Will Kilkenny and Waterford prove to be the game of the weekend?
By Peter Sweeney
RTÉ Sport journalist
Saturday, July 8
All-Ireland SFC qualifiers, Round 2B (extra-time to be played if necessary)
1400 Cavan v Tipperary, Kingspan Breffni, F Kelly (Longford)
1500 Carlow v Leitrim, Netwatch Cullen Park, P Hughes (Armagh)
1500 Wexford v Monaghan, Innovate Wexford Park, C Lane (Cork)
1900 Westmeath v Armagh, TEG Cusack Park, P O’Sullivan (Kerry)
All-Ireland SFC qualifiers, Round 3A (extra-time to be played if necessary)
1700 Clare v Mayo, Cusack Park, S Hurson (Tyrone)
1800 Meath v Donegal, Pairc Tailteann, D O’Mahony (Tipperary)
All-Ireland SHC qualifiers, Round 2 (extra-time to be played if necessary)
1700 Dublin v Tipperary, Semple Stadium, A Kelly (Galway)
1900 Kilkenny v Waterford, Semple Stadium, J Owens (Wexford)
Donegal are on the road against Meath
Sunday, July 9
Connacht SFC final
1400 Galway v Roscommon, Pearse Stadium, D Gough (Meath)
Munster SHC final
1600 Clare v Cork, Semple Stadium, F Horgan (Tipperary)
Live blog on RTÉ.ie and the RTÉ News Now App from 1345 on Saturday and 1330 on Sunday.
Saturday: Clare v Mayo live on RTÉ2 from 1630, Kilkenny v Waterford live on Sky Sports from 1800.
Sunday: Galway v Roscommon and Clare v Cork live on RTÉ One from 1320.
Live games also available on GAAGO
Saturday: Live commentary and updates from all of the football and hurling qualifiers on RTÉ Radio 1’s Saturday Sport.
Sunday: Live commentary from both Galway-Roscommon and Clare-Cork on RTÉ Radio 1’s Sunday Sport.
Saturday: Mainly dry with good sunny spells with temperatures of 17 to 21 degrees.
Sunday: Generally mild and cloudy with scattered outbreaks of rain, temperatures between 14 and 20 degrees.
A 2013 ALL-IRELAND FINAL REPEAT
Cork and Clare players line up for the 2013 All-Ireland final replay
Cork and Clare can’t help bumping into one another recently and this is their sixth meeting in the past four years, with their epic drawn and replayed 2013 All-Ireland finals the stand-out fixtures.
Much has changed since Clare snatched an unlikely draw the first day before winning the Liam MacCarthy Cup four years ago on a glorious Saturday evening thanks to young Shane O’Donnell’s hat-trick of goals.
The Banner have struggled in the Championship since and Davy Fitzgerald departed as manager at the end of last season, replaced by the successful Donal Moloney-Gerry O’Connor double-act that landed three All-Ireland Under-21 titles on the bounce.
Largely the same cast of players have been revitalised and are back in their first Munster final since 2008. The last one they won was way back in 1998.
Kieran Kingston took over as Cork manager from the legendary Jimmy Barry Murphy and until earlier this season it looked as though the Rebels were going nowhere fast. Then things started to change – and quickly.
In Munster they have taken the scalps of All-Ireland champions Tipperary and Waterford, the latter with 14 men, with youngsters like Mark Coleman, Colm Spillane and Darragh Fitzgibbon following the example set by older leaders Patrick Horgan, Conor Lehane and Seamus Harnedy.
Cork are favourites to win
Michael Duignan’s view:
"Looks like another sell-out and another massive game in what has been a massive summer of hurling. Cork have been hugely impressive against Tipperary and Waterford, their new players have brought a new lease of life and the more experienced players are playing with new confidence and vigour. They are very tight at the back and free-scoring up front.
"Clare have come in under the radar; they weren’t that impressive against Limerick, but still have quality players right through the team. I’d be expecting a much bigger performance from Tony Kelly, Conor McGrath and the likes of them.
"Donal Og Cusack’s knowledge of Anthony Nash’s puck-outs and of the Cork set-up will be invaluable to Clare and I am expecting a much improved performance from them. But they haven’t won a Munster Championship since 1998 and I think Cork’s form has been fantastic and I think they’ll just about have enough in a high-scoring encounter."
Galway's Danny Cummins nets a goal against Roscommon
THIRD CONNACHT MEETING IN TWO YEARS
These appear to be two teams heading in opposite directions and it would take an unexpected Roscommon win in Sunday’s Connacht final to buck the trend.
