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Leinster football final and Qualifiers preview

GAABy Sean McGoldrick
Cian O'Sullivan lifts last year's Leinster title
Cian O'Sullivan lifts last year's Leinster title

The Dubs go for yet another Leinster crown while there is a host of Qualifier action to enjoy too

Round 2B

Derry v Wexford, Owenbeg, 2.0, Saturday, July 11

Derry will be mindful of what befell them in last year's qualifier when they lost at home to Longford. Wexford finally got their season up and running when they dumped the once mighty Down out of the race for Sam at Wexford Park.

Still, it's Division 1 v Division 3; Brian McIver's side are at home and by now they should have got over the disappointment of squandering a golden opportunity of reaching the Ulster final.

Verdict: Derry.

Tyrone v Meath, Healy Park, Omagh, 7.0, Saturday, July 11

How the mighty have fallen! Not too long ago both these counties would have had realistic ambitions of being involved in the business end of the All-Ireland series. Barring a draw one will have exited the championship before St Swithin’s Day and the victor will do well to survive until the August Bank Holiday.

Much will depend on Meath's mental state after their extraordinary melt-down in the last quarter against Westmeath. One suspects they must be kicking themselves as they really had the game wrapped until they went AWOL. Their lack of on-field leaders was particularly evident and this issue cannot be addressed in the short term. It would help though if they could keep all their key players on the field.

They will be without first choice goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke though Graham Reilly and Andrew Tormey, who were black carded against Westmeath, will be back.

Tyrone spluttered badly before disposing of the challenge of Limerick in the last round. For some inexplicable reason they seem to play better away from home. The departure of Dermot Carlin from the squad suggests that it is not a very contented camp.

Still, they have beaten Meath in their most recent championship encounter and will probably do so again, albeit unconvincingly.

Verdict: Tyrone

Tipperary v Louth, Semple Stadium, Thurles, 2.45, Saturday, July 11

Tipperary has ambitions of reaching the All-Ireland quarter finals this summer and though the target could prove unattainable they ought to reach the next phase. Louth have nothing to lose but the smart money is on the home side. Incidentally the first ever All-Ireland qualifier match in 2001 took place between these two counties with Louth winning, though Tipp avenged that defeat in their last qualifier clash in 2009.

Verdict: Tipperary

Armagh v Galway, Athletic Grounds, Armagh, 3.0, Sunday, July 12

Two teams who were once managed by Joe Kernan go head-to-head for only the third time in championship football. Given that both counties reached the All-Ireland quarter finals last summer the losers will be very disappointed.

The loss of the charismatic Shane Walsh has been a big blow to Galway though their performance against Mayo suggests they have turned the corner.

So far in the championship Armagh have looked a Division 3 team; a woeful performance against Donegal was followed by a none too convincing one against lowly Wicklow. They ought to be grateful that they haven't faced a road trip yet.

Galway's fortitude will be tested but if they survive that examination they have better scoring forwards than the home side. This advantage could be enough to enable them to keep their 100 percent championship record against Armagh.

Verdict: Galway.

Round 3A

Longford v Kildare, Cusack Park, Mullingar, 7.0, Saturday, July 11

There is life after being on the receiving end of a mauling from Dublin! Longford, in particular, has turned their season around with two wins on the spin in the qualifiers against Carlow and Clare (away) respectively. They are stepping up a class against Kildare but if Jack Sheedy's side was to reach the last 12 it would represent a significant achievement on top of their promotion to Division 3.

Kildare at least got the Dublin drubbing out of their system against Offaly. They hit a few speed bumps in Tullamore but prevailed in a tight finish. Longford have the better form but Kildare’s slightly superior class should see them through.

Verdict: Kildare

Fermanagh v Roscommon, Brewster Park, Enniskillen, Sunday, July 12 3.0

Fermanagh will see this as a golden opportunity to claim a place in the last 12 for the first time since their extraordinary heroics in 2004.

Despite injuries to key players such as Senan Kilbride, Diarmuid Murtagh, Cathal Shine and Niall Carty Roscommon comfortably disposed of the challenge of Cavan.

However, the match was significantly influenced by the dismissal at the start of the second half of Cavan midfielder Tomas Corr.

Roscommon boss John Evans needs another win to keep his critics at bay. The bottom line is that Roscommon will campaign in Division 1 next season whereas Fermanagh will be in Division 2. Provided the visiting defence doesn't hand Fermanagh's dead ball specialist Sean Quigley a bagful of chances the visitors should prevail. But there will surely be one shock result in the qualifiers this weekend. Could it be in Enniskillen?

Verdict: Roscommon.

Leinster SFC Final: Dublin v Westmeath, Croke Park, 2.0, Sunday, July 12 Live on RTE 2

Westmeath’s run to the final has been the great romantic story of the 2015 football championship but the Grim Reaper in the form of the Dublin football team will end Westmeath's romantic odyssey without a second glance.

There is no point in having sympathy for Westmeath - they are in the final on merit. But the shocking state of football in Leinster means they are the third Division 3 team that Dublin has faced so far this summer.

The outcome will be no different than the earlier mismatches against Longford and Kildare. The real point of interest will be whether Dublin cover the handicap of 15 points.

The indications are that Westmeath will pack their defence; they tried a sweeper in the first half against Meath with disastrous results. The Royals scored two goals and squandered another brace.

Still the chances are that they will flood more bodies into the own half with John Heslin probably operating as a ‘Lone Ranger’ up front.

The weaknesses of this strategy is the it hands a mountain of possession to the Dubs and players of the calibre and Diarmuid Connolly and company will eventually find a way through.

Jim Gavin would probably welcome some kind of test this afternoon but if Dublin scores their customary early goal it could be a long afternoon for the challengers and the attendance.

Verdict: Dublin