Preview: Weekend's Football Championship action
Saturday, August 3
All-Ireland SFC quarter-final phase 3
Mayo v Donegal, Elverys MacHale Park, 6pm – Sky Sports
The stakes couldn’t be higher for these teams with victory guaranteeing a semi-final slot and defeat a Championship exit.
A draw would also be good enough to see Donegal into the last four, but only a win will suffice for Mayo.
Ulster Champions Donegal have shown the better form thus far in the Championship, but Mayo always come out fighting when their backs are against the walls and will be roared on by a partisan MacHale Park.
They’re boosted too by the return to fitness of Keith Higgins, Paddy Durcan, Matthew Ruane and Tom Parsons who are all named on the bench.
Captain Diarmuid O'Connor is still sidelined though ane he's a big loss because it’s in attack where Mayo have struggled most this year.
They’ve averaged five points less per match than Donegal have so far in the All-Ireland Quarter-Final series, and that deficit won’t be easy to make up.
Mayo are still very reliant on a core group of players who played against Donegal in the 2012 All-Ireland Final, whereas the current Donegal team are a younger, more energetic looking outfit.
Key players like Michael Murphy, Ryan McHugh, Patrick McBrearty, and Jamie Brennan are all in a rich vein of form at the moment too, and if the team as a collective produces the same sort of quality they did against Kerry then it should be enough to see them come out on top.
Mayo: Robert Hennelly; Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison, Eoin O'Donoghue; Lee Keegan, Colm Boyle, Stephen Coen; Aidan O'Shea, Seamus O'Shea; Fionn McDonagh, Jason Doherty, Fergal Boland; Cillian O'Connor, Darren Coen, James Carr.
Meath v Kerry, Pairc Tailteann, 6pm – Sky Sports
Kerry have made one change to the team that drew with Donegal last time out as David Moran returns to the midfield after recovering from a foot injury with Diarmuid O’Connor making way.
Meath can’t qualify for the All-Ireland semi-finals after two defeats from two matches, but Kerry would do well not to underestimate them.
The Kingdom are in a strong position after a win and a draw from their first two matches, but their place in the All-Ireland semi-finals still isn’t fully assured.
Were they to lose this match and Mayo beat Donegal up in Castlebar, then they could still miss out if Donegal had a better scoring difference.
They’ll be keen to not just win this match but to win it by a margin that ensures they top the group regardless of what happens in MacHale Park.
The respective form graphs of both teams suggests a Kerry victory is certainly the most likely result.
Meath were competitive for 60 minutes of both of their games against Donegal and Mayo before falling away badly down the home stretch.
They conceded an average of 24 points in those matches, and that sort of defensive vulnerability is likely to be taken advantage of by Paul Geaney and David Clifford.
Meath will want to put produce a big performance in front of their home supporters and you’d bet on them making it a difficult evening for Kerry, but the Kingdom’s class should see them through in the end.
Kerry: Shane Ryan; Jason Foley, Tadgh Morley, Tom O’Sullivan; Paul Murphy, Gavin Crowley, Shane Enright; David Moran, Adrian Spillane; Gavin White, Sean O’Shea, Stephen O’Brien; David Clifford, Paul Geaney, Killian Spillane
Meath: Marcus Brennan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Shane Gallagher; Donal Keoghan, Padraic Harnan, GAvin McCoy; Bryan Menton, Shane McEntee; Ethan Devine, Bryan McMahon, Darragh Campion; Cillian O'Sullivan, Shane Walsh, Thomas O'Reilly.
EirGrid All-Ireland U20 Football Championship Final
Dublin v Cork, O'Moore Park, 4pm - TG4
Both of these teams are committed to an attacking brand of football so this EirGrid All-Ireland U-20 Football Final promises to be a free-flowing, exciting match.
Top of Cork’s to do list will be to somehow limit the influence of Dublin’s star forward, Ciaran Archer, who has been in sensational form through their campaign.
He scored 3-8 in the Leinster Final against Laois and 2-6 in Dublin’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Galway last weekend to bring his Championship tally up to a remarkable 9-30.
