Battle for final four begins this weekend

This weekend sees the All-Ireland football championship reach the quarter-final stage for six teams with Mayo waiting patiently in the wings to see who they will face from the Meath and Limerick round four clash. That game is on in Portlaoise tomorrow at 7pm and is a difficult one to call. Limerick put it right up to Cork in the Munster final and only went down by a single point in a game they should have won.

Mickey Ned O’Sullivan will have his team well primed and they will fancy their chances against Meath who are 8/15 in the bookies, with Limerick representing good value at 2/1.

However the Royals are on the back of two handy wins over Westmeath and Roscommon and with players like Anthony Moyles, Nigel Crawford, Brian Meade, Cian Ward, David Bray, and Brian Farrell, all going well they won’t be far off getting a crack at Mayo. The fact that Meath were beaten comprehensively by Limerick last year will also provide them with plenty of motivation for a revenge mission on Saturday. I don’t expect there to be much between the sides at the finish, but you can see Meath sneaking it.

There is a very attractive double header in Croke Park on Sunday with Cork taking on Donegal at 2pm and then Tyrone against Kildare at 4pm. Donegal had a good win last Saturday over a disappointing Galway side, and while it was impossible not to have been impressed with the form and point taking of Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden, they were over dependent on those two players for scores.

They shot 0-11 (9fs ) from the team’s total of 0-14. If they are stopped by Cork, it is difficult to see who would take up the slack for John Joe Doherty’s men. Galway were very sloppy in their tackling and conceded far too many scorable frees and if Cork don’t go down that blind alley I can see them coming through in that game. Many people are touting Tyrone as the probable All-Ireland winners for 2009 and while there is lots of evidence to support that hypothesis Kildare should give them a good test. Kildare are scoring freely and in forwards like Alan Smith, Johnny Doyle, Eamonn Callaghan, and James Kavanagh they have men who know how to shoot a few points. They set themselves a target of 0-18 per game at the start of the year and they have managed or surpassed that target in the four championship games they have played thus far. Admittedly three of those games were against Offaly, Wexford, and Wicklow. Unless Dermot Earley continues his excellent season at midfield for the Lillywhites it is difficult to see them hitting 0-18 against a miserly Tyrone rearguard and injured wing-back Mickey Conway is a loss. So I am going for Tyrone to advance to face Cork in the first All-Ireland semi-final on August 23.

Bank Holiday Monday game a real treat

There are so many subplots in this game that it will be compulsive viewing next Monday for anyone with even a passing interest in Gaelic football. Kerry have limped their way through the qualifiers and the negative stories about squad unrest from down south are as varied as they are entertaining. Nevertheless, this is the challenge that could shake the Kerry men from their slumber. They won’t want to be the Kerry team that went to Dublin to take a trimming off the “auld enemy”.

Kerry have looked tired, disinterested, and leg weary in their jousts with Cork in the Munster championship and against Longford, Sligo, and Antrim. The burning question is whether they can rouse themselves for next Monday. They look very vulnerable when they are run at and no doubt Pat Gilroy will try to get his half backs and half forwards to run at speed at the Kerry defence. Their inside line of Conal Keaney, Bernard Brogan, and Jason Sherlock have been in terrific form, but the standard of the opposition they faced has to be taken into account.

Can you imagine a Kerry cornerback letting Jayo score a similar goal to the one he got against Kildare?

Dublin are narrow favourites and rightly so, however you write off Kerry at your peril.

If Kerry can get enough ball into Colm Cooper and Tommie Walsh they will do serious damage on the Dublin fullback Denis Bastick. Based on their respective form lines and more importantly, the unity of purpose and collective drive that both teams have shown since the start of the championship you’d have to go for a Dublin victory. Most of the Kerry team have a lot of hard championship miles in their legs and minds and most of them have played in the last five All-Ireland finals. Those years and long seasons take their toll and I’d imagine that the hunger and will to win and the desire to get to the 2009 All-Ireland final will be stronger in the hearts and minds of the Dublin squad. That should make all the difference. The Dubs to roll on.

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