GAA-zilla: JOE’s look ahead to a monster weekend of GAA action
The hurling championship has had the upper hand over its football equivalent so far this summer, but this weekend it’s time for the big ball to take centre stage.
Storyline of the weekend: It’s not often that any game exceeds Dublin v Meath in terms of importance (more on that anon), but because of the likelihood of a more level playing field in the Ulster Final, events in Clones will take centre stage in our eyes this weekend.
A tired Donegal team were completely taken aback by the ferocity of Malachy O’Rourke’s side at the same stage last year and although there’s no danger of complacency this time around and the element of surprise has been eliminated, that doesn’t necessarily swing the tide in Donegal’s favour. The Farney men are clearly very comfortable in their own skin at this stage, they’re probably a bit cuter on the back of their experiences last season and both teams have legitimate claims to be included in the very top bracket of teams left in the Championship.
It’s often the case that a contrast in styles makes for a fascinating contest but it is the similarities between these two that makes Sunday’s encounter so interesting. Both of them work largely off a defensive template with an emphasis on breaking at speed and feeding the main danger man (Michael Murphy for Donegal, Ciaran McManus for Monaghan) and their deputies (McFadden, McBrearty, Kieran Hughes and others) in attack.
As such, we expect a lot of shadowboxing early on, but only in terms of the defensive set-up of both sides because the intensity and hits going in will be ferocious. In the end, it will come down to which set of forwards can (a) find enough space and (b) have the ability to convert the limited opportunities that come their way.
We have a sneaking suspicion that Donegal are going to shade it, but while a provincial title – especially in Ulster – is not to be sniffed at, defeat wouldn’t be a huge blow because nobody but nobody will want to face the loser of this one in the final round of the qualifiers and beyond.
Keep an eye out for… Meath’s ability to potentially derail the seemingly unstoppable Dublin juggernaut.
Sometimes the phrase ‘form goes out the window’ should really be thrown out the window. Sure, Mayo and Galway have a storied history but given the form of both sides in recent years there was always going to be only one winner in Castlebar last Sunday. Ditto Kilkenny and Offaly in the Leinster Championship earlier on in the season.
A little synchronised jumping at Croke Park when the teams met last summer
That said and despite our reluctance to conform to often lazy clichés, something tells us that Meath are going to give Dublin a right rattle at Croke Park on Sunday.
Why? Well, they’re not quite there yet but we get the feeling that the Royals are building something of substance under Mick O’Dowd and the presence of Trevor Giles can only be a good thing. They tired a little against Kildare late on but they should really have been out of sight before then and with a little more composure in front of goal, they would have been.
The chances that went astray against the Lilywhites simply cannot go astray against Dublin on Sunday and if they’re more economical in front of goal and a few of Dublin’s main players have an off day who knows what might happen?
Sadly for Meath supporters – because we know they place a lot of stock in our opinion - we don’t think the Royals will go all the way but they won’t be backing belief and there will be quite a few who will be availing of the generous 6/1 odds on a Meath victory. Some fans are getting quite excited alright, veeeerrry excited indeed.
Jim White mis-pronounced word of the weekend: Shemozzle. If the Armagh v Roscommon game follows a trend set in the Orchard County’s meetings with Cavan and Tyrone this year, then there could very well be a 30-man brawl within the first minute.
The most appropriate name for such a brawl in GAA circles is, of course, a ‘shemozzle’, a word that Jim might have to get used to if Sky continue to cover Gaelic Football and Hurling in the coming years.
Bet of the weekend: Armagh to beat Roscommon at 11/8
We’re finding it really difficult to call a winner between two sides very much on the up at the moment, but buoyed by a win over big rivals Tyrone, with the added steel that is very much evident this season and with Jamie Clarke seemingly in the mood, we think Armagh might just shade it over a Donie Shine-less Roscommon side in the Hyde on Saturday.
Clarke is the apple of many an Orchard County fan's eye and he's been in the mood so far this season
Did you know? Wexford and Waterford might be near neighbours but there is little if any rivalry between them in a hurling sense. Although they compete in different provinces and wouldn’t have been likely to meet on a regular basis until the dawn of the qualifiers, we were still surprised to learn that the encounter in Nowlan Park on Saturday evening will be only the third time they have ever met in the Championship.
Waterford shaded the most recent clash by a point in 2008 with Wexford winning the first by five points 11 years ago. After Waterford’s relegation to Division 1B in the league it is a pairing we could see more often in the near future, but after their epic success over Clare last weekend, we expect Liam Dunne’s side to ride that wave of momentum past the Déise and onto a meeting with Limerick in Thurles on Sunday week.