Dublin are far from a one-man team, but if Cork can neutralise Archer then they’ll believe they are half-way to winning the match.
They’re not short on quality themselves, beating two very highly rated Kerry and Tyrone teams on the way to this weekend’s final.
Cathal O’Mahony and Mark Cronin are a real handful in their inside forward line and will take a lot of watching.
The Rebels also have a impact players like Jack Murphy, Fionn Herlishy, Mark Hodnett and Éanna Ó Hanlon to spring from the bench, so if they can stay with Dublin for the first three quarters of the contest they’ll believe they can finish strongly.
Cork: Josh O’Keeffe; Michael Mahony, Maurice Shanley, Paul Ring; Gearoid O’Donovan, Sean Meehan, Peter O’Driscoll; Brian Hartnett, Daniel O’Connell; Colm Barrett, Blake Murphy, Colm O’Callaghan; Mark Cronin, Cathail O’Mahony, Damien Gore.
Dublin: David O'Hanlon; Darren Maher, Daire Newcombe, Eoin O'Dea; Kieran Kennedy, Neil Matthews, Sean Lambe; Peadar O'Cofaigh Byrne, Donal Ryan; Niall O'Leary, Karl Lynch Bissett, James Doran; Brian O'Leary, Ciaran Archer, Ross McGarry.
Sunday, August 4
All-Ireland SFC quarter-final phase 3
Tyrone v Dublin, Healy Park, 4pm – RTE
Both Tyrone and Dublin are already assured of their places in the All-Ireland semi-finals so all that remains to be settled is who goes through as group winner.
A draw will be good enough for Dublin, but Tyrone must win this match because of their inferior scoring differential.
Dublin scored a whopping 65 points over the course of their wins over Roscommon and Cork whereas Tyrone managed 38 points against the same opposition, which suggests there’s a considerable gulf in scoring power between the two teams.
Con O’Callaghan and Paul Mannion are both in red-hot form, and their mix of pure athleticism, skill, and finishing nous makes them an absolute nightmare for opposition defenders to handle.
And even if Tyrone do manage to contain them, they’ll still have to worry about quelling the considerable scoring threat of players like Ciaran Kilkenny and Niall Scully, and the dangerous runs from deep of Jack McCaffrey and Brian Fenton.
Dublin have a wide array of attacking weapons, whereas Tyrone have been very reliant this year on Cathal McShane. They’ll need the likes of Peter Harte and Mattie Donnelly to cut loose as well on Sunday if they’re to pull off a shock.
Cork v Roscommon, Pairc Ui Rinn, 4pm - RTE Player
Both teams are out of the running for the All-Ireland semi-finals, but they’ll still want to end their Championship campaigns on a high.
Roscommon was electrified by the manner in which their team won the Connacht Championship earlier this summer so a third defeat in a row in the All-Ireland Quarter-Finals would be a real come-down.
A win here would put a more positive hue on the season as a whole and leave a more solid foundation for manager Anthony Cunningham to build on again next year.
Cork’s championship campaign has been a cathartic one after a disastrous Allianz League that saw them relegated to Division Three.
But even though they played well in the Munster Final against Kerry and against Dublin and Tyrone in the All-Ireland Quarter-Finals, they still lost all three matches.
A victory here would be a nice reward for the effort that Ronan McCarthy and his players have put in this summer and give them reason to look ahead to 2020 confident in the knowledge that they’re on the right track.
McCarthy has made four changes to the team that was beaten by Tyrone two weeks ago as goalkeeper Micheal Martin, defender James Loughrey, and forwards Eoghan McSweeney and Paul Kerrigan come in for Mark White, Liam O’Donovan, Tomas Clancy and Brian Hurley.
Cork are the most improved team in the country this year, but if Roscommon can resurrect the form they showed in Connacht then they have the quality to come out on top here.
Cork: Micheal Martin; James Loughrey, Thomas Clancy, Kevin Flahive; Sean White, Stephen Cronin, Mattie Taylor; Ian Maguire, Killian O'Hanlon; Eoghan McSweeney, Ruairi Deane, Kevin O'Driscoll; Paul Kerrigan, Mark Collins, Luke Connolly.