Pat Spillane’s verdicts for Sunday’s big GAA clashes as Dublin take on Louth
GAA legend backing Dublin and Derry to win
Leinster SFC Final
Dublin v Louth
Croke Park, 1.45, RTE 2
Louth are in bonus territory having finished third in Division 2, reached their first Leinster final since 2010 and qualified for the Sam Maguire. They are a fit, defensively well organised team who play a counter attacking game.
Midfielders Tommy Durnin and Conor Early are good operators, and they have a class forward in Sam Mulroy.
And of course there is the Mickey Harte factor. He was instilled the players with belief. The problem is that no manager has yet kicked the winning point in a Leinster final.
Louth gave a great first half performance against Dublin in the league and trailed by a point at the break. But Dublin blew them away in the second half.
Louth have beaten two Division 3 teams (Westmeath and Offaly) on the way to the final which is hardly ideal preparation even if Dublin were unusually sloppy in their decision making and shooting against Kildare.
But like Kerry they have ticked all the boxes so far without moving out of second gear. Their season really starts in two weeks’ time in the first round of the group stages.
They are on the cusp of winning their 13th Leinster on the spin and their 39th provincial game in a row. Dublin by double digits.
Ulster SFC Final
Derry v Armagh,
RTE 2/BBC NI
The defenders of the provincial championship will be praying this will be the final to rescue the series. A word of warning: last year’s decider between Donegal and Derry produced the worst match in the entire provincial series.
Armagh’s need is greater today. This is Kieran McGeeney’s eighth season in charge, and they last won an Ulster title in 2008 when he was still a player.
They did what was required of them against Antrim, Cavan and Down. Having played in Division 1 for three seasons they are well conditioned and thankfully they have reverted to their kicking game in the championship.
They were unlucky to be relegated: they lost four games by margins of between one and three points. They focussed too much on defending in the competition.
Granted their defensive record is excellent – they conceded no goals in the Ulster series and only two in the league.
Derry’s biggest weakness is an inability to deal with high balls into their danger zone and both Fermanagh and Monaghan punished them.
Andrew Murnin, Conor Turbitt, and Rian O’Neill have the potential to wreck havoc in a hesitant full back line.
Derry have definitely built on the progress they made last year. They are a better side and have a better attacking game.
Despite a blip in the league final against Dublin and the lack of impact subs I like the way Rory Gallagher is getting a tune out of them.
Round 1, Group 4
Fermanagh v Wexford,
Brewster Park, Enniskillen, 1.0
Even though in their last two games (against Cavan in the Division 3 league final and against Derry in the championship) Fermanagh failed to ignite I imagine they have targeted the Tailteann Cup. Wexford have had an underwhelming league and failed to secure promotion from Division 4.
Antrim v Leitrim,
Corrigan Park, Belfast, 1.0
Both are coming in on the back of woeful provincial championship performances. Armagh hammered Antrim but Leitrim will be hurting even more after being the first team to lose to New York in the championship. But the abuse the players and management received afterwards on social media was totally out of order.
Round 1, Group 1
Offaly v London,
Glenisk O’Connor Park, Tullamore, 2.0.
Offaly narrowly missed out on promotion and were unlucky not to have reach the Leinster final. They should be good enough beat London who had a most disappointing league campaign.
Wicklow v Carlow,
Carlow will be hoping it is a case of third time lucky. They drew in the league, but Oisin McConville’s side brushed them aside in the Leinster championship. Even though they lost the Division 4 final Wicklow has made progress in McConville’s first season while Carlow have stalled under Niall Carew.
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