GAA football previews: Throw-in times, TV details, predictions

Keith Duggan looks ahead to this weekend’s championship action in all four provinces


ULSTER SFC QUARTER-FINAL Monaghan v Down, Clones, 4.30 – Live on Sky Sports Arena Down need this trip to Clones right now about as much as Henry Hill needs a trip to Rockaway. The influence of the great James McCartan has not yet been able to arrest the decline of Down, who slipped into Division Three in the league. With senior players like Liam Kerr and Jerome Johnston unavailable, this is as tough as assignments come.

Monaghan will turn up ready to rumble: they always do. The hope is that Jack McCarron will carry that sublime league form into high summer. Gary Mohan has brought a new element to the Farney attack and his bust-through-brick-wall approach is fun to watch and causes the mayhem in which Monaghan thrive. Verdict: Monaghan

CONNACHT SFC SEMI-FINAL Sligo v Roscommon, Markievicz Park, 5.0 Sometimes, the fates smile. Sligo prepare for this time-honoured fixture in buoyant manner after Wednesday's thrilling – and maiden – Connacht Under-20 title secured after late goals from Eoghan Smith and captain Jack Lavin, who dedicated the evening to the late Red Óg Murphy.

Paired with last year’s Connacht minor championship and a fine league season, things are looking up. The decision by Tony McEntee to stay with the senior team was good news for the county.


Roscommon under Anthony Cunningham have been terrific in wringing every last ounce out of themselves: Sligo need to emulate that now. They had comfortably the best scoring difference in Division Four and have quality forwards led by Seán Carrabine and Niall Murphy.

Roscommon are favourites: they have a very settled team and took Galway for 1-20 in Croke Park last time out. They should edge it but there is something about this fixture that suggests the TV folk messed up by passing on it. Verdict: Roscommon

LEINSTER SFC QUARTER-FINALS Westmeath v Longford, Cusack Park, 6.0 A midlands feud that has never been treated to national exposure. Jack Cooney's Westmeath were going rightly in the league so naturally enough, Longford did them over when the teams met in February. That will flavour this tea-time game in Mullingar. Darren Gallagher has been in fine form at midfield for Longford but Westmeath, led by John Heslin, were persuasive in the league and should edge this. Verdict: Westmeath

Dublin v Wexford, Wexford Park, 6.30 – Live on Sky Sports Arena There was joy unconfined for Shane Roche and his Wexford charges last weekend after their 1-15 to 1-12 against Offaly. The contribution of veteran Ben Brosnan, who struck 1-8, was critical. Last year, Wexford held Dublin to 0-15, the first clear sign that the champions were not travelling well.

This year, all eyes will be searching for signs that the Dubs, relegated to Division Two, have been fooling the world. Con O'Callaghan is expected back and their mood may be vengeful. Roche has done an impressive job and his team are against the odds again. Verdict: Dublin

MUNSTER SFC QUARTER-FINALS Clare v Limerick, Cusack Park, 6.0 Colm Collins has the distinction of being the longest-serving manager in Gaelic football, having led the Banner since 2013. What a job he's done. Clare are the great survivors, hanging about in Division Two this year virtually unnoticed. Billy Lee has also marshalled Limerick to better times.

The maturation of Under-20 players like Robbie Childs, Brian Donovan, Mike Donovan and Jim Liston helped their promotion drive to Division Two. Home advantage will be critical in what promises to be a very even contest. Verdict: Clare

Waterford v Tipperary, Fraher Field, 7.0 Ephie Fitzgerald was frustrated when his team drew 0-10 apiece with Tipperary on the opening day of the league. Fortunes diverged afterwards. David Power's men raced for promotion while Waterford endured six defeats on the bounce. But those losses contained three one-point games. Waterford stayed competitive without catching a break.

This would be a fine time to do that. Power's team has changed since that moment of pandemic fabulousness in the winter of 2020 – 14 of that squad have since bowed out, including heavyweight names like Quinlivan and Casey. But they still have the stuff to advance. Verdict: Tipperary


LEINSTER SFC QUARTER-FINALS Meath v Wicklow, Páirc Tailteann, 2.0 What on paper looked like a straightforward assignment for Meath has been complicated by Wicklow's extraordinary 5-15 to 4-12 win over Laois a week ago. Andy McEntee's team had a nightmarish afternoon in the early part of the league against Galway. With Dublin having supposedly fallen to earth, Meath will target this championship with a big push for a provincial title. Verdict: Meath

Kildare v Louth, O'Connor Park, 4.0 The revival of the Wee County under Mickey Harte has been one of the GAA stories of the year. Kildare were a tough read: not many teams beat Dublin and draw with Kerry in a league season and still drop. They have quality through the lines and terrific finishers in Jimmy Hyland and Ben McCormack.

But they tend to blow hot and cold and will be meeting a highly organised and motivated Ulster-influenced system here – and a team having the time of their lives. If there is to be a shock, it could be here. Verdict: Louth

ULSTER SFC QUARTER FINAL Tyrone v Derry, Healy Park, 4.0 – Live on RTÉ 2 Derry have not won a match in the Ulster theatre for seven years. They've come very close under Rory Gallagher, who has transformed the playing-style and belief system in the squad. But breaking that streak in Omagh against the All-Ireland champions? It's tantamount to Mission Impossible.

Peter Harte is back to full-fitness and the successful appeal on the red card issued to Conor McKenna deepens Tyrone options. A series of high-profile departures from the squad created much church-gate gossip but they are still a bit ahead of Derry in experience and profile and should mind the house here. Verdict: Tyrone

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan

Keith Duggan is a features writer with The Irish Times