Ulster sides stand out in qualifiers

It's been so far, so good for Ulster sides in the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers. The trend continued with Monaghan becoming the first team through to the fourth round last night, and Cavan and Derry look set to join them later today.

It's been so far, so good for Ulster sides in the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers. The trend continued with Monaghan becoming the first team through to the fourth round last night, and Cavan and Derry look set to join them later today.

Add in the losers of next Saturday's Ulster SFC final replay between Tyrone and Armagh, and there could be four sides from north of the border in next weekend's fourth round qualifier draw.

Cavan and Derry, nonetheless, are both seasoned campaigners and know not to get ahead of themselves with Meath and Limerick both in the firing line this afternoon.

Cavan, under stand-in boss Marty McElkennon, takes on neighbours Meath at Clones in an early throw-in (1.45pm). The Breffni men were slight winners when the sides clashed last in the league, and whisper it, defeat for the Royals could be the curtains finally down on Sean Boylan's 23-year reign.

Without injured duo Trevor Giles and Ollie Murphy, Meath's attack looks a little lacking, especially when you consider they needed extra-time and some inspiration from Murphy and 1999 All-Ireland winning skipper Graham Geraghty to edged past Leitrim in the second round.

Pierce McKenna starts at midfield for Cavan, despite getting married yesterday, and the firepower of Jason O'Reilly and Larry Reilly - who have hit 1-29 between them this summer - should see McElkennon's charges edge what is the bordering counties' first championship tie since 1952.

There's much to admire about the double-header the GAA have fandangled in Castlebar today. Sligo and Clare are first off at 2pm, in what is a repeat of last August's Tommy Murphy Cup final.

The Banner men were winners back then, and chalked up successes in the sides' previous two clashes as well. Conor Whelan, Michael O'Dwyer and Ronan Slattery (suspension) should return for Clare this afternoon.

Sligo's hopes have not been helped by a sick bay which includes lead-out midfielder Eamonn O'Hara - both wing-forward Brian Curran and corner forward Kenneth Sweeney are also injured.

Still, the momentum of tight qualifier wins over Longford and Kildare, coupled with the comfortable surroundings, should stand to the Yeats' men - who need another big day-out for top scorer Mark Breheny (0-12).

Sligo boss Dom Corrigan admitted: "The setbacks Sligo suffered against Clare in recent years will, I feel, serve as added motivation for us on this occasion but, in the final analysis, we know we’ll have to produce a first-class performance to get through.

“Our main job will be to focus on our own game and make sure that we are as well prepared as we can be.”

The second game at the home of Mayo football sees beaten Munster semi-finalists Limerick take on the might of Derry (throw-in 3.45pm).

The Shannonsiders are unchanged, and motoring along nicely after seeing off Carlow in the second round. Their over-reliance on the prowess of free-taker and skipper Muiris Gavin could be their downfall.

Derry, although missing midfielder Fergal Doherty (ankle) and unlikely to see Enda Muldoon (hamstring) at his best if he plays, have enough quality, especially in their forward lines, to progress.

It won't be easy for Mickey Moran's men. Sean Marty Lockhart and Kevin McCloy need to step up at the back, the refixed midfielder combo of Patsy Bradley and veteran Johnny McBride will come under the microscope and skipper Paddy Bradley - who has notched an incredible - 2-19 in three championship outings - is certain to be well-marshalled.

CAVAN (SFC v Meath): J Reilly; M Hannon, D Rabbitt, P O'Reilly; M Cahill, A Forde, P Reilly; D McCabe, P McKenna; M McKeever, N Walsh, F O'Reilly; M Graham, J O Reilly, L Reilly.

MEATH: tbc

SLIGO (SFC v Clare): P Greene; P Naughton, J Martyn, B Phillips; P Doohan, B Egan, J Davey; S Davey, N McGuire; J McPartland, M Breheny, D McGarty; D McTiernan, D Sloyan, G McGowan.

CLARE: tbc

DERRY (SFC v Limerick): B Gillis; K McGuckin, K McCloy, M Kelly; F McEldowney, SM Lockhart, P McFlynn; J McBride, Patsy Bradley; P Murphy, Eoin Bradley, G Donaghy; M Lynch, Paddy Bradley, E Muldoon.

LIMERICK: S O'Donnell; T Stack, C Mullane, J McCarthy; P Browne, S Lucey, S Lavin; J Quane, J Galvin; S Kelly, M Gavin, S Buckley; C Fitzgerald, M Reidy, M Crowley.

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