Gaelic GamesPreviews

Mick Fitzsimons returns as Dublin host Rossies while Ulster rivals meet again

Armagh will look to bounce back from Ulster final heartbreak as they host Westmeath


All-Ireland SFC, round 1

Louth v Cork, Páirc Tailteann, 3.0 – A fourth championship meeting between the counties, going all the way back to Louth’s All-Ireland win in 1957. More pertinently, they clashed in the qualifiers last year in circumstances not dissimilar to this weekend’s.

Louth were coming off a chastening 16-point walloping by Kildare as opposed to the 21-point defeat by Dublin in the Leinster final. They recovered well enough 12 months ago to keep it tight in Páirc Uí Cahoimh, losing by four.

Since then Cork have travelled to Ardee in the league and lost, as well exiting Munster at the hands of Clare for the first time in quarter of a century. Mickey Harte proved himself last year by reviving the team for the All-Ireland stages and learning lessons. Cork have had a longer period of preparation, having been beaten in the province back in April.


The league match is of limited application as Cork were down to 14 for most of it and also John Cleary has a stronger selection at his disposal this weekend. Mattie Taylor returns at wing back and the incisive Brian Hurley is available up front. There is also a strong centrefield in Colm O’Callaghan and Ian Maguire, well supplemented by Killian O’Hanlon and Ruairi Deane.

They’ll have seen how Dublin hacked James Califf’s restarts and also had a reminder of Sam Mulroy’s potency. Seán Meehan is a fine man marker and Seán Powter a more than capable sweeper. There’s no reason to think that Louth will still be unhinged by the last match but Cork are in stronger shape than back in March. Verdict: Cork

Armagh v Westmeath, Box-It Athletic Grounds, 4.45 [Live, GAAGO] – Armagh must still have regrets about leaving an Ulster title behind them a fortnight ago. They were strong contenders and should have wrapped it up at the end of extra time.

Westmeath won last year’s Tailteann Cup but spent most of the interim apparently sitting on their laurels, going on scoring binges in Division Three but not winning enough matches for promotion and blowing a big lead against Louth in Leinster.

Dessie Dolan also has injury concerns with Ronan Wallace struggling with a hand injury. It’s too inconsistent for an Armagh team set on improving a top six ranking from last year and with Rian O’Neill coming into form and Ethan Rafferty extraordinarily comfortable as a goalkeeper playing an extra outfield role. It can be high-wire stuff but he gives an additional option in possession and so far he hasn’t got caught out badly. Verdict: Armagh

Derry v Monaghan, Celtic Park, 7.0 [Live, GAAGO] – Monaghan’s bravura second half in Omagh, which clipped Tyrone, proved an unreliable indicator of what was to follow against Derry, who largely steamrollered them in the Ulster semi-final.

Having retained their title, Derry are back and you would imagine unwelcome opponents for Monaghan just weeks after losing to them. They did penetrate for goals but left too many holes for the champions, who largely unfettered, ran up a big score.

Shane McGuigan underlined his exceptional form against Armagh with 0-7, four from play whereas centrefielders Conor Glass and Brendan Rodgers took it in terms to dominate the middle. Karl O’Connell’s pace caused a few problems but overall, Monaghan were always chasing the match and losing. Verdict: Derry


All-Ireland SFC round 1 Dublin v Roscommon, Croke Park, 4.0 [Live, GAAGO] – Roscommon must be weary with coming up to play championship in Croke Park against Dublin but at least they have a bit of momentum after a respectable league and provincial championship.

Davy Burke has them well set up and they have been competitive but the system doesn’t emphasise forward possibilities and they rely on the individual virtuosity of the Murtaghs and Enda Smith, which was sufficient to take down Mayo a week after the league final but didn’t find a way around champions Galway even if they kept well in touch.

They had harrowing experiences in 2018 and ‘19 against Dublin but that was peak Dubs, closing out the five-in-a-row, and the aura would have been enough. These days are different. Dessie Farrell’s team have been inconsistent, rebounding from handing out thrashings to listless displays, which required some heavy pedalling to get clear of Kildare.

Jack McCaffrey is injured again, his hamstring having difficulty in re-acclimatising to intercounty football. When ready he is a phenomenal weapon, as his pace retains the turbo charge. There is an interesting addition to the bench with former All Star Mick Fitzsimons returning to action for the first time since the league final against Derry and adding a bit of experience to a callow full-back line.

Roscommon will be wound up to acquit themselves well and may do so but Dublin are finding their championship groove and should win even if not by a landslide. Verdict: Dublin

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times