JOE’s Senior Football Championship Preview: Leinster (Part One)
The Leinster Senior Football Championship gets underway this weekend and ahead of it our JOE GAA boys have put together this quick team-by-team guide for you.
Round One is the focus this weekend as Westmeath face Louth on Saturday, then on Sunday, it's Wicklow v Laois and Longford v Offaly. Kildare, Dublin and Wexford will face the respective winners of those ties in the quarter finals while Meath and Carlow have already been drawn together in the last eight.
Here's our run through on the contenders for the Leinster crown:
It looks like it's going to be a very difficult campaign for Carlow as they finished rock bottom of Allianz League Division 4. Anthony Rainbow's side won just one of their seven games and face Meath in the Leinster quarter final.
Key Man: Paul Broderick - A forward who can be very dangerous if he gets the supply.
Young Player: Andrew O'Brien - The goalkeeper kept Carlow in a lot of games this year and will need to be at his best to stop the Royals cutting loose.
World Cup Twin: Honduras - Both have little hope of making any impact this Summer.
Sky Sports Celebrity Pundit: Sean O'Brien - The Leinster back row was involved with the squad in an advisory role earlier in the year so he'd offer great insight into the set-up and he's refreshingly honest and open in his interviews.
JOE's Prediction: First round qualifier exit.
Well, what can we say about the Dubs? They're the best team in the country, they've the best squad and they're in the best form having won the Allianz League in style. The only thing that could possibly see them fail is complacency but Jim Gavin seems to have them so well mentally prepared that it probably won't become an issue. Eek!
Key Man: Diarmuid Connolly - The complete footballer. His vision, anticipation, strength and scoring prowess mark him out as the outstanding footballer in the country right now. He's sure to have an excellent summer.
Young Player: Cormac Costello - He's come back strong after an injury hit 2013 and has shown real quality this year. Two footed and composed in front of goal, he should be close to the starting 15 come the start of the Leinster campaign.
World Cup Twin: Spain - Two powerhouses who expect to win, both with patient and effective game plans.
Sky Sports Celebrity Pundit: Bertie Ahern - Who can forget his appearance on The Premiership all those years ago? That along with his, eh, 'trusted' opinion make him a top candidate.
JOE's Prediction: All Ireland Champions.
The Lilywhites are really interesting us this year. Can Jason Ryan carry on the good work done by Kieran McGeeney and take them to the next level? The Allianz League campaign was disappointing but they did have a number of injuries and they'll be hoping the experience their young players picked up in those games will be beneficial this summer. Johnny Doyle's retirement is a huge blow though.
Key Man: Paddy Brophy - Kildare need a consistent scoring forward and Brophy looks the best bet for that role.
Young Player: Kevin Murnaghan - The defender made his inter-county debut earlier this year and has held his place in the backline.
World Cup Twin: England - They both wear all white, the hype machine has surrounded both down through the years but they inevitably get knocked out well before the business end.
Sky Sports Celebrity Pundit: Johnny Doyle - Fresh out of the game, he would offer excellent insight into the modern systems and methods used in today's game. Plus, he's a very likeable guy.
JOE's Prediction: Round Four of the Qualifiers.
Laois will be hoping for the sort of run they had last year when they reached Round Four of the qualifiers. They're away to Wicklow in Round One on Sunday and the winners will face Dublin so they'll hope for a favourable draw down the backdoor route. Tomas O'Flatharta is the new man in charge.
Key Man: Ross Munnelly - He's captain this year so he'll want to make a real impact; he's capable of running a game if he gets his way.
Young Player: Graham Brody - The young shot stopper has shown real maturity between the sticks; good fielding and intelligent kick outs are strong facets of his game.
World Cup Twin: Croatia - The glory days are a while ago but there is a sprinkling of class in both sides so they might surprise a few people.
Sky Sports Celebrity Pundit: Colm Parkinson - Ex player and current Off the Ball man, Parkinson is always forthright with his opinion and isn't afraid to take the piss out of himself.
JOE's Prediction: Exit at the fourth round of the qualifiers.
Longford endured a disappointing Allianz League campaign as they were relegated to Division Four. They face Offaly in the opening round on Sunday, a team they beat in the league earlier this year, so that will offer them a lot of encouragement. Jack Sheedy is in his first year in charge and will be optimistic they can put a run together.
Key Man: Sean McCormack - Every team needs an expert free-taker and McCormack is that man for Longford. His conversion rate is crucially important.
Young Player: Mark Hughes - A young forward who lit up the County Championship with his club Killoe last season, he's well capable of converting that form to inter-county level.
World Cup Twin: Bosnia-Herzegovina - Just because they have similar jerseys, that's the only tangible comparison here.
Sky Sports Celebrity Pundit: Will Ferrell - He once visited Longford in search his ancestors who he believes were named Farrell and originated in the area.
JOE's Prediction: Round three of the qualifiers.