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Preview: Sunday's Tailteann Cup Semi-Finals

Down senior football manager Conor Laverty. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Down senior football manager Conor Laverty. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Tailteann Cup Semi-Finals

Sunday June 23

Antrim v Laois, Croke Park, 2pm, RTE

The stakes are piled high at GAA headquarters on Sunday afternoon.

It has been a hugely encouraging campaign for Laois, who have made progress under Justin McNulty in 2024.

An Allianz Football League Division Four title illustrated Laois potential, while a solid Tailteann Cup campaign bodes well for the future.

Andy McEntee's Antrim, though, continue to impress, and they are hopeful of reaching the decider of this well regarded competition.

Beaten at the penultimate stage last year, Antrim's depth was evident when staging a dramatic late comeback against Fermanagh at the quarter-final stage.

Goalkeeper Michael Byrne was an influential figure, while Dermot McAleese and Cathal Hynds were others to impress.

Laois custodian Killian Roche has enjoyed a productive year, with Damon Larkin, Evan O'Carroll, and Mark Barry important figures for the O'Moore County.

Antrim: Michael Byrne; Declan Lynch, Eunan Walsh, Kavan Keenan; Niall Burns, Joseph Finnegan, Dermot McAleese; Patrick McAleer, Cathal Hynds; Colm McLarnon, Patrick McBride, Ruairi McCann; Ryan McQuillan, Ruairi McCann, Marc Jordan.

Subs: Luke Mulholland, Calum Higgins, Conhuir Johnston, Conor Hand, Daniel McNichol, Dominic McEnhill, Eoin Hynds, James McDonnell, Liam McLarnon, Pat Shivers, Peter Healy.

Laois: Killian Roche; James Kelly, Kieran Lillis, Mark Timmons; Séamus Lacey, Brian Byrne, Simon Fingleton; Damon Larkin, Conor Heffernan; Mark Barry, Evan O'Carroll, Kevin Swayne; Rioghan Murphy, Niall Dunne, Paul Kingston.

Subs: Conor Brown, Eoin Buggie, Ciarán Burke, Niall Corbet, Brian Daly, Mikie Dempsey, Ben Dempsey, Shaun Fitzpatrick, Jack Lacey, Eoin Lowry, Aaron McEvoy.

Down v Sligo, Croke Park, 4pm, RTE

The second Tailteann Cup clash promises to be a lively affair.

Sligo, who have introduced several exciting players in the Tony McEntee era, are eager to test themselves against a talented and well organised Down outfit.

Conor Laverty deserves immense credit for bringing some positivity back to Down football, but the challenge now is to glean silverware.

The 2023 final loss to Meath hurt, while Down came close to overcoming Armagh in Ulster.

Since that loss, though, Down have regrouped in this tournament with Odhran Murdock, Pat Havern, and Daniel Guinness providing plenty of inspiration.

Sligo cruised to an emphatic success over Limerick at Markievicz Park, demonstrating their potential.

Niall Murphy remains a potent attacking threat, while Canice Mulligan and Cian Lally have been others contributing handsomely for Sligo.

Down: John O'Hare; Peter Fegan, Ryan McEvoy, Pierce Laverty; Miceal Rooney, Daniel Guinness, Shealan Johnston; Jonny Flynn, Odhran Murdock; Danny Magill, James Guinness, Ryan Johnston; Liam Kerr, Pat Havern, Conor McCrickard.

Subs: Kevin Anderson, Finn McElroy, Paddy McCarthy, Ryan Magill, Ceilum Doherty, Caolan Mooney, Oisín Savage, Shane Annett, John McGovern, Gareth McKibben, Eamonn Brown.

Sligo: Aidan Devaney; Evan Lyons, Eddie McGuinness, Paul McNamara; Brian Cox, Darragh Cummins, Nathan Mullen; Paul Kilcoyne, Canice Mulligan; Cian Lally, Alan McLoughlin, Seán Carrabine; Mikey Gordon, Patrick O'Connor, Niall Murphy.

Subs: Daniel Lyons, David Quin, Donal Conlon, Eoghan Smith, Jack Lavin, Keelan Cawley, Lee Deignan, Luke Casserly, Mark Walsh, Pat Spillane, Peter Laffey.