Three things to watch in the GAA this weekend
Two cracking provincial finals and the tastiest qualifier we can recall in a long time means this is a fantastic weekend to immerse yourself in GAA goodness.
Any chance of another Croker choker?
At first glance Dublin against Meath seems a mismatch. All-Ireland champions Dublin take on Division 3 Meath at home and the machine that Pat Gilroy has constructed should be well able to step up another gear from the stuttering dismissal of Wexford in the semi-final.
But then you glance over at Banty’s boys and you just wonder; can they do it again? Two years ago they famously hammered Dublin at Croker in a Leinster semi-final by 5-9 to 0-13 and while they have suffered since then, there are signs that the Royals are pulling a Jay Z and Kanye and eyeing up the throne once again.
From the near dismissal of Seamus McEnaney after their relegation to the third tier, Meath have picked up the pace. In their semi-final win over Kildare they showed that for all the benefits of fitness, tactics and extra men in crucial areas, scoring forwards are still the most valuable asset any team can have.
Joe Sheridan, Graham Reilly and Stephen Bray can rack up large totals separately, and in unison they should keep the scoreboard ticking over at a very healthy rate. Realistically, Dublin have enough guile and experience now to get out of a tight spot if they end up in one but if they, and especially Bernard Brogan, fail to fire as miserably as they did against Wexford, Meath are more than capable of stepping in and causing another upset.
A nervy day for the Hill faithful awaits.
Historic day in Ulster
Donegal have never won back-to-back Ulster titles but they are currently on a seven-game winning streak in the province. Whatever you may think of Jim McGuinness’ side, and they have been marginally more fun to watch this term, victory over Down on Sunday would propel Donegal into the history books.
It may have been tight against Tyrone in the semi-final but Donegal have looked a class apart this term up north. Colm McFadden and Michael Murphy are helping them to healthier totals in front of goal while they are keeping their conceded average to just over 10 points (10.66 to be precise).
We reckon Down will manage more than that but it still may not be enough. They have an array of scorers like Conor Laverty and Aidan Carr while a certain Brendan Coulter is back in the Red and Black. A Down win, ending Donegal’s bid for Ulster’s record books, wouldn’t be a huge shock to us because James McCartan's side are always capable of hitting a purple patch of form. But a part of us believes that what McGuinness has achieved with Donegal deserves a place in the annals. We think they will get there too, but only just.
Game of Thrones
We make no excuses for using thrones again as the two most recent kings of the game go to battle in Killarney on Saturday evening. Bar 2010, one or both of Tyrone and Kerry featured in the All-Ireland final every year since 2002. Both sides may look a bit frayed around the edges since their heyday but we reckon this third round Qualifier is the pick of the weekend’s games, and that speaks volumes.
Kerry, frankly, are lucky to be here and while we are not dumb enough to write them off, well, they look like a team that are ready to be written off. They have played possum before in past seasons before springing to life and if anything is likely to get them going it is the sight of their old sparring partner stepping into Fitzgerald Stadium.
It's always close when these two face off
But we just don’t think they can lift it to the required level this weekend. Mickey Harte has Stephen O’Neill back on board and if Darren McCurry can perform as he did against Roscommon last week, when the youngster bagged 0-4, then the Red Hands will leave the home side with red faces.
As it stands Kerry are the only team never to lose a Qualifier game. We're going to put our neck on the line and say that proud record will fall this weekend.