GAA football previews: Derry face Donegal in the most anticipated game this weekend

The winner faces a quick turnaround for an Ulster semi-final against Tyrone or Cavan next week, while the loser will have a four- or five-week break to prepare for the All-Ireland series


Connacht SFC semi-final
Sligo v Galway; Markievicz Park, 3.30

Given the glut of headline fixtures this weekend, this is a provincial semi-final arriving very much under the radar. Galway swatted Sligo aside 2-20 to 0-12 in the Connacht final in 2023 and over the last three championship meetings of the sides, the Tribesmen have won by a combined total of 47 points. Tony McEntee’s Sligo have had a decent season, but Galway will be a hurdle too high today.

Verdict: Galway

Munster SSF semi-finals
Kerry v Cork, Fitzgerald Stadium, 4.0 (GAAGo)

Cork haven’t beaten Kerry in a championship match in Killarney since the 1996 Munster final, and few are expecting that stat to change this weekend. Cork, to their credit, did finish the league strongly – posting a four-game unbeaten run. However, only five teams throughout all four divisions conceded more than Cork during the league. Kerry didn’t exactly set the world alight in Division One, but they still finished third without overexerting themselves. Jack O’Connor’s side will soon be cranking up through the gears.

Verdict: Kerry

Waterford v Clare, Fraher Field, 6.0

The Munster semi-final few predicted, but Waterford’s surprise victory over Tipperary last time out has left the Déise within touching distance of a first provincial final appearance since 1960. The winner of this contest will also be guaranteed a place in the All-Ireland series. For all their heroics against Tipp, it would be quite the feat for a team that ended the league with a scoring difference of -70 in Division Four to overcome a side that finished third in Division Three, with a scoring difference of 11 points.

Verdict: Clare

Ulster SFC quarter-final
Derry v Donegal, Celtic Park, 6.15 (RTÉ & BBC)

This is the most significant game of the football championship so far, though the loser here might still end up with a prize of sorts. The winner faces a quick turnaround for an Ulster semi-final against Tyrone or Cavan next week, while the loser will have a four- or five-week break to prepare for the All-Ireland series. Despite that, both Mickey Harte and Jim McGuinness will be hellbent on victory at Celtic Park. It should be a gripping, fascinating contest, not least in seeing what plan Donegal devise around squeezing the Derry kick out, but ultimately, Harte’s side are further down the road in terms of their development than Donegal are right now.

Verdict: Derry

Connacht SFC semi-final
Roscommon v Mayo, Dr Hyde Park, 4.0 (RTÉ)

It has been a challenging second season for Davy Burke in Roscommon – they were relegated from Division One, dropping down having posted the lowest scoring tally in the topflight, 92 points. In the last five championship meetings between the counties, Roscommon won two, Mayo won two and there was also a draw. It is fair to assume Mayo have been able to commit more focus to Roscommon this season than before last year’s meeting, coming as that did just a week after the league final. In this year’s Division One encounter between the sides, Mayo ran out comfortable six-point winners.

Verdict: Mayo

Ulster SFC quarter-final
Cavan v Tyrone, Kingspan Breffni, 4.0 (BBC)

Cavan have the benefit of a championship victory in the locker already after seeing off Monaghan in the preliminary round, but the outcome of this contest will be determined more by what Tyrone side show up. Their inconsistency during the league must have been a source of real frustration within the dressingroom. The big advantage they bring to Breffni for this quarter-final is an attacking unit with more weapons than Cavan possess – should the likes of Darragh Canavan or Darren McCurry cut loose, Tyrone will advance.

Verdict: Tyrone