All-Ireland SFC Qualifier previews


All 7pm unless stated, extra-time if necessary

Meath v Kildare, Páirc Tailteann, (J McQuillan, Cavan), RTÉ

IF Meath supporters weren’t buoyed enough by rumblings that John Doyle had hurt himself during the week they would have been positively beaming yesterday with news Hugh Lynch is out of the game. Lynch and Doyle have been in fantastic form for Kildare in midfield, an area where Meath might be lacking as well if Mark Ward isn’t fit.

Certainly, there will a carnival-like atmosphere in Navan this evening where the Royals will hope to feed from the crowd for the third game running.

The doubts about Doyle (will he now play more defensively, like he did against Dublin) and Lynch’s absence have brought the teams closer but not enough to suggest Kildare will be beaten. The Lilies are a resilient group and the ruthlessness they showed in Portlaoise was what’s expected of a team with designs on a September date.

Verdict: Kildare

Wicklow v Armagh, Aughrim (R Hickey, Clare)

THE graveyard for northern teams beckons for Armagh but like the other sell-out qualifier game in Navan, the game could be determined by who’s not playing as opposed to who is.

James Stafford was head and shoulders above anyone in the Morgan Athletic Grounds last Saturday and, should he be ruled out with injury, his loss is a monumental blow for Wicklow.

Ciarán McKeever is out for Armagh although Paddy O’Rourke may have now found his best defensive six if it is by accident rather than design.

There was talk of Steven McDonnell and Jamie Clarke being held scoreless last week but the pair grabbed nine points between them. They can punish Wicklow and we might see a more attacking Armagh here.

For certain, they won’t start as badly again even if they will find Aughrim an intimidating place. Keep tabs on Leighton Glynn and the carrot of a date with Tyrone will be theirs to munch.

Verdict: Armagh

Limerick v Waterford, Gaelic Grounds, 7pm

AFTER their humbling Munster championship exits in June, there were signs of resurgence from both Limerick and Waterford in the qualifiers last week. Limerick are starting to cope with their crippling injury crisis and the twin threats of Ger Collins and Ian Ryan were to the fore on Saturday against Offaly. Posting a combined tally of 2-9 illustrates their threat and Waterford will be mindful that the pair need to be policed. Waterford staved off tricky opponents in London and their team looks better set up with Paul Whyte in attack. This is unchartered territory for the Déise who will be motivated to avenge their 2010 league final and championship losses to the Shannonsiders. But home advantage will benefit Maurice Horan’s side. The hosts to advance.

Verdict: Limerick

Antrim v Down, Casement Park, 7pm

AFTER a huge scare against Clare, Down had eight points to spare against Leitrim last weekend. They are starting to gain qualifier momentum again while Marty Clarke’s playmaking and Benny Coulter’s point-scoring were other facets of their performance that will have pleased James McCartan. Antrim’s form was not overly impressively last Saturday as they survived a storming late charge by Carlow. The influence of Paddy Cunningham was plain to see when he came off the bench and his attacking instincts are likely to be needed by Liam Bradley here. Antrim are back with home advantage yet Down will punish any repeat of last week’s defensive lapses. Question marks remain over the defensive resilience of McCartan’s men but they will not be asked too searchingly here and should set up a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland decider with Cork.

Verdict: Down

Compiled by John Fogarty and Fintan O’Toole

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