Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
INPHO/James Crombie Tyrone will be looking to bounce back from their recent loss against Donegal.
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Ewan MacKenna brings you all the details ahead of another big weekend of action.

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round 2

Roscommon V Tyrone

Dr Hyde Park, Roscommon, 2.00

Cathal Cregg has said the draw wasn’t kind to his team. He’s right. Venue aside, it couldn’t have been any worse and while many teams enter the qualifiers demoralised by defeat, there were only positives for a Tyrone side in transition to take from going toe-to-toe with a serious All Ireland contender like Donegal. What we saw that day was an intensity few could match and while the scoring power isn’t there right now to beat with the very best, it’s certainly there to beat the rest. If Mark Donnelly can find some consistency, Peter Harte is given a role where he’s more involved, Martin Penrose continues to drop deep, Joe McMahon continues to show he’s best suited to midfield and the defence can cover their weaknesses with numbers, then this is a side that will be in the All Ireland quarter-finals believing they can go further.

That’s what Cregg and Roscommon are facing and if beating Armagh was a shock, it’s too much to expect another one, especially as they now face a team far less naïve and a team that won’t make many mistakes on the line. The home side do have one of the better spines in Connacht but will miss Michael Finneran and should be beaten up down the flanks and then simply beaten up across the last quarter. But to their credit, the fact they are even at this stage after the Galway debacle deserves praise and if they can keep this to under five points it’ll deserve even more.

Verdict: Tyrone by five

ROSCOMMON: G Claffey; S McDermott, N Carty, S Purcell; N Collins, P Domican, I Kilbride; C Shine, C Mannion; N Kilroy, C Cregg, N Daly; S Kilbride, C Compton, D Shine
TYRONE: P McConnell; A McCrory, C Clarke, D Carlin; C McCarron, C Gormley, S O’Neill; J McMahon, C Cavanagh; Mattie Donnelly, Mark Donnelly, P Harte; M Penrose, S O’Neill, O Mulligan

Referee: R Hickey (Clare)

Longford v Limerick

Pearse Park, Clare, 2.00

No longer the underdog, Longford can’t let it all end here. They need to squeeze every last drop out of this season and make sure that when they do eventually get taken out, it’s by a genuine contender. That, Limerick are not and this should be comfortable for the home side as long as their heads are in the right place. Under Glenn Ryan, and with Michael Quinn enjoying this run so much, we’ve no reason to believe they aren’t. They do have an obvious weakness which is an inability to play their high-energy game for 70 minutes but even an hour of their mass defence and quick breaking should be enough to contain Ian Ryan and Ger Collins and build up enough of a lead to make it comfortable. After all, those two rarely play well on the same day.

Unlike Seán McCormack – the nation’s top scorer right now – and Brian Kavanagh who are the surprise inside-forward line of the season and with Paul Barden, who has linked defence and attack so well, it’s a well oiled machine. Midfield has been a problem for them though and with Stephen Lucey and Jim Donovan joining Seánie Buckley in that area, Limerick should make some impact under kickouts although not enough to pull off a shock.

Verdict: Longford by three

Referee: P Hughes (Armagh)

LIMERICK: B Scanlon; A Lane, J McCarthy, L O’Dwyer; J Riordan, S Lucey, P Ranahan; J Donovan, S Buckley; E O’Connor, S Kelly, P Browne; G Collins, S O’Carroll, I Ryan.

Antrim v Galway

(INPHO/Cathal Noonan)

Casement Park, Belfast, 3.00

There’s not quite a need to be afraid, but Alan Mulholland and his side should be wary at the least as this is far from straightforward. At home, Antrim are dangerous and with some slight momentum generated from the first-round victory they are even more dangerous. On top of that, they are well suited to Galway. Michael McCann has the ability to dominate midfield, an area where the opposition are over reliant on Joe Bergin who simply isn’t an alpha midfielder. Michael McGill has the ability to dominate at full-forward where, at his best, he has good hands, good vision and can take a score himself too. In fact, he’s the big man that Finian Hanley doesn’t like to pick up, as we witnessed with Declan Maxwell a few seasons back and saw with Adrian Marren a few weeks back.

Indeed, Liam Bradley should follow that Sligo gameplan, with James Loughrey keeping Gareth Bradshaw on the back foot and using his pace to make space for others, while their defence needs to cover the area in front of Paul Conroy so he can’t move into a play-making role and his marker, most likely Ricky Johnston, needs to bat away high ball so he can’t pose a danger closer to goal. That will be key, as if he gets on enough ball, he has Michael Meehan back beside him and the half-forward line could creep into the game. Of that, Antrim should be afraid.

Verdict: Galway by four

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GALWAY: A Faherty; K Kelly, F Hanley, J Duane; G Bradshaw, G O’Donnell, T Fahy; J Bergin, F O Curraoin; G Sice, S Armstrong, C Doherty; M Meehan, P Conroy, M Hehir

Referee: D Fahy (Longford)

Tipperary v Wexford

Semple Stadium, Thurles, 3.00

We know how good Wexford can be but we also know how they are unable to kill off a game against the very best and how they can end up underperforming in the qualifiers after Leinster heartbreak. Last year after losing to Dublin they only went and lost to Limerick and they cannot let their performance dip like that again or it’ll be a waste of a very good team that have found some form. Graeme Molloy looked back to his best last day out, Red Barry has looked back to his best this season and throw in Ciarán Lyng and Ben Brosnan and you’ve the potential for a big score right there.

In that regard, Tipperary don’t match up even if Peter Acheson and Michael Quinlivan offer a forward threat and Ciarán McDonald is having a good season back at corner-back and even if they’ll all have been inspired by yet another Munster minor title. But their gameplan will suit Wexford as it’s far more open than the claustrophobic tactics they’ve gotten used to in their three Leinster games to date. We’ve trusted Wexford before and talked them up and they’ve only disappointed. We’ll trust them one last time but anything other than a win here would be a huge indictment of a talented group.

Verdict: Wexford by three

TIPPERARY: P Fitzgerald; A Morrissey, P Codd, C McDonald; B Fox, R Kiely, A Campbell; G Hannigan, H Coghlan; R Ryan, B Mulvihill, D Leahy; M Quinlivan, P Acheson, P Austin.
WEXFORD: A Masterson; R Tierney, G Molloy, B Malone; A Flynn, D. Murphy, L Chin; D Watters, E Bradley; S Roche, P Byrne, B Brosnan; PJ Banville, C Lyng, R Barry.

Referee: M Duffy (Sligo)

Leitrim v Wicklow

Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada, Carrick-on-Shannon, 6.00

It’s one of the more difficult places to go and get a win in championship football and Wicklow were hardly world beaters when needing extra-time to get over Waterford. Plus, after the hurt and embarrassment the home side felt when losing to Mayo, there’s bound to be some sort of a backlash. But after that we are running low on reasons to think Leitrim can go any further. They are a county blighted by emigration, and this team simply cannot compete with the playing numbers, financial backing and expertise available to others and while that’s sad, it’s also reality. To add to their woes before this game, there is concern surrounding the fitness of Wayne McKeon, Daniel Lowe and Shane Moran.

Wicklow do have their own problems with Leighton Glynn and Ciarán Hyland, in all likelihood, out for the rest of the year. And without their two best players there may not be much left in their year. But with James Stafford the best midfielder on the pitch here and Seánie Furlong continuing to give weaker full-back lines a torrid time, there should be at least one more game after this left in the Leinster side’s season.

Verdict: Wicklow by four


Referee: B Cassidy (Derry)

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