We preview all the Gaelic football games of the weekend
The Connacht semi-final between Roscommon and Sligo is the pick of the bunch this week and we have also have an Ulster semi-final and the first round of the Qualifiers too.
Connacht SFC semi-final: Sligo v Roscommon, Markievicz Park, Saturday, June 20, 7.0. Live on Sky Sports
At first glance this looks a done deal; Roscommon secured promotion to Division 1 whereas Sligo tottered on the brink of relegation to Division 4 before a late spurt enabled them to finish fourth in Division 3.
Still, despite the obvious gulf in standards there is one of those local derbies where League form is not as relevant as in other clashes.
For starters Sligo has absolutely no hang-ups about taking on John Evans’ side at Markievicz Park. The Yeats’ County’s ability to raise their game against Roscommon is illustrated by the fact that in their last five clashes the biggest winning margin was four points.
Even that figure is misleading; that result came in a 2004 replay between the sides which went to extra time when Roscommon goalkeeper Shane Curran famously scored 1-1 – from a penalty and a free – which effectively decided the issue.
Roscommon have won three of the last five clashes including their last and most important meeting in the 2010 Connacht final when, ironically, Sligo were the favourites having already beaten Mayo and Galway.
Still, it is unlikely that John Evans’ side will be ambushed. Their trajectory has definitely been upwards since they escaped from Division 4 at the end of the 2011 season. They have already captured silverware this season – winning the Division 2 title.
The Murtagh brothers, Diarmuid and Ciarain together with the excellent Senan Kilbride are capable of wreaking havoc on the Sligo defence handicapped by the fact that there last competitive match was on April 5.
Roscommon to win but Sligo to cover the three point handicap.
Ulster SFC semi-final
Fermanagh v Monaghan, Kingspan, Breffni Park, 4.0 Delayed coverage on BBC 2 NI
Monaghan finished third in Division 1 while Fermanagh were first in Division 3 which translates into 17th overall. There is nothing to suggest that Pete McGrath’s side will bridge that sizeable gap.
The underdogs will take some solace from the fact that they have a decent record against Monaghan in championship football – winning three of their last encounters against their neigbours.
But Monaghan won the most recent clash between the sides in 2010 and since Malachy O’Rourke took over as team boss in late 2012 they have lost just three championship matches and won eleven.
They’re on the cusp of reaching a third Ulster final on the spin which the county last achieved in the 1920s. In contrast Fermanagh has only ever played in five Ulster finals and remain the only county in the province not to win the Anglo Celt Cup.
Fermanagh will focus a lot of attention of Monaghan’s marquee forward Conor McManus while Sean Quigley’s free taking prowess will keep the underdogs in the game. But the vastly superior quality of the Monaghan bench will see them through.
All-Ireland Qualifiers Round 1
All on Saturday, June 20
London v Cavan, 2.0, Ruislip
Cavan came close to taking Monaghan’s scalp in the Ulster quarter final and provided they have mentally recovered from what was a shattering defeat they will prove too strong for London.
The Exiles did trouble Roscommon in the first half of their Connacht clash and proved more than a match for Cavan for an hour when they meet in a last 12 match in the All-Ireland series in 2013. But they have struggled to reach those heights since.
Waterford v Offaly, 2.0, Dungarvan
Fourteen players have left the Waterford panel this season which is a shame, particularly as the confidence level of the visitors would be suspect in the wake of their final quarter collapse against Longford. This is an ideal opportunity for them to begin the rehabilitation.
Laois v Antrim, 2.30, Portlaoise
Luckily for Laois this match is on home soil. Their second half collapse against Kildare was weekend was as unexpected as it was spectacular. Winning at a point at the break, they ‘lost’ the second half by 3-10 to 1-2. So the result could depend on Laois’ mental state. Antrim’s chances of beating Fermanagh was effectively scuppered when they had to play with second half with 14 men.
Longford v Carlow, 7.0, Longford
Longford’s match against Dublin went along predictable lines. What was disappointing was the underdogs’ lack of intestinal fortitude and their naïve set-up. They were never going to beat Dublin but surely they could have made a bigger effort. Carlow were woeful against Laois and it’s hard to see where the improvement will come from.