Heavyweights to out-punch qualifier kings

Sligo and Cavan, with five qualifier wins between them, are setting sights on the last eight of the All-Ireland championship.

Sligo and Cavan, with five qualifier wins between them, are setting sights on the last eight of the All-Ireland championship.

High drama and high stakes are certain this afternoon as they tackle heavyweights Cork and Mayo for the carrot of a fourth-round ambush.

Circumstances are against Sligo profiting in the first of today's SFC qualifier double-bill, despite their recent form. When Dom Corrigan's side run out for a 4pm throw-in against Cork at Portlaoise's O'Moore Park, they will be do so without inspirational midfielder Eamonn O'Hara.

They managed to edge Clare two weeks ago without the cruciate knee victim O'Hara but Billy Morgan's Cork, who ran Kerry to three points in the Munster final, should prove a different kettle of fish.

As long as the Rebels can reduce their wastefulness in front of goal and perhaps raise a long-awaited green flag - they have gone five championship games without scoring a goal - then a quarter-final date with Galway should be theirs.

Sligo's attack, which relies too much on Mark Brehony (1-18 so far this summer) and Dessie Sloyan's placed balls, should be marshalled well by the likes of Graham Canty, Anthony Lynch and Eoin Sexton.

Odds on favourites, Cork will look to James Masters, their top scorer in two outings with 0-8, to pick off the majority of their scores. A good result here and Morgan's charges, who have been backed by former manager Larry Tompkins for a semi-final spot, will be back on the bandwagon.

The meeting of Cavan and beaten Connacht finalists Mayo - the sides' first clash since the 1948 All-Ireland final - looks an altogether more tasty morcel (Dr Hyde Park, throw-in 5.30pm).

John Maughan's Mayo are slight favourites based on their run to last year's All-Ireland final, more so than their patchy performances against Roscommon and Galway in 2005.

They offered very little in the way of inspiration against Galway when losing their grip on the Nestor Cup. Failed tactics apart, few if any of the green and red's stars stepped up to the plate.

Newcomer Billy Joe Padden was shackled well at full-forward and if Cavan's physical advantage can come to bear in Roscommon, then a third straight qualifier triumph could be theirs.

Still, Maughan, who was rightly angered by the CDC's decision to suspend corner forward Trevor Mortimer during the week, has had three weeks to re-fortify his side. Therein lies the winning of this one - a fresher and hungrier Mayo should advance.

Cavan's luck seems destined to run out at some stage, after tight victories over Donegal and Meath. Although fiercely competitive at midfield, and armed with a forward of the cailbre of Jason O'Reilly - the scorer of 3-10 in four outings - the Breffni men can be suspect at the back, especially without the steady hand of suspended dual star Paul Brady.

CORK: K O'Dwyer; G Murphy, G Canty, N Geary; N O'Leary, A Lynch, E Sexton; N Murphy, D Kavanagh; J Masters, C McCarthy, K O'Sullivan; J Hayes, G Gould, BJ O'Sullivan.

SLIGO: P Greene; P Naughton, J Martin, B Philips; P Doohan, B Egan, J Davey; S Davey, N McGuire; J McPartland, M Brehony, P Taylor; D McTernan, D Sloyan, B Curran.

CAVAN: J Reilly; M Hannon, D Rabbit, Pauric Reilly; M Cahill, A Forde, Peter Reilly; D McCabe, P McKenna; M McKeever, N Walsh, F O'Reilly; S Johnston, Jason O'Reilly, L Reilly.

MAYO: D Clarke; D Geraghty, D Heaney, G Ruane; A Roche, J Nallen, P Gardiner; R McGarrity, S Fitzmaurice; A Moran, C McDonald, A Dillon; C Mortimer, BJ Padden, A Kilcoyne.

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