plenty at stake

From Leinster finals to basement battles: the 5 key games in football this week

The five key fixtures in football this weekend.

THERE’S PLENTY HAPPENING in Gaelic football this week with two provincial titles up for grabs at U21 level as well as some intriguing games in the national league. Here’s the pick of the bunch.

Niall Kelly Ê Niall Kelly is Kildare's key man. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Kildare vs Dublin

Leinster U21 FC Final

Thursday, Pairc Tailteann, 7.30pm

There is little surprise that these two sides have ended up facing each other in this year’s final. Kildare have eased through the early rounds of the Leinster championship and will provide Dublin with a test that they haven’t faced in the competition so far.

Niall Kelly and Neil Flynn have provided the inspiration so far for the Lilywhites and the battle they have against their respective markers (most likely Davy Byrne and Eric Lowndes) will go a long way to deciding the outcome.

Dublin struggled at times in their semi final win over Longford but with a scoring threat of Conor Mc Hugh and the excellent Killian O’Gara to rely on they should have enough in the tank to retain their title.

Enda Smith with Mark Shields Enda Smith's star has risen rapidly. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Roscommon vs Galway

Connacht U21 FC Final

Saturday, Dr Hyde Park, 2pm

Roscommon are favourites for the All-Ireland behind only Dublin, but they will have to get past a county who have always held success in the grade first.

The 24-point demolition of Sligo in the last round shows the gulf in quality of players coming through in each county, but Roscommon have some serious talent on their hands. Senior stars Enda Smith and Diarmuid Murtagh spearhead the attack but they are well assisted throughout the field by the likes of Cathal Compton, Tadhg O’Rourke and Ultan Harney.

Galway caused a minor upset when they dispatched Mayo in Castlebar last week but this would resonate along the lines of an utter shock were they to beat Roscommon. If they are to have any hope they will need the forward duo of Gary Kelly and Damien Comer firing on all cylinders and hope they can nullify Roscommon’s attack to some extent.

James Loughrey with Cillian O'Connor Cillian O'Connor is a big loss for Mayo. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Cork vs Mayo

Allianz National Football League Division 1

Sunday, Pairc Ui Rinn, 2pm

Cork are the form team in the league with the only blot on their copybook a one point defeat to an ultra-defensive Donegal side. Their last outing saw them humiliate Kerry at home and victory here will secure a semi final spot, but the focus must surely be on topping the league for Brian Cuthbert’s men.

It seems slightly odd that Mayo occupy second position in the table considering the abysmal performances at home to both Tyrone and Dublin. While the prospects of a semi-final are not to be sniffed at, victories over a second string Kerry side, an ill-disciplined Monaghan and a Derry outfit hurtling towards division two should not create too much optimism. Cillian O’Connor is sidelined and should the Cork defence bottle up Aidan O’Shea at full forward it’s hard to see where scores will come from for the westerners.

Mark McHugh with Ryan Boyle 23/6/2013 Mark Mc Hugh is back in a defensive role. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Donegal vs Tyrone

Allianz National Football League Division 1

Sunday, Ballybofey, 3pm

Pat Spillane won’t be tuning into this one  but there’s plenty at stake. We’ve seen the latest instalment of the blanket defence from these two sides in the league this year and it has made for pretty grim viewing at times.

Donegal have averaged just over 11 points per game so far this year and they would do well to increase their statistics against a Tyrone team intent on using all their energy on shutting the opposition down. Neither side would like to play in Division two next year and with both sides sitting on four points the risk of joining Derry down there next season is very real.

Senan Kilbride Senan Kilbride needs to step up against Galway. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Roscommon vs Galway

Allianz National Football League Division 2

Sunday, Dr Hyde Park, 1.30pm

Less than 24 hours after these sides face off in the U21 Connacht Final they will be playing for two very different goals. Roscommon continue to impress in the league, with last weekends victory over Meath leaving them in the promotion places. Galway however are looking over their shoulder lying third from bottom with just two wins so far.

A lot depends on how able the large contingent of Roscommon players involved in the U21 game the day before recover. Their main scoring threats are almost identical in both grades so the Rossies really need the likes of Cathal Cregg and Senan Kilbride to have good games.

It remains to be seen whether or not Kevin Walsh will bring in any players from All Ireland champions Corofin but he needs to change something after three defeats on the trot. Victories for Westmeath and Laois on Saturday night in their games against Cavan and Kildare would almost certainly condemn the Tribesmen to division three were they to lose to Roscommon on Sunday.

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