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Dublin: 17°C Saturday 8 May 2021
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5 talking points ahead of this weekend's GAA football action

There are two qualifiers are two provincial deciders this weekend.

Can Conor McManus and Owen Lennon lift the Anglo-Celt Cup again?
Can Conor McManus and Owen Lennon lift the Anglo-Celt Cup again?
Image: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

1. Will the Rossies raid the Orchard once more?

ROSCOMMON AND ARMAGH both come into Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Round 3B qualifier brimming with confidence. John Evans’ charges had 11 points to spare over a disappointing Cavan last Saturday while Armagh’s victory over Tyrone on Sunday caught many observers by surprise.

Today, Paul Grimley’s men face their fourth game in as many weeks and, after looking lacklustre in the replay with Monaghan, really stepped up a gear to dump Tyrone out of the championship at their earliest juncture since 2006.

However, they face a difficult trip to Dr. Hyde Park this evening in a repeat of the 2012 qualifier match which saw Roscommon win by two points (1-11 to 1-9) and – with David Keenan and Niall Carty both expected to feature having picked up knocks against Cavan – few would write the Rossies off.

Indeed, the home side are slight favourites at 4/5 but, with the handicap set at just one point in their favour, this could be the closest game of the weekend.

2. Can Kildare overcome the siege of Ennis?

For as poor as Kildare have been in the Leinster championship over the last decade, they have made the qualifiers their own with a highly impressive 15 wins from 17 games since 2008 with last year’s defeat to Tyrone in Round 3 representing their sole loss and also the first time in six years they failed to reach the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final.

Contrast that with Clare whose demolition of Carlow last weekend represented their first ‘back door’ victory since 2006 when they overcame Antrim in Casement Park.

However, though Kildare are 2/7 to win the game in Cusack Park, the full-back line that was torn to shreds by Meath didn’t improve greatly against Down last weekend with Benny Coulter and Donal O’Hare in particular enjoying success.

Jason Ryan’s men have the scoring power to overcome those frailties though – 1-6 in the final 13 minutes against Down was impressive by any standard – but they will hope to put this one to bed early avoid any Saturday night fever in Ennis.

3. Will Monaghan prove they’re no one-hit wonders?

Donegal have been there and done that. Sunday will represent their fourth provincial final in as many years with only last year’s defeat to Monaghan at this stage denying them the opportunity to equal Mayo’s four-in-row in 2014.

Far from getting caught up in the celebration of ending a 25-year wait for Anglo Celt glory last year, Monaghan appear to have improved under Malachy O’Rourke in 2014 beating Donegal in the Division 2 league final and reaching consecutive Ulster deciders in 70 years (1943-1944).

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While Donegal have taken some of the burden off Michael Murphy – particularly through the scoring of Leo McLoone – the Farney are justifiably favourites to retain their title with seemingly the perfect gameplan to defeat Jim McGuinness’ men.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

4. Is Ulster football falling behind?

For years, Ulster was regarded as the most difficult of the provincial championships to win but 2014 has been far from a vintage year for our friends up north.

Last weekend, Down, Tyrone and Cavan joined Antrim, Derry and Fermanagh on their holidays as 66% of the province finished their championship endeavours before mid-July.

However, far from writing off Ulster football, it’s worth remembering that nine of the last 23 All-Ireland titles have been won by Ulster teams and Derry and Cavan are the only two sides whose losses could be considered a ‘massive shock’ in the qualifiers.

And, apart from Dublin, few would fancy their chances against Donegal or Monaghan as we edge closer to September.

5. Have Meath any chance against Dublin?

No.

Okay, they do have some chance but a 28 point win over Carlow is no barometer of form  and Mick O’Dowd’s men drifted dangerously out of the Leinster semi-final against a Kildare team who had no business finishing within ten points, never mind five.

Of course, for inspiration, they need look no further than 2010 when a highly-fancied Dublin side conceded five goals to the Royals in the semi-final before Meath went on to beat Louth – albeit controversially – in the Leinster decider.

Last year’s runners-up will be there or thereabouts at half-time – as all teams seemingly are against Dublin these days – but they are 6/1 in a two horse race for a reason.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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