Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 5°C Wednesday 3 March 2021

Your essential guide to the weekend's GAA football championship action

A provincial title is on the line in Munster, while Round 2A of the qualifiers gets underway.

EVERY WEEKEND, OUR bumper Friday football preview will give you the who, the what, the why, the when and the where ahead of the weekend’s GAA championship action, as well as statistics from analyst Christy O’Connor.

Here are the five games you can look forward to this weekend. For a chance to win Senior Championship game tickets courtesy of eir, click here

Andy McEntee Meath boss Andy McEntee Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Meath v Sligo

All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 2A

When? Saturday, 6pm
Where? Pairc Tailteann
TV? No

Meath looked to be on an upward curve until their Leinster semi-final no-show against Kildare in Tullamore. The nature of that nine-point defeat has lowered expectations in the county, but Andy McEntee will be eyeing a strong run in the qualifiers.

Young forward Ruairí Ó Coileáin, who impressed with three points off the bench against the Lilywhites, has been introduced to the Meath team as part of a rejig for the Sligo clash.

The Connacht outfit went down to Mayo by nine points in the provincial quarter-final, but responded with an 0-22 to 3-7 beating of Antrim in the opening round qualifier.

Christy O’Connor says: ”Prior to 2013, Meath had the third best record in the qualifiers, with a 69% win rate, having won 16 games out of 24. However, their record in the meantime has been horrendous, having failed to win a single qualifier in four seasons.”

The42′s verdict: Meath

Aidan O’Shea Mayo's Aidan O'Shea during their defeat to Galway Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Mayo v Derry

All-Ireland SFC Round 2A qualifier

When? Saturday, 5pm
Where? MacHale Park

Had Mayo not lost Keith Higgins to a first-half red card against Galway, it’s likely they’d be preparing for a Connacht final rather than hosting Derry in the back-door. No side has ever made it to back-to-back All-Ireland finals after starting in Round 2 of qualifiers and that underlines the enormity of the task facing Stephen Rochford.

Derry shipped an 11-point pasting to Tyrone, but the Red Hand’s subsequent beat down of Donegal indicates Derry may not be quite as bad as we suspected.

Mayo are vulnerable here but home advantage should see them through.

Christy O’Connor says: ”Ten years ago, Derry defeated Mayo in a qualifier but Mayo will be confident heading into Saturday’s clash because of their solid record in the back-door, having won 25 of the 38 qualifiers played.”

The42′s verdict: Mayo

Michael Murphy kicks a free Donegal will be hoping skipper Mochael Murphy returns to form against Longford Source: Presseye/John McIlwaine/INPHO

Donegal v Longford

All-Ireland SFC Round 2A qualifier

Be part
of the team

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

Become a Member

When? Saturday, 5pm
Where? Ballybofey
TV? No

Donegal have every reason to be wary of Longford’s impressive record in the qualifiers, particularly against Ulster opposition. Rory Gallagher’s young troops will be aiming to put their flat display against Tyrone firmly behind them and a home game against a Division 3 outfit, on paper at least, provides them with a straightforward opportunity to do so.

Donegal have a proud record in Ballybofey and having failed to reach an Ulster final for the first time since 2010, there should be a sting in the tail coming this weekend.

Christy O’Connor says: “Longford face a huge test against Donegal on Saturday but their qualifier record in the early rounds is highly impressive. Their win against Louth was their ninth successive first-round back-door win but they have advanced past the second round in both of the last two seasons, defeating Down, Clare and Monaghan along the way.”

The42′s verdict: Donegal

Keelan Sexton and Brendan Quigley Keelan Sexton and Brendan Quigley in action during last year's qualifier clash Source: Lorraine OÕSullivan/INPHO

Laois v Clare

All-Ireland SFC Round 2A qualifier

When? Saturday, 3pm
Where? Portlaoise
TV? No

This is arguably the most difficult game of the entire weekend to call. Laois impressed in their 11-point and three-point wins over Longford and Wicklow (in fortress Aughrim!) respectively, but their 1-21 to 1-7 loss to Kildare was a black mark against Peter Creedon’s side.

Clare’s form is more difficult to ascertain, with a narrow one-point win against the unimpressive Limerick arriving before they gave Kerry a good fist of it in the Munster semi-final.

Christy O’Connor says: “Clare have had one of the most settled teams in the country over the last two years, with 25 players seeing game-time in that period. However, their squad looked like being really stretched in the last week with an ongoing club-county row. Kilmurry-Ibrickane and Miltown considered withdrawing their county players for Saturday’s game against Laois. County players were not made available for club league games on June 3rd. Four walkovers were given and clubs were fined €200. Player withdrawals won’t happen for the Laois game but that possibility was discussed. It could still happen if Clare beat Laois.”

The42′s verdict: Laois

Paul Geaney and Michael Shields Paul Geaney and Michael Shields will meet again on Sunday Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Kerry v Cork

Munster SFC final

When? Sunday, 2pm
Where? Killarney

Darragh Ó Sé predicted a Cork victory this week in an act of cute-hoorism that would make most Kerrymen blush. The reality is that Cork’s wins over Waterford and Tipperary made their run to the Munster final the most uninspiring one we’ve witnessed in a long time.

Their only hope is to catch a Kerry side hoping to peaking in late August on the hop, but Eamonn Fitzmaurice is far too streetwise to allow such a calamity to happen.

Christy O’Connor says: “If Kerry win their fifth successive Munster title on Sunday, it will be their first provincial five-in-a-row since Mick O’Dwyer’s great Kerry team, which won eight-in-a-row between 1975-’82. Is this really an inexperienced Cork team heading to Killarney on Sunday? Of the last Cork team to beat Kerry in the championship (2012), nine of the players who got game-time that day may feature on Sunday – Donncha O’Connor, Alan O’Connor, Aidan Walsh, Eoin Cadogan, Michael Shields, Paul Kerrigan, Colm O’Neill, Mark Collins and Barry O’Driscoll.”

The42′s verdict: Kerry

The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!

Jim McGuinness to leave Celtic for assistant manager role in China

‘You love going into a situation where it isn’t meant to happen. That gives you a buzz and a half’

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

Read next: