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All-Ireland Qualifiers: Down go to Clare with high hopes

By John Campbell

James McCartan will be reasonably confident of progressing to at least the next stage of the All-Ireland series after Down were paired with Clare in last night’s draw at Carrick-on-Shannon.

Last year’s back door route to the All-Ireland final certainly did Down no harm and McCartan’s side should get past the Munster men to set up a clash against one of the eight provincial semi-final losers in the next round.

Clare finished mid-table in Division Four this year, winning just three games, and were well beaten by Cork in the opening round of the Munster Championship.

The Banner County are entitled to home advantage having been drawn away in last year’s qualifiers.

Antrim will welcome Westmeath to Casement Park, with the Saffrons also guaranteed home advantage having travelled last year.

Westmeath were comfortably beaten by Wexford but will be a tough challenge for Liam Bradley’s side who will need a major improvement from their Ulster Championship defeat against Donegal.

The sides met in the qualifiers back in 2002 when Westmeath prevailed by a point at Casement Park.

Fermanagh face a tough task against a rising London side who took Mayo to extra time in the Connacht Championship.

A repeat of their first half performance against Derry would surely see the Erne men exit the race for Sam Maguire.

Fermanagh comfortably won the league clash between the sides but London will be full of confidence after their performance against the Westerners.

Monaghan will be slight favourites against Offaly who surely cannot be as poor again as they were against Wexford in the Leinster Championship opener.

A 14-man Farney side pushed Tyrone all the way in the Ulster quarter-final and Eamon McEneaney’s side will face the Faithful in confident mood.

Cavan’s young guns have a chance to redeem themselves against Longford.

The Breffni boys were well beaten by Donegal yesterday while Longford will have had five weeks to work on the poor shooting that dogged their one-point loss to Laois.

Longford will be favoured to go through to the next round.

Outside Ulster, the clash between Louth and Meath catches the eye, a repeat of last year’s controversial Leinster final when Joe Sheridan’s last minute goal deprived the Wee County of a first provincial title in 43 years.

Replays showed the goal should have been disallowed and Louth will relish an early opportunity for revenge.

Louth were denied in the last minute by Carlow yesterday, while Meath were beaten by Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare two weeks back.

Elsewhere, Laois will host Tipperary and Sligo travel to Aughrim to face Mick |O’Dwyer’s Wicklow.

All games will take place on Saturday, June 25 with times and venues to be confirmed by CCCC later today.

Belfast Telegraph

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