best teams in Mun­ster con­test an­other fi­nal. Last year, Clare came back from 10 points down to push the fi­nal to the wire and it should be equally com­pet­i­tive this week­end. Ro­nan Mc­Carthy re­tains only Tom Clancy (Clon­akilty) from the side that dis­missed Lim­er­ick in the semi-fi­nal. Ver­dict: Cork

Le­in­ster SF – O’Byrne Cup semi-fi­nals

West­meath v Longford, The Downs New man­agers for the coun­ties and from the archives, a re­minder that both John Cooney and Pádraic Davis played against each other in the fi­nal of this com­pe­ti­tion 19 years ago. Davis and Longford came out on top and Cooney got him­self sent off. He can make amends here, as West­meath have looked good so far whereas Davis has been get­ting used to life with­out the Mul­li­nalaghta play­ers, pend­ing the All-Ire­land club se­ries.

Dublin v Meath, Par­nell Park, 7.0 Dublin have used the com­pe­ti­tion to great ef­fect in the past two years, ef­fec­tively as a trial for the se­nior panel - win­ning the ti­tle in 2017 but not get­ting out of the group last year. The de­vel­op­men­tal na­ture of the ap­proach leaves hold­ers Meath as favourites to reach the fi­nal, an un­usual state of af­fairs when Dublin play Le­in­ster op­po­si­tion, al­though the All-Ire­land cham­pi­ons haven’t had the ben­e­fit of pool matches and this is their first match. Ver­dict: Meath

Sun­day

Mun­ster SHL fi­nal

Clare v Tip­per­ary, Gaelic Grounds A big year beck­ons for both teams. Clare got back to Croke Park in 2018 and came close in the scheme of things. Tipp, un­der the new man­age­ment of for­mer All-Ire­land win­ning boss Liam Sheedy and with a sup­ply from the Un­der-21 cham­pi­ons, such as Mark Ke­hoe and Kil­lian O’Dwyer, will ex­pect to get back to the ta­ble – at least. Clare were mostly im­pres­sive in de­feat­ing Water­ford last week even if they al­lowed the op­po­si­tion back into the match in the se­cond half and nearly paid the price. After the drift of last year, ex­pect Tipp to show a lot more ur­gency. Ver­dict: Tip­per­ary

Le­in­ster SH – Walsh Cup semi-fi­nals

Wex­ford v Kilkenny, Belle­field, En­nis­cor­thy Last year ap­peared to re­verse the trend of 2017 which had seen Wex­ford get the up­per hand on Kilkenny and there will be plenty of in­ter­est to see how the ri­valry, which has pro­duced some great con­tests, goes this sea­son. Wex­ford aren’t at full tilt with a num­ber of first-team play­ers out of ac­tion un­til after the start of the league but Brian Cody has sim­i­lar is­sues with club com­mit­ments and in­jury to his two top de­fend­ers Cil­lian Buck­ley and Pádraig Walsh. Ver­dict: Kilkenny

Dublin v Gal­way, Par­nell Park A res­o­nant en­counter be­tween for­mer Gal­way se­lec­tor Mat­tie Kenny, given his first county man­age­ment post by Dublin after a golden few years with Cuala. He’s been get­ting to grips with the panel and so far, so good with func­tional wins against Of­faly, Car­low and Laois. Gal­way are down vir­tu­ally all of their All-Ire­land team so this will be an experimental con­test and an early op­por­tu­nity for a Dublin state­ment. Ver­dict: Dublin

Ul­ster SF – McKenna Cup semi-fi­nals

Derry v Ty­rone, Ath­letic Grounds Al­though Mickey Harte has been throw­ing an eye over po­ten­tial re­cruits the last two matches have seen more of the es­tab­lished play­ers drift­ing back into ac­tion and the process con­tin­ues with Young Foot­baller of the Year nom­i­nee Michael McKer­nan named for a first start in this game along with Lee Bren­nan. This a com­pe­ti­tion the Ty­rone man­ager takes se­ri­ously, as Derry will be aware – hard to be­lieve that there’s now the length of the league be­tween the coun­ties – hav­ing lost to them at home by nine points be­fore Christ­mas. Ver­dict: Ty­rone

Ar­magh v Done­gal, Healy Park Ar­magh have shown good form so far and touched off Mon­aghan in the fi­nal pool match but Done­gal have been tip­ping away nicely, blend­ing some as­pir­ing pan­el­lists with more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers while record­ing im­pres­sive wins. It looks a likely re­match of last year’s fi­nal. Ver­dict: Done­gal.

Connacht SFL semi-fi­nals

Gal­way v Mayo, Tuam Sta­dium, 1.30 The coun­ties have been tear­ing away at each other in re­cent years with an el­e­ment of nee­dle emerg­ing in a num­ber of matches, most ob­vi­ously last sea­son’s FBD and league en­coun­ters. Since James Ho­ran, now re­in­stalled as Mayo man­ager, stepped down in 2014 the county has man­aged only one win against the neigh­bours and that was now four years ago.

Gal­way haven’t im­pressed suf­fi­ciently on the big­ger stage to sug­gest that this is indis­putably their era and Ho­ran will cer­tainly tar­get that. His de­vel­op­men­tal se­lec­tion last week nearly came un­stuck against Leitrim but there’ll be more at stake here than is im­me­di­ately ev­i­dent. Ver­dict: Mayo

Roscom­mon v Sligo, Dr Hyde Park, 1.30 Two new man­agers in ac­tion. An­thony Cun­ning­ham was a high-pro­file ap­point­ment in Roscom­mon and has the added ur­gency of pre­par­ing for a sea­son in Di­vi­sion One, start­ing with Mayo.

He has been look­ing at the play­ing strength and dealing with the usual com­ings and go­ings in the county, in­clud­ing the re­tire­ment of vet­eran de­fender Seán MacDer­mott. Sligo coun­ter­part Paul Tay­lor was ru­ing dur­ing the week the de­par­ture of tal­ented AFL re­cruit Red Óg Mur­phy to the Kan­ga­roos but his fo­cus will be on the trip to Car­low in a fort­night. Ver­dict: Roscom­mon

Le­in­ster SH – Ke­hoe Cup semi-fi­nals Antrim v Kil­dare, Ab­bottstown; West­meath v Meath, Kin­negad. Ke­hoe Shield fi­nal Louth v DCU-St Pa­tricks, Darver.

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