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GAA: Calling the shots

By Declan Bogue

Ulster Senior Football Championship Monaghan v Tyrone

Sunday, Clones, 2pm

The will-he-won't-he over the participation of Conor McManus in this game is a mere distraction.

If you add a dash of recent Championship experience, along with the track record in head-to-head meetings between these two, and – at first-hand – it's difficult to see how Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke can turn the undoubted potential of his side into a win over Tyrone.

Not since 1988 have Monaghan managed the trick and while they are defending Ulster champions, that seven-week lay-off could not have done them much good, while Tyrone have been round a few corners in their two games against Down.

For all that, we see a serious core developing in Monaghan. When you pair off the matchings and the man-marking jobs, there are so many 50-50 battles where there weren't before, and you sense Tyrone are running out of options.

Before, Tyrone would have beaten them on muscle-memory alone. This time, there are too many balls-of-the-feet defenders in the Monaghan side to count against them.

I could be wrong, but this feels like one of those days.

VERDICT: Monaghan

Ulster Senior Hurling Championship

Down v Donegal

Sunday, Clones, 12noon

After losing their Nicky Rackard semi-final against Fingal at home, Donegal have not met up for collective training.

One of their most prominent players, Danny Cullen, is out through a cruciate injury. This is a big occasion for Donegal hurling and, indeed, many hurling fans will appreciate the symmetry of the competition, along with Donegal's three triumphs in the annals of history.

But unfortunately there is a real lack of enthusiasm for it right now.

Down to win, even as weakened as they are.

VERDICT: Down

Armagh v Derry

Sunday, Athletic Grounds, 3pm

Derry are about as enamoured by this competition as their neighbours in the north-west, and have not picked up a hurl since they went crashing out of the Christy Ring Cup three weeks ago.

Despite that, they should be able to get the better of an Armagh team in regression – not that the Orchard county are helped by the Ulster Council's decision to impose a fixture on Keady's hurlers on Saturday when they are due to meet Ballinascreen.

VERDICT: Derry

Munster Senior Football Championship

Waterford v Clare

Saturday, Dungarvan, 7pm

Without Podge Collins, Clare have been weakened for the replay while in spells last week Waterford's power – in particular the rangy yet skilful midfielder Shane Aherne –looked irresistible.

Timely goals kept the Deise in it last week, Clare should have planned enough this week to prevent a re-run.

VERDICT: Clare

Munster Senior Football Championship

Clare v Cork

Sunday, Semple Stadium, 4pm

The science against the skill. Cork took two bites of it to get past a Waterford side that lack nothing in application but yet are still only in germination.

A repeat of last year's All-Ireland final too, and Clare can report a full bill of health.

Clare have the belief systems of champions. Cork have a third of a new team and are coming into this nicely seasoned, but it won't be enough.

VERDICT: Clare

Leinster Senior Football Championship

Carlow v Meath

Sunday, Dr Cullen Park, 3.30pm

Always hard to know what to say or any crumbs of comfort that can be extended to Carlow.

Meath manager Mick O'Dowd will be aware that his side will need to be self-motivators in what should be a relatively easy day in inter-county football.

VERDICT: Meath

Leinster Senior Hurling Championship

Wexford v Dublin

Saturday, Wexford Park, 7pm

Sky TV get a better spectacle than they had seven days earlier when Dublin head down to Wexford fully expecting victory.

However, there are signs that things are on an upward turn down Slaneyside. Their under-21 hurlers are adding to the mood of optimism when they overturned Kilkenny recently, and the seniors posted a relatively decent league campaign with Liam Dunne growing into an astute tactician.

Dublin manager Anthony Daly has stated that he does not believe Wexford can spring any surprises, and certainly the home team might be well-advised to avoid the overly-physical elements of their game last year that only served to distract.

But when they hurled well in this fixture last year they eked out a draw. They would do well to match that.

VERDICT: Dublin

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