Five things to watch in the GAA this weekend
It's squeaky bum time at last in the All-Ireland Football Championship and that means it's time for your five things to watch in the All-Ireland Quarter Finals.
Donegal versus Kerry – the Champions