Calling the Shots: Monaghan to win tight contest
Ulster Senior football final - Donegal v Monaghan (Sunday, St Tiernach’s Park Clones, 2pm)
In 2013, then-Donegal manager Jim McGuinness originally credited Monaghan for their win over his side before changing tack a week later and blaming a range of issues for the defeat. Injuries featured heavily and accusations of rough play left a sour taste in the mouths of Monaghan players and management.
Last year, a fired-up Donegal avenged the defeat and Monaghan clamped their mouths shut for fear of making excuses, even though they were ravaged with injury and illness.
There will be no excuses this time, but in the meantime we are in for a match with a certain level of intrigue.
Such as that of the man in the Monaghan number 19 jersey. In the press evening for this final, Farney boss Malachy O’Rourke said there was practically no chance Drew Wylie would be fit for this.
But here he is, announced on the subs’ bench. We would put money down he will start on Colm McFadden.
And yet, Donegal have another something different, with Leo McLoone on their bench.
Monaghan to win this, at the end of an evening’s war.
Munster Senior football final
Cork v Kerry (Saturday, Killarney, 7pm)
A couple of weeks back, Cork gave the best possible response to the long queue of pundits who thought they were onto a sure thing by insulting their manhood and lack of leadership, which seemed to be based largely on a league final the previous month.
They were robbed by Paudie Hughes’ decision to award a penalty in the drawn game, and the theory is now that Kerry will not be caught as unprepared.
Eamonn Fitzmaurice has beefed up his defence with the inclusion of Aidan O’Mahoney and Paul Murphy, while the trio of Anthony Maher, David Moran and Bryan Sheehan have placed more huge bodies around Alan O’Connor’s sphere of influence.
Fitzmaurice is seldom outwitted, and will have taken on enough from the first game.
Connacht Senior football final
Mayo v Sligo (Sunday, Dr Hyde Park Roscommon, 4pm)
The impact of Sligo’s win over Roscommon has been slightly dulled by their subsequent exit from the All-Ireland race, but if it showed one thing, it was the ability of manager Niall Carew to exploit deficiencies in the opposition.
There are a number of gaps in the Mayo team, even acknowledged by Keith Higgins late this week, but there was something in how Gary Sice cut through their under-manned defence to race through for a goal last month that left us wondering just how much has changed since James Horan left as manager.
As a group of players they should be sufficiently hardened to claim their fifth provincial title in a row, but it is what lies ahead of them that will define their legacy.
All-Ireland football qualifiers
Tipperary v Tyrone (Saturday, Semple Stadium, 3pm)
A nice bit of needle for this game is provided by the backdrop of the All-Ireland Under-21 final, where the Tipperary management barred the way of Tyrone manager Feargal Logan into the dressing room, with accusations of sledging and cynicism.
Well, if they think that was cynical…
Tyrone have been largely unconvincing for the whole of this year. Last week Niall Morgan was back in goal and failed to hit the target with his one long-range chance from a dead ball. Their free-taking has been a stone in their shoe all year but they have failed to remedy it and it will cost them down the line.
Tipp have simply too many injuries, fatigue from players being committed to too many teams, and yet not enough experience of winning tight games to take this one.
Galway v Derry (Saturday, Pearse Stadium, 5pm)
The defection of three young players from the Derry panel this week points to a lack of vision or team spirit in the camp that could turn them into a serious bunch of contenders.
Perhaps the lure of being a county player is not enough anymore, or a place in the squad and a tracksuit does not have the lustre it once had.
After defeating Armagh, Galway have already made a statement about their potential, and they have rediscovered a competitive edge, winning their first backdoor game since 2001. They should manage to keep the ship on a straight course here.