We preview all the big Gaelic football and hurling games this weekend
The second full weekend of the GAA championship throws up some belting contests across two days.
Clare v Limerick, Cusack Park, Ennis, 7.0
In last year’s Munster semi-final Clare led Kerry at half time and even though they ultimately lost by four points, they again underlined their potential in the All-Ireland qualifiers against Kildare when they were very unlucky to lose by a point.
But despite the decision of dual player Podge Collins to concentrate on football and the recruitment of former Dublin player and Kilmacud Crokes All-Ireland club medallist Pat Burke, they struggled in the League, finishing a disappointing fifth in Division 3.
Limerick, a pale shadow of the team which was unlucky not to win a Munster title in the mid-noughties, finished one place behind them. But they ended the campaign on a high when they defeated Louth in Drogheda in the last round to avoid the drop. The winners face Cork in the provincial semi-final.
Cavan v Monaghan, Kingspan Breffni Park, 2.0. Live on RTE 2 and BBC 2 (NI)
After the ‘The Good, Bad and Ugly’ show in Ballybofey last Sunday, Ulster football is on trial together. As next door neighbours there is no love lost between the Cavan and Monaghan.
But as the teams have only clashed once in the championship in the last decade there is none of the personal animosity between the players that characterised the bitter exchanges between Donegal and Tyrone.
Monaghan are the bookies’ favourites to win their second Ulster title in three seasons by virtue of the fact that they will avoid all the big guns in the province until the final.
But this is a potential banana skin for Malachy O’Rourke’s side.
When they last met in the 2013 Ulster semi-final the game produced 23 scores. It will be a surprise if the 20-score barrier is breached today.
We know what to expect from Cavan – they will set up in an ultra-defensive fashion and Monaghan won’t be too adventurous either.
Cavan find scoring extraordinarily difficult – they managed one goal in the entire National League. Monaghan possess one of the country’s best finishers in Conor McManus though he is likely to be double or maybe even triple teamed today.
The home side have absolutely no fear of Monaghan. But in a low scoring, attritional contest the Division 1 side ought to squeeze through.
London v Roscommon, Ruislip, 3.0
Newly crowned Division 2 champions Roscommon will have far too much firepower for London who were very poor in the League.
The Murtagh and Smith brothers together with Senan Kilbride have the ability to chalk up more than twenty scores against the home side provided they apply themselves.
Clare v Limerick, Semple Stadium, Thurles 4.0 Live on RTE 2
This is their first clash in the Munster series since 2008 though it is their third championship clash in the last four seasons – they met in the qualifiers in 2012 when Limerick won but Clare avenged that defeat in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final.
Limerick have a better recent record in the Munster series than Clare, who surprisingly have never won a Munster championship game since Davy Fitzgerald took charge in 2012.
Davy Fitz roaring orders at his team the last time Clare faced Limerick, in 2013
Worst still, their form in the last year has dipped alarmingly. They have only won one competitive game – against Dublin – since the beginning of April 2014.
Four of Clare’s 2013 All Stars, Brendan Bugler (suspended), Colm Galvin (in the US), Podge Collins (playing football) and Conor McGrath (injured) are all missing so Clare will have to reshuffle their forces.
Seasoned football fans watched in bewilderment last weekend as Davy Fitzgerald put his squad through a gut wrenching physical training session during their final pre-championship camp in Killarney. One wonders will they hit the ground running on Sunday.
Limerick were very unlucky not to beat Kilkenny in an epic All-Ireland semi-final last year but failed to follow on in Division 2 of the League. On paper they have a stronger squad but Clare will not line out in an orthodox fashion.
Much will depend on how the often malfunctioning Limerick attack copes against the packed Clare defence and whether Limerick’s long range shooting is on target.
Crucially Clare carries a greater goal scoring threat than TJ Ryan’s side.
Limerick looks the safer option but Clare’s desperation for a win might drive them over the line.
Leinster SHC Round-Robin
Laois v Westmeath, Portlaoise, 2.0
Westmeath are virtually assured of a place in the quarter final of the Leinster championship regardless of today’s result. They have won their two games so far and boast a scoring difference of +19.
A win over Laois would further boost their confidence and secure a clash against Offaly in the next round whereas the group runners-up face a potentially more difficult match against Wexford.
Having lost to Antrim in the first round Laois must win to secure their spot in the quarter finals. With home advantage they ought to secure the win which will extend their season.
Antrim v Carlow
Arguably this is Antrim’s most important fixture since the 1989 All-Ireland final – though for entirely different reasons.
A loss to Carlow will see them lose their place in the Leinster championship and All-Ireland series – they will be competing in the Christy Ring Cup in 2016.
Pointless Carlow also need the win to have any chance of avoiding relegation from the top flight. Home advantage and the fact that the Ulster side are without the injured Neil McManus will encourage Carlow.
But there will surely be a positive respond to their crisis from Antrim who still have an outside chance of making the quarter finals if they win and Westmeath beat Laois.