The Rossies were relegated rock-bottom of Allianz League Division 1 while Galway were promoted as Division 2 champions, winning their first game at Croke Park since 2001 in the process.
This big, strong and direct-when-they-have-to-be Galway side have beaten Mayo, the strongest team in the West this decade, two seasons in-a-row now in the province and they blew Roscommon away in the replayed Connacht final 12 months ago.
The Tribesmen, who are seeking back-to-back Connacht titles for the first time since 2002-’03, haven’t lost to Roscommon in the Championship since the 2001 provincial semi-final.
Kerry GAA great Tomás Ó Sé
Tomás Ó Sé’s view
"Galway under Kevin Walsh have made real progress – a Connacht title last year, a League Division 2 title this year and another Connacht final. I think it’s the fact that they have beaten Mayo back-to-back that will really prove to this team that they are going in the right direction. Yes, Tipperary beat them last year in the All-Ireland quarter-final, but there’s no doubt that this team are on an upward trajectory.
"A lot of people giving out that Roscommon beat Leitrim and are straight through to a provincial final, but they are there and Kevin McStay has put up with a two tough years. Their performance in the Connacht final replay last year was very disappointing, Fergal O’Donnell leaving the set-up – Roscommon seem to be going one direction and Galway seem to be going the other.
"Kevin McStay has always said that July 9 is the date they were aiming for so they need a big performance. It’s in Salthill, which will be tough, and I can’t see Roscommon winning this. This will be decided in the middle of the field and Roscommon are weak around there."
Mayo pushed past Derry in the last round
The biggest game in this weekend’s football qualifiers is between the nearly-men of Mayo and last year’s beaten All-Ireland quarter-finalists Clare.
The Banner’s footballers have been moving the right direction under Colm Collins’ clever management, but they will have it all to do in their first Championship meeting against the team that pushed Dublin so hard in last year’s drawn and replayed All-Ireland finals before coming up one-point short.
Much like last year, Mayo dropped out of Connacht early at the hands of Galway and then struggled over Ulster opposition in their first qualifier, last year Fermanagh and this year and just last weekend it was Derry when they finally kicked on in extra-time following 70 horrible minutes in front of goals.
The other Round 3A qualifier this weekend sees Donegal visit Navan to take on a Meath side who started to rehabilitate after their damaging Leinster semi-final loss to Kildare with a win over Sligo. Donegal were disappointing against Tyrone and Longford and will need to show more to convince that they can go deep into the Championship this year.
The most interesting of the Round 2B qualifiers sees Monaghan visit Wexford in the Banty Derby, with Seamus McEnaney leading his new charges against his native county.
The meeting of Carlow and Leitrim offers two Division 4 counties a rare opportunity to make it into Round 3 through the backdoor. Both teams have beaten London this year, Leitrim losing to Roscommon, with Carlow also adding the scalp of Wexford before a respectable showing against Dublin.
Westmeath will be hoping to bounce back from a record defeat to Dublin in their game in Mullingar against an Armagh side who have a win under their belts, backing up their Ulster defeat to Down with victory over Fermanagh.
Tipperary are decimated by injuries and absentees and they are almost a different team to the side that reached last year’s All-Ireland semi-final. Cavan have the luxury of home advantage and a qualifier win over Offaly in the locker.
Tipperary and Dublin tangle again
Game of the weekend? It’s got to be Kilkenny–Waterford in the hurling qualifiers. There’s no silverware to play for, but this is the only game where a genuine All-Ireland contender will end their summer no matter which team wins.
Kilkenny are in need of a major refit, as their comprehensive Leinster defeat to Wexford and shaky qualifier win over Limerick proved, but they still have the muscle memory to win big games – particularly when the stakes are at their highest.
Waterford haven’t scored a Championship win over the Cats since 1959, though they came close last year when they pushed the Cats to an All-Ireland semi-final replay. Can they go one better this weekend?
The curtain-raiser in Semple Stadium, a controversial venue for what was supposed to be a game played at a neutral ground, is Dublin against Tipperary.
Neither of these teams convinced in their respective qualifier wins, All-Ireland champions Tipperary just doing enough against Westmeath and Dublin far too sloppy as they saw off Laois at Parnell Park last weekend.
The Dubs crowd is likely to be reduced by the county board’s decision to play a round of hurling league games in the county on Saturday evening. Tipp will be expecting to get themselves into the draw for the next round.