Tyrone, Donegal, Limerick and Down to advance

Limerick manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan and star forward Ian Ryan following last weekend’s comprehensive All Ireland football qualifier win over Meath.

Limerick manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan and star forward Ian Ryan following last weekend’s comprehensive All Ireland football qualifier win over Meath.

The wheat is continuing to be separated from the chaff now in the All-Ireland football qualifiers and this Saturday sees four games in Round 2 down for decision.

Tyrone host Westmeath in Omagh at 3pm in a game that is live on TV3 and you don’t have to move off your armchair then, either, for more live action. All you have to do is flick channel as Donegal and Monaghan is beamed from Ballybofey on RTÉ2 at 5pm.

The other two games down for decision are both 7pm throw-ins, with Limerick and Kildare in the Gaelic Grounds, and Laois having home advantage in Portlaoise against Down.

Tyrone will start as hot favourites against Westmeath, particularly at home, after their easy win over Louth last weekend. With Brian and Tommy McGuigan pulling the strings from the half-forward line there were plenty of scoring chances for Seán

Cavanagh (0-4 ) and Colm McCullagh (0-5, 1f ) in the inside line.

Tomás Ó Flatharta will have learnt little from their nine-point win over Tipperary apart from the fact that they need to improve drastically on that performance if they are to advance. Their continued over-reliance on Dessie Dolan and Denis Glennon for

scores - they shot 0-11 of their 0-15 total against Tipperary - is a problem that is not easily rectified.

And when a team is coming up against a defence with the likes of Ryan McMenamin, Conor Gormley and Philip Jordan in situ it is not ideal to be so dependent on just two scorers.

Westmeath are not without hope, though, and if they can break even at midfield against Enda McGinley and Ryan Mellon they have a fighting chance. That said one has to plug for a victory for the 2005 All-Ireland champions, particularly in Omagh which will probably necessitate an overnight stay up North for the midlanders.

Trying to call a winner from Donegal and Monaghan is like trying to predict a victor in a Connacht final between Mayo and Galway.

Compelling arguments can be made on either side, however ultimately the result will depend on which team produces a top performance on the day itself. Seamus McEnaney will be bolstered by the return to arms of Paul Finlay from suspension and Gerry McQuaid; however, based on their narrow success against Derry both men might have to be content with a play on the bench.

Assuming that Neill Gallagher and Rory Kavanagh can win the aerial battles and they get ball into Colm McFadden, Ryan Bradley and young Michael Murphy and that Karl Lacey can put the shackles on Tommy Freeman - no easy task - I would tentatively go for a narrow home victory for the Donegal men. Of course that prediction has to be taken with the warning that Donegal can blow hot and cold depending on how their team bus was parked at the back of the dressing-rooms.

The big winners last weekend were Limerick. They were 4-1 outsiders before they beat Meath comprehensively by nine points. Young Ian Ryan was the star man with 3-07 from corner forward and if he scores half that total the next day it would put his team on course for a win over Kildare, who sneaked a late goal to beat Cavan by a point.

Limerick manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan has worked hard with his charges over the past few seasons and they have been caught on the line themselves on many occasions.

Those lessons should have been absorbed at this stage and, with the likes of John Galvin driving them on, a home win is a distinct possibility in that clash.

Finally Down, who crushed Offaly the last day out, must visit Leinster again to take on Laois. Benny Coulter was the main man - again - against Brian Cowen’s county brethren. The Offaly lads hit a recession of their own making in O’Connor Park

last Saturday when they found themselves 3-12 to 0-4 in arrears at half-time.

The Down forwards were in scintillating form and they ended the afternoon’s proceedings with 5-19 in their tally bag. Laois will provide stiffer opposition and they are a tough nut to crack in O’Moore Park. It is difficult to buck home advantage, however I feel that the two games against Tyrone and the manner of their win after extra time in the Ulster championship may have bonded the Down boys a bit better for the challenge that they face this Saturday.

As many punters have learnt to their cost, accumulators in any sport are exceedingly difficult to bring in and I would not advocate doing a nap on the above quartet of games. A draw could scuttle you. Better to pick the single you are most confident off, and take your chances on that.

Still, with Galway Race Week around the corner, here goes. If I was having a punt my foursome would be Tyrone, Donegal, Limerick and Down to advance to face either Kerry, Mayo, Wexford or Fermanagh or Armagh in Round 3.

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