Edge of the Square: Football championship previews
12:50, 20 May 2011
Cork v Clare, 15:30, Páirc Uí Chaoimh
Famously it’s been seven years since Cork lost in the Championship to a team other than Kerry. (For pub quiz enthusiasts it came against Fermanagh). It’s been a year longer again since they exited Munster without Kerry holding the door for them (Limerick did them the courtesy in 2003). In contrast Clare haven’t beaten a team in the province that isn’t Waterford since 2000 (It was Tipperary, another stat for what would admittedly be quite an esoteric pub quiz).
In fact, since the advent of the qualifiers in 2001 only Sligo, Westmeath and Antrim join Waterford on the list of teams to be defeated by the Bannermen in Championship fare. And they haven’t beaten the Rebels in 14 years. Which is all a roundabout way of stating what we already know: for Cork to lose at home to Clare on Sunday would be one of the biggest shocks to ever happen in the Championship.
Fintan Goold, Eoin Cadogan and Paudie Kissane are all likely to be absent for this tie but Graham Canty should make his first competitive appearance of the season. Clare have no major injury worries but they will be looking for smaller moral victories on the day, manager Michael McDermott understandably talking about performance over result during the week.
So Cork will be looking to avoid a dog fight and suspensions and/or injuries that may come with one. Clare will be looking for enough encouragement to enter the qualifiers on a positive note.
SetantaBet odds Cork 1.01 Draw 21.00 Clare 13.00
Kerry v Tipperary, 15:30, Killarney
Kerry have had a longer Championship break than usual. The first time since 2004 that they enter the provincial stages without fresh memories of an All-Ireland final in their minds. The league presented some time to lick wounds and try out some fresh blood. And, despite talk of rebuilding, they emerged with six (comfortable) wins. The two losses, to Cork and Dublin, will only have helped with motivation.
Continuing the theme of change, Paul Galvin doesn’t start this week and this time it’s not through suspension. Eoin Brosnan makes a championship return after a three-year absence while Bryan Sheehan moves into midfield with Kieran O’Leary coming into the full forward line.
Tipperary had an encouraging/disappointing league campaign depending on how you view your glass of water. They stayed up over Limerick through their head-to-head. But if they hadn’t slipped up against Waterford then promotion would have been a real possibility going into the last day.
Last season they lost by 12 points to Kerry at this same stage, before an encouraging win over Laois in the qualifiers set up a credible display against Dublin. Manager John Evans has done sterling work with the senior and under-21 sides over the past three seasons and it should pay off in the Championship at some point. The minor side’s victory over Kerry during the week will also have given the counties football fraternity a real boost.
But with Seamus Grogan, Ciaran McGrath, Peter Acheson and Ciaran McDonald all doubtful they will be hard pressed to keep the Kingdom within touching distance. A breakthrough for Tipperary may be on the way – just not this week.
SetantaBet odds Kerry 1.05 Draw 17.00 Tipperary 10.00
Sligo v Leitrim, 15:30, Markievcz Park
Last season Sligo were like the cyclist who goes over the mountain in the lead only to get a puncture on the way back down as they eased past Mayo and Galway only to get tripped up by Roscommon in the final. A meek surrender to Down in the qualifiers was almost to be expected after that. This year’s draw lets Kevin Walsh’s side gear up for a mountain-top finish with history and form suggesting they should progress to another provincial final; this time against one of the old firm.
While they were relegated in the league it was by the slimmest of margins (Meath stayed up on head-to-head) and they were relatively competitive in Division Two. They do have injuries worries though. Mark Breheny and David Kelly are both out so the forward line will be more reliant than is comfortable on veteran Eamonn O’Hara.
Leitrim’s two-games-two-defeats record last year now looks slightly better given their conqueror’s (Roscommon and Kildare) subsequent form. And the continued presence of Mikey Moran hints that a result worth talking about is surely on the cards soon. League form was hardly encouraging as they remained rooted in Division Four. But new players were being blooded and they weren’t a million miles away from any of the teams around them.
Seven Leitrim players will make their championship bow this weekend and one of the county’s most promising footballers, Emlyn Mulligan, will make a return after an injury-hit couple of seasons.
Neither side will fear Roscommon in the semi-final so there is plenty to play for. Sligo should have enough experience over their neighbours, despite their injury worries, but it’s possibly not the dead cert the bookies are making it.
SetantaBet odds Sligo 1.17 Draw 11.00 Leitrim 6.00
Derry v Fermanagh, 15:30, Celtic Park
Derry have been showing early signs of revival since John Brennan took over in the autumn. The Derry native has enjoyed great success at club level in the county and has been waiting for his chance with the senior team for some time. They narrowly failed to bounce straight back up to Division One in the league, missing out only on points difference. Veterans Kevin McGuckin and Enda Muldoon returned to the fold at the start of the months to add some much-needed experience.
In the debit column they are missing their strongest player, Paddy Bradley, who damaged his cruciate in club colours following a strong league campaign. Team captain Barry McGoldrick is also a doubt. Their form at home isn’t what it used to be either. They lost at home to both Armagh and Kildare in last year’s Championship. And their two league defeats this year also came at Celtic Park.
In contrast the debut season of Fermanagh manager John O’Neill has been fraught almost from the beginning. The start of April saw 11 players leave the senior panel in protest at the management team’s methods. So Sunday will see Fermanagh granting Championship debuts to up to six players.
In mitigation the remainder of the squad responded to the controversy with two wins in the league – albeit against Carlow and London. And John O'Flanagan, Barry Mulrone and Hugh Brady are returning from injury to give the side some much-needed experience. But even with Derry’s injury concerns and dodgy home form it looks like there can only be one winner.
SetantaBet odds Derry 1.17 Draw 11.00 Fermanagh 6.00
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