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Are Tyrone waiting to be put out of their misery, can Mayo still win Sam and are Kildare back?

5 key questions ahead of the weekend’s All-Ireland football qualifier action.

1. Are Tyrone waiting to be put out of their misery?

THE NATURE OF Tyrone’s narrow extra-time win over Meath in the previous round of the qualifiers didn’t do a huge amount for their All-Ireland credentials.

Mickey Harte Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Granted, Mickey Harte was without his suspended nephew Peter Harte and the injured pair of Lee Brennan and Mark Bradley but they still looked like a team hurting from their Ulster exit to Monaghan.

To their credit, Tyrone found a way to win and the form of Connor McAliskey, in particular, bodes well in attack.

They shouldn’t have too much trouble tonight against a Carlow side who ape Harte’s system and perhaps this will be the game they rediscover their spark.

At the moment, Tyrone look like a team who could take off at any minute or a side waiting for a Division 1 side to land a knock-out blow.

Cillian O’Connor celebrates scoring a goal Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

2. Are Mayo still contenders for Sam?

The 5-19 Mayo put past Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds two weeks ago gave a little reminder around the country that Stephen Rochford’s side are still very much alive.

Rochford freshened up his forward line the last day by handing Cian Hanley and James Durcan their first championship starts, while Lee Keegan made his much-awaited comeback from a shoulder injury.

Keegan has intriguingly been named to start at midfield against Tipperary this evening and he could form a decent partnership with Seamie O’Shea.

The 2016 Footballer of the Year played the first half of last year’s drawn All-Ireland quarter-final with Roscommon at midfield and scored 1-3 from play.

The half-back line of Paddy Durcan-Stephen Coen-Colm Boyle has a very balanced look to it and all three players are playing in their best positions. If Keegan clicks at midfield, there could be plenty of life in Mayo yet.

Michael Quinlivan with Jamie O’Sullivan Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

3. Can Tipperary or Clare raise a gallop?

Both beaten Munster semi-finalists have been handed vastly different tasks in round 2 of the qualifiers. Tipperary, who lost to Cork by 11 points, host Mayo tonight while Clare travel to Tullamore tomorrow afternoon to take on Offaly.

The Premier came agonisingly close to securing promotion to Division 1 in the spring and had a six-day turnaround hampered their preparations before the Cork game. Liam Kearns would have preferred an easier task than Mayo, but Tipperary pushed the Westerners all the way in the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final.

Their full-forward line is one of the strongest in the country with in Conor Sweeney, Michael Quinlivan, Liam McGrath all starting inside.

The Banner face a tricky task in the form of rejuvenated Offaly under Paul Rouse, but they finished 11 places above the Faithful in the league. After a poor performance against Kerry, Clare will be hoping this is the start of another qualifier run.

Can O'Neill Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

4. Are Kildare back?

You’d imagine the Kildare squad enjoyed a few well-earned bottles of beer on the bus down from Derry two weeks ago when they secured a first competitive victory in 12 months.

The Lilywhites looked like a side devoid of belief when they went down to Carlow in Leinster, but the win in the opening round of qualifiers in Derry means confidence is high and they’ll have been bouncing off the turf in training for the last fortnight.

Longford didn’t perform badly against Dublin and looked dangerous up front at different stages, but if Cian O’Neill’s men win this one as expected they could be an outside bet to make the Super 8s.

Niall Kearns Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

5. Can Monaghan rebound in Waterford?

A long trip down to Waterford might do this Monaghan group no harm as they look to kick-start their summer. They looked to be controlling the game against Fermanagh before a last-ditch goal sent Malachy O’Rourke’s outfit tumbling into the backdoor system.

They’ll still be hurting that they left a potential Ulster title behind them, but the draw couldn’t have been kinder to Monaghan by pitting them against Waterford. Tom McGlinchey’s Deise are in bonus territory having beaten Wexford in the previous round for their first championship victory since 2011.

Tonight provides the opportunity for the Farney to get the Fermanagh defeat out of the system and get back to winning ways.

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round 2

Saturday
Waterford v Monaghan, Fraher Field, 2pm
Tipperary v Mayo, Semple Stadium, 5pm – Sky Sports
Carlow v Tyrone, Netwatch Cullen Park, 5pm
Cavan v Down, Brewster Park, 5pm
Sligo v Armagh, Markievicz Park, 6pm
Longford v Kildare, Pearse Park, 7pm
Leitrim v Louth, Pairc Sean MacDiarmada, 7pm

Sunday
Offaly v Clare, O’Connor Park, 1.30pm

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Kevin O'Brien

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