(2pm unless stated)
The Wexford men will have been told they are in bonus territory.
It’s just as short-sighted and dismissive a perception as when some of their own said they wouldn’t beat Cuala in the Leinster final. The pressure is off Frank Flannery’s group, which is just as well considering they face a team who won the most convincing Munster title in years. The wiliness of Oulart should make this a seriously competitive game but Na Piarsaigh’s blend of class and promise is irresistible.
A player of Neil McManus’ quality will have to be silenced if Sarsfields are to reach their first final since 1998. Edging out defending champions Slaughtneil as they did in extra-time in the Ulster final, the Cushendall men have shown there’s a bit of grizzle about them. Sarsfields had fortitude too in seeing off Craughwell at the second time of asking and Joseph Cooney must be watched as closely as McManus. Cushendall have lost nine semi-final ties, playing 11, drawing two. Their determination to make a first final may be too much to hold.
Ruairí Óg, Cushendall
Safe to say, St Mary’s haven’t faced a team as strong as the Mayo men outside of Kerry thus far but Cahirsiveen are like a juggernaut, the likes of Bryan Sheehan showing the Christmas break has done little to arrest their momentum. They may lack battle-hardiness but should be able to keep themselves at arm’s distance from their opponents.
If Ardnaree managed to get their hands on a tape of Templenoe’s win over Curraha, they’d have seen how the Meath men frustrated them at times by keeping players back. An emotional week for Sarsfields after the passing of 1951 All-Ireland winner Fr Peter Quinn, motivation won’t be lacking but Templenoe look too good.
There will surely be a response from Mayo after such a dismal display in Cork last weekend and while a win at this stage may look a distant possibility, supporters will be hoping there isn’t a repeat of their horror show against Dublin 13 months ago.
The return of Philly McMahon from suspension will add a little spice to the occasion. Dublin are in ominous form and Mayo may struggle to contain them.
No points on the board for either team after the opening weekend and the fear of going into the three-week break with nothing to show for the first two rounds should make this a lively encounter.
Armagh were poor in Navan but they can enjoy home comforts here.
Derry may hope they don’t face Fermanagh again any time soon after manager Damian Barton said the challenge of facing Cavan this weekend was greater than the visit of Fermanagh to Celtic Park last week. Derry, though, are in a rhythm after a prolonged McKenna Cup.
London traditionally struggle at the outset of the league and, after losing in Drogheda last weekend, this should be no different although the margin will be tighter.
(2pm unless stated)
This title has been claimed by a Kilkenny club on four occasions since the competition came into existence in 2005 and a fifth looks on the cards here. Bennettsbridge are in mean form and shouldn’t be stopped.
The absence of cruciate injury victim Ger Aylward is a major blow to Glenmore but they retain enough quality, particularly in Eoin Murphy’s presence around the middle, to justify their heavy favourites tag.
There was a freshness about Donegal in their win in Newry last Saturday, although the paucity of the challenge presented by Down can’t be understated. Fr Tierney Park is quite a high pitch meaning the wind could create a repeat of last year’s proverbial game of two halves. Cork can’t afford to read much into beating an undercooked Mayo team either. They mightn’t win here but Donegal should be kept honest throughout.
One wonders just how deflated the Roscommon camp must be having targeted their Monaghan opener for so long. If they are to survive, they must get that right out of their heads and salvage something from this trip. The only problem is Kerry are wounded not by another defeat to Dublin but another below-par display against them.
The resilience we saw from Monaghan in Kiltoom last Sunday is nothing we haven’t witnessed before. Another win here and they have five games in which to pick up two points and virtually confirm their Division 1 status for another season. On the basis of the scraps Down served up last weekend, Monaghan should be sitting pretty in the table by 3.30pm tomorrow.
Pete McGrath wouldn’t have expected Fermanagh to lose as heavily as they did in Celtic Park but a win here isn’t out of the question. Meath, though, are in a rich vein of form and will be difficult to oppose particularly if Graham Reilly is back to full fitness.
Whether it’s league or championship, Tyrone are known as one of, if not the, best teams on the road. This pair may yet reconvene in the Division 2 final and the compelling goal threat posed by Galway is something Mickey Harte must consider, although Tyrone should keep them at bay.
A real character-building win for Kildare in Mullingar should be followed by another victory here. Cian O’Neill won’t want them hanging onto their advantage again, though.
Quite quickly, Longford’s O’Byrne Cup win over Dublin has been forgotten. Getting back to winning ways here is vital.
Sligo will be out to make amends for a far from satisfactory trip to Clare yet there was enough in Westmeath’s showing in defeat to Kildare to suggest they can take the points.
Given how depleted they were and remain, Tipperary will take positives from snatching a draw away to Limerick. However, Clare come knocking with so many of their main men available to them.
When promotion looks a three-horse race between these two and Louth, the games between them are crucial Antrim to sneak it.
Leitrim will pick up their first points here, having run Wexford so close in Enniscorthy.
Waterford had their chances to beat Wicklow but Louth may not give them a sniff.
The only winners of the opening weekend, Mayo had an historic and overdue victory over Cork with the great Cora Staunton coming to the fore. Dublin showed why they are league and All-Ireland favourites, demolishing a good Kerry side. Sinead Aherne has had the positive effect we expected on her return to the Dublin squad as has Leah Caffrey and the emergence of Lauren McGee.
Mayo have also welcomed back returning heroes but depend heavily on the performance of Staunton. The winner takes a giant step towards the knock-out stages but Dublin hold all the aces.
The two Munster sides underperformed on the opening weekend.
A win over their great rivals would kickstart Kerry’s season, while the fear for Cork is that another defeat could see their air of invincibility begin to slip. At such times, Cork generally find a result and with players like Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley, Vera Foley, Marie Ambrose and Róisín Phelan in their ranks there is no reason not to see them getting the victory.
Each side’s first game so no form guide, with both under new management and having lost key players to retirement. Galway have been a top four county in recent years but have not taken that final step to glory. Monaghan have question marks over the availability of key players and Galway have that mix of youth and experience that should see them start their campaign with a victory.
A crunch fixture for a Tyrone side that have been involved in relegation struggles for the past five seasons. Promoted Armagh are now under the stewardship of Ronan Clarke and talent such as Aimee Mackin, Aoife Lennon, Fionnuala McKenna, and the great Caroline O’Hanlon should get their campaign off to the best possible start!