Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

GAA: Calling the shots

Ulster Senior Football Championship final:

Monaghan v Donegal

Sunday, Clones, 4pm

TRY as you might, you cannot narrow the outcome of this game into half-a-dozen factors.

There's Rory Beggan's free-kicking for example. Will he get them? Will Maurice Deegan award them? What will the weather be like on the day?

Will Donegal give him the same treatment they used to spook Niall Morgan last May? Would Deegan permit it? Will Deegan award the first black card for personal abuse between players?

That's just one microscopic detail of this game and it can be immediately broken down into half a dozen sub-clauses.

This is set to be one of the most finely-poised contests you could imagine. With that in mind, the first commentator on RTÉ to suggest that it comes down to 'hunger' should be forcibly evicted from the ground, or studio.

Monaghan know they can beat Donegal and the little chat between Darren Hughes and Eamonn McGee in the league final shows that they are not scared to bring that up.

But Donegal have created a handy narrative around this game, that would lead one to believe that they were caught cold in last year's Ulster final.

Add in a few salty comments about the nature of Monaghan's tackling that led to the early injury to Mark McHugh last year and we are looking at an intensely combustible 70 plus minutes ahead.

If Monaghan can hold their shape, once again win their personal battles and if they can avoid in-game injuries, then there is no reason they cannot retain this title.

Verdict: Monaghan

 

Leinster Senior Football Championship final

Dublin v Meath

Sunday, Croke Park, 2pm

THE third meeting in a row of these two in the Leinster final and there is a sense that Dublin are pulling away altogether from their ancient rivals.

Odds late in the week of 1/8 on a Dublin win must play on the minds of Meath's management team of Mick O'Dowd and Trevor Giles and they are sure to have their players at just the correct pitch for this one.

All that though is mere wishful thinking for those who want to see Dublin tested after watching them blow Laois and Wexford away in second-half displays, powered by the scoring contribution from their bench of Cormac Costello, Kevin McManamon and the like.

With Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion and Bryan Cullen also cast in the role of replacements, Dublin appear to have the deepest panel of any GAA squad in history.

Michael Newman returning to take his place should give Meath an extra bit of strength in the forward line, but it is the hard-running of this Dublin team that will prevail.

Verdict: Dublin

 

All-Ireland Football Qualifiers

Roscommon v Armagh

Saturday, Dr Hyde Park, 5pm

YOU sense that in the games Armagh have won or acquitted themselves well so far this summer, they are the ones they carried a sense of mission into; such as avenging the 2013 Cavan defeat, the first game against Monaghan when they were down three players, and Tyrone, because, well, it's Tyrone.

Stripped of that, now Paul Grimley and Kieran McGeeney have to tap into something different. But Roscommon are nobody's mugs and any side managed by John Evans are going to know their business.

Home advantage, along with the talents of Diarmuid Murtagh, Senan Kilbride and Cathal Cregg, will be enough to force Roscommon through this one.

Verdict: Roscommon

 

Clare V Kildare

Saturday, Ennis Park, 7pm

KILDARE, for so long producing a losing brand of football this season, produced something out of the ordinary in steaming past Down in the closing stages of their qualifier in Newry last weekend.

While that was a Down team that has perhaps run its course under James McCartan, Clare are very much a team on the up, and with the smart management of Colm Collins, they are up for making a statement here and there.

10/3 represents great value, especially at home. They just might do it, too.

Verdict: Clare

 

All-Ireland Hurling Qualifiers

Wexford V Waterford

Saturday, Nowlan Park, 7pm

AFTER thrilling us so richly over the last two weeks with those two games against Clare that went to extra-time, along with the Under-21 contingent nailing another Leinster title between the two senior games, Wexford are the epitomy of the battle-hardened outfits.

Waterford have a similar age profile with four starters part of their Under-21 panel that were defeated so heavily by Cork during the week and welcome back Noel Connors.

Verdict: Wexford

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