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Fourth successive semi spot on the line for Dublin, Déise drive, and Armagh look to unlock the Kingdom

There’s an All-Ireland quarter-final double-header down for decision in Nowlan Park today.

ladies football Waterford and Dublin, and Armagh and Kerry are all vying for All-Ireland semi-final spots.

WE’VE WELL AND truly hit the business end of the All-Ireland ladies senior football championship.

Provincial campaigns have been left in the past, the qualifiers are over, and we’re down to the last eight sides in the country. The first of the quarter-finals are down for decision this weekend, with a highly anticipated double-header on the agenda in Nowlan Park.

The earlier of the two clashes sees last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists Dublin lock horns with in-form Waterford [throw-in 4.45pm, live on TG4].

Having coasted through Leinster, Mick Bohan’s Sky Blues face their toughest test to date in the Déise, who tallied up massive wins in Munster over ladies football kingpins Cork and Kerry.

Despite falling to the Kingdom on their second meeting — the provincial decider — Pat Sullivan’s charges have since backed up their sensational win over the Rebels with a gutsy comeback to beat Cavan two weeks ago.

Their potent inside forward line of Michelle Ryan, Maria Delahunty and Aileen Wall — who bagged a vital late goal to secure their quarter-final place — will have a huge say if they are to swing the result in their direction and knock Dublin out of the championship.

Lyndsey Davey Lyndsey Davey returns from injury. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Meanwhile, Bohan has chosen an experienced starting fifteen to rise to the challenge, 12 of whom started in last year’s All-Ireland final. Three-time All-Star forward Lyndsey Davey’s return from injury will come as a huge boost to the Leinster champions, but there’ll be huge pressure on their star-studded defence to manage Waterford’s numerous threats.

In this year’s campaign to date, Dublin haven’t been truly tested as such, so they’ll be expected to step up to the mark and prove their worth in Kilkenny if they are to reach their fourth All-Ireland semi-final in-a-row. Waterford, on the other hand, have come through an intense, competitive provincial championship, on top of their titanic battle with the Breffni, which should stand to them.

“Dublin and Waterford don’t have a lot of history in the last decade,” former Dublin goalkeeper Cliodhna O’Connor noted this week on the Ladies Gaelic Football Association’s video preview of the fixture.

“There’s a bit of the unknown which can be challenging. You don’t really know what you have to deal with, for both sides.

“Dublin have been ok so far this year. They’re not the finished article, they’ve a lot of room to improve. They really have to attack Waterford fast, and catch them off guard.

“Waterford are good, but I don’t think they’re at Dublin’s level yet.”

Louise Ryan and Michelle Ryan celebrate winning Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

The last time the two counties met in the championship was 10 years ago. On that day in 2007, Dublin came out on top by a single point. Since then, their last competitive fixture was in the 2011 Division 2 National League. A host of players who contested the Dublin victory that year will feature today.

In the second quarter-final tie of the day, newly-crowned Munster champions Kerry face a stiff challenge in the form of an energetic Armagh side [throw-in 6.30pm, also live on TG4].

The Kingdom have been knocking on the door throughout the All-Ireland stages over the past few years, but before their Croke Park appearance in 2012, they hadn’t featured in a decider since their win in 1993.

“They’ve been threatening for the last number of years, but they have not delivered,” O’Connor says. “They will be ambitious that they want to be All-Ireland contenders.

“I think they need to prove themselves against Armagh. If they really and truly believe they can win an All-Ireland — this is the thick of championship now — they have to start producing performances that make us, and themselves, believe that they really have quality.

“There’s no doubt about it that Kerry are good, it’s are they good enough? They keep falling short, and they’re just missing key pieces every year. They’re nearly there. But what’s going to be different this year?”

Aislinn Desmond Aislinn Desmond is one of Kerry's key players. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Graham Shine’s charges are another side who will draw huge confidence from their Munster campaign this year, having won the title and edged Cork en route to the final.

With Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh, Anna Galvin and Laura Rogers just three of their dangerous forwards, Kerry boast a strong side on paper, while the Orchard county have several stars of their own.

Despite an early provincial exit at the hands of eventual champions Donegal, and a qualifier scare to Westmeath two weeks ago, Armagh will fancy this as their real chance to break through and make a mark.

If they are to do so, they’ll look to the abundance of talent and experience of stalwart midfielder Caroline O’Hanlon, along with one of the most promising forwards in the country Aimee Mackin.

Both sides met earlier this year, with Kerry running out 0-11 to 0-9 victors in the Division One National League. After an up-and-down campaign, Armagh were relegated, but they pulled off shock wins over Cork and Dublin on their way down from the top-flight.

That’s all in the past now though. All eyes are on Nowlan Park today, and the coveted All-Ireland semi-final spots on offer.

Caroline O'Hanlon scores Caroline O'Hanlon should have a huge impact on the game in midfield. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With reigning All-Ireland champions Cork and last year’s semi-finalists Mayo through to the last eight to face Galway and Donegal respectively next weekend, the focus is on today first as we discover our first semi-final pairing.

All-Ireland senior football championship quarter-finals:

  • Dublin v Waterford (Nowlan Park, 4.45pm)
  • Kerry v Armagh (Nowlan Park, 6.30pm)

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