Five things to watch in the GAA this weekend
The threat of Paddy Bradley, the return of Joe Canning and the never-ending Seanie Johnston saga are all dealt with in our look ahead to the weekend's Championship action.
Derry in with a shout when Bradley’s about
Last year’s Ulster Final ended up being a comfortable enough victory for Donegal in Clones, but Derry’s toothlessness without either Paddy or Eoin Bradley in attack was reflected in their meagre total of eight points, five of which came from play.
Eoin won’t feature this weekend, but Paddy will, and as the captain heading into his 50th championship game for Derry he’ll have a bit of a point to prove. The Oak Leafers’ league form was nothing to write home about but when John Brennan says "I've as much interest in the league as I have of putting a man in space,” you know you shouldn’t read much into that.
Judging by their victory last Sunday, Tyrone look likeliest to upset Donegal’s retention of the Ulster crown, but even though they’re headed into enemy territory this weekend, Derry’s chances of spoiling Donegal’s party should not be discounted.
Will Waterford take on board lessons from Tipp’s fright?
There are plenty of reasons for Waterford fans to be fearful ahead of the Munster Championship clash with Clare this weekend. The obvious one is the fact that Davy Fitz will be in the Clare dugout rather than the Waterford one and the inside knowledge gleaned from four years at the helm cannot be underestimated.
Their league form, although enough to secure their status in 1A wasn’t great and they’ll be facing a side that have lost only to Kilkenny so far this year. Against Tipp, Limerick showed that the gulf between 1A and the top teams in 1B is not that pronounced when it comes to Championship and considering that Clare are arguably a better side than Limerick and Waterford aren’t as good as Tipperary then an upset is on the cards.
To prevent that, the Déise must absolutely avoid the complacency shown by Tipp in the first half against Limerick three weeks ago.
Can lightning strike twice for Carlow?
Last Sunday was possibly the best day of sport of the whole year and with the whole country caught up in a mood of relentless optimism that was subsequently painfully quenched afterwards, a lot of what happened outside of Ireland v Croatia went unnoticed.
Pity for the Carlow footballers then, that their highly admirable draw with Meath didn’t attract more attention. Although it took a goal with the last kick of the game to draw them level at the death, by all accounts Carlow were the better side and were severely hampered by the sending off of two players in the second half.
Whether they can upset Meath again is questionable, however. Carlow have won three games all year, against Kilkenny, London and Waterford, none of which are known as football strongholds. There’s nothing to say that they can’t rouse themselves for a repeat performance six days after last Sunday, but we would be surprised if Meath don’t come through with a degree of comfort.
The Joe show a nice distraction for Offaly
In the build-up to their victory over Wexford, Ollie Baker was happy to let Liam Dunne steal the limelight after he questioned how much an Offaly win would mean to Baker, a Clare native. This time around, the word is that Joe Canning will be back in the Galway side on Sunday and while it’s not his fault, Canning’s presence always guarantees a little bit of extra interest in any game involving the Tribesmen.
With Canning commanding attention, Baker will relish the low-key build up and if his side can replicate anything near the defensive display that saw them concede only 1-13 against Wexford, they won’t be far away.
Will Kildare need Seanie Johnston at all?
After yet more twists and turns in the longest running saga of the GAA season, it turns out Seanie Johnston isn’t eligible for Kildare’s Leinster championship opener with Offaly on Sunday after all.
But when will he get to play? Should the Lilywhites get by Offaly as expected, will Kieran McGeeney want to change a winning forward line for the semi-final? And if they go through the qualifiers, will Johnston have a chance to play club championship and thus remove any doubts about his eligibility beforehand?
The one thing Kildare have arguably lacked in recent years is a really incisive inside forward of Johnston’s calibre, but they’re hardly shy in front of goal either. Kildare were the highest scorers in Division Two, averaging nearly 19 points a game, and we’re sure that none of the starting six will be willing to simply stand aside for a man who has played precious little football all year.
The most long-awaited debut in inter-county football for some time may be put on the back burner for another while yet.