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GAA: Calling the shots on all the big games

By Declan Bogue

Ulster Senior Football Championship replay

Down v Tyrone

Saturday, Pairc Esler, 6.30pm

It's not like Tyrone manager Mickey Harte to name false teams but he did last week with the inclusion of Paddy McNeice, who made way for Mark Donnelly before the ball was thrown in.

The chances are we might not be able to trust this team either. Those saying Down have missed the boat after the original game fail to take the Pairc Esler effect into consideration and how, after two seasons of mixing and matching, Conor Gormley and Justin McMahon are still the only healthy defenders of high quality in the county.

A big reaction is due from Tyrone. If not, they are in serious bother.

VERDICT: Tyrone

Derry v Donegal

Sunday, Celtic Park, 2pm

Without Mark McHugh through disaffection, Rory Kavanagh through suspension and Neil Gallagher through injury and Ryan Bradley and Ross Wherity through emigration, Donegal are paper-thin.

The question here to ask is how exactly Donegal are going to dig themselves out of Celtic Park tomorrow?

The deployment of Michael Murphy will be crucial. Jim McGuinness might need him at midfield to counter the Fergal Doherty-Patsy Bradley axis, but it would leave them blunt up top.

Donegal being Donegal, they will bring something new to the party, but the cloak of invincibility has long since been shed and teams now smell blood early on against them.

Expect a horrible affair with the fear of losing paramount.

VERDICT: Derry

Leinster Senior Hurling Championship

Laois v Antrim

Sunday, Portlaoise, 3pm

The task is simple. Beat Laois, and Antrim will play Wexford in the Leinster Championship proper. Lose, and they will have to face one of the front runners for the Liam MacCarthy in Galway, both games taking place a week later.

Last season Laois showed they were a measure above Antrim and, under the guidance of Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett, edged home by six. The league meeting this season was tighter, the goal coming in Laois's favour in a 1-21 to 0-21 win.

It could be a similar outcome here.

VERDICT: Laois

Christy Ring Cup

Derry v Kildare

Saturday, Owenbeg, 1pm

Despite missing Shane Farren, and with Liam Óg Hinphey struggling with injury, Derry are favourites for this. Kildare's relegation from the same league – in which, despite some puzzling performances, Derry survived comfortably – is ample reason.

VERDICT: Derry

Nicky Rackard Cup

Roscommon v Tyrone

Saturday, Athleague, 2.30pm

Playing their hurling a couple of rungs up the ladder from the Red Hands and with this game fixed for Athleague, it is no wonder Roscommon are warmly expected to make their way through this test without being overly exerted.

Tyrone spent the spring whipping the likes of Longford, Warwickshire and Leitrim in the bottom tier, but this will be a major step up.

VERDICT: Roscommon

Donegal v Fingal

Saturday, Letterkenny, 2.30pm

Heading for their second Nicky Rackard final in a row, Donegal should be in a position of reasonable confidence here, something reflected in their odds of 1/10 on to win.

VERDICT: Donegal

Monaghan v Sligo

Saturday, Ballinamore, 2.30pm

The Oriel face Sligo in a play-off to preserve their Nicky Rackard status. Despite a topsy-turvy campaign, they should have the quality to do that.

VERDICT: Monaghan

Connacht Senior Football Championship

London v Galway

Sunday, Ruislip, 3pm

An encouraging league campaign might have added another arc onto the London story this spring after a glorious summer that brought a first-ever Connacht final and a Croke Park appearance.

However, manager Paul Coggins has articulated the reasons why a sustained effort with a settled panel will always be difficult and so they may be better suited to the one-off tests in Championship.

Galway stumbled through an indifferent league campaign in Division Two, but the threat of London has been well flagged-up by this stage and Alan Mulholland's side will be well aware of what to expect.

VERDICT: Galway

Munster Senior Hurling Championship

Cork v Waterford

Sunday, Semple Stadium, 4pm

With Aidan Walsh set to make a Championship debut for Cork, Jimmy Barry Murphy's side are operating off an even deeper panel than they had last year when they came within seconds of delivering Liam MacCarthy.

Eleven of the side who started the replay begin this game, with Damian Cahalane the newcomer.

Waterford have endured a poor build-up, with training held in secret after Derek McGrath was instructed not to gather the squad for collective sessions for a month.

VERDICT: Cork

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