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Shane Walsh, Galway, and Jason Doherty, Mayo in action during an Allianz Football League Division One match at Pearse Stadium in February 2018.
Shane Walsh, Galway, and Jason Doherty, Mayo in action during an Allianz Football League Division One match at Pearse Stadium in February 2018.

Preview: Weekend's Gaelic Football action

Saturday January 12

McGrath Cup Final

Clare v Cork, Milltown-Malbay, 2pm

Cork have collected two of the last three McGrath Cups and continue to experiment under Ronan McCarthy.

Last weekend's emphatic success over Limerick was an encouraging display, but McCarthy has made 14 changes to the team.

Tom Clancy is the only Cork player named to start for the second game in a row as McCarthy is keen to utilise the majority of his panel ahead of the Allianz Football League.

Clare performed smartly against Waterford to carve out a spot in the decider with Colm Collins striving to ensure the Banner are primed for the January 27 Cusack Park Division Two tussle against Donegal.

Bord Na Mona O'Byrne Cup Semi-Finals

Westmeath v Longford, The Downs, 2pm

Ger Egan's accomplished finishing steered Westmeath to victory over Kildare last weekend setting up what should be a hotly contested midlands derby.

Jack Cooney and Padraic Davis are both well regarded figures within their own counties with the early signs favourable.

Prompted by Egan's six point haul Westmeath did what was required against Kildare, while Davis has plenty of reasons to be satisfied with Longford's form.

With the Mullinalaghta St Columba's contingent unavailable Davis has still managed to carve out a string of promising results with Robbie Smyth highly effective in attack.

Dublin v Meath, Parnell Park, 7pm

Dublin have integrated some exciting players into the senior panel during the past couple of Bord Na Mona O'Byrne Cup campaigns.

It has proven to be a useful method with Saturday evening's encounter against Meath an ideal stage to examine how several promising footballers in the capital are going.

Victories over Laois and Wexford were sufficient to secure Andy McEntee's charges a berth in the knockout stages.

Mickey Newman's return to the inter-county arena has supplied a drop of optimism as Meath prepare for a critical campaign in Division Two.

Darragh Canavan, Tyrone, and Paul McNeill, Derry, during a Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup clash at Celtic Park in December.
Darragh Canavan, Tyrone, and Paul McNeill, Derry, during a Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup clash at Celtic Park in December.

Sunday January 13

Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Semi-Finals

Derry v Tyrone, Athletic Grounds, 2pm

Tyrone have won six of the last seven Dr McKenna Cups so unsurprisingly the Red Hands remain in the hunt for further silverware.

Derry were well beaten by Tyrone in the group stages, but they recovered to secure victories over Fermanagh and University Ulster.

Ben McCarron's opportunism was the difference against Fermanagh and a young Derry outfit will want to test themselves against Tyrone once more.

Mickey Harte has been introducing new talent into the Tyrone set, but they demonstrated patience to eventually shrug off Fermanagh's resistance on Wednesday evening.

Armagh v Donegal, Healy Park, 2pm

Armagh and Donegal impressed during the opening three rounds so this should be a match worth monitoring.

Scoring heavily during three good wins means both outfits will be intent on reaching the decider.

Holders Donegal defeated Cavan, Down, and Queens, while Armagh overcame Antrim, St Mary's, and Monaghan.

A narrow midweek triumph over Monaghan was a significant boost for Kieran McGeeney's charges, who are especially eager to make progress.

Though Donegal are without several established performers due to injuries and club commitments Declan Bonner will be heartened by the manner in which his panel has thrived.

New Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham.
New Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham.

Connacht FBD League Semi-Finals

Galway v Mayo, Tuam Stadium, 1.30pm

It is amazing to think considering Mayo's dominance out west in James Horan's first stint as manager of the green and red team that Galway have win every fixture between the counties since 2015.

Three Connacht Senior Championship, one Allianz Football League, and one Connacht FBD League win complete that list.

While a match in mid January isn't top of the yearly agenda for Mayo the visitors will certainly want to scratch an itch this weekend.

In a strange way Galway's improvements owe much to what happened in the Horan era because Mayo had moved so far ahead of their neighbours that significant planning and plotting took place.

Gaving been soundly beaten in 2013 and 2014 Galway narrowed the gap in Kevin Walsh's debut campaign in 2015 and have enjoyed a productive spell in the intervening years.

There was no shortage of drama at Pairc Sean MacDiarmada when a penalty shootout was required for Mayo's blend of youth and experience against Leitrim.

Galway have placed some emphasis on unearthing new talent in this competition under Walsh and the policy has served Walsh nicely. Any game involving Galway and Mayo will be hard fought and interesting.

Roscommon v Sligo, Dr Hyde Park, 1.30pm

With Roscommon and Sligo both under new management this should be a lively encounter at the Hyde.

Being ready for the Allianz Football League is the chief objective so the teams will want to secure another match by earning a spot in the decider.

Kevin McDonnell's unavailability for Sligo is a blow, who will be managed by former forward Paul Taylor in 2019.

Anthony Cunningham's coaching CV is packed with inter-county involvement in hurling and football so Roscommon should be well organised for the demanding challenges which await in the coming weeks and months.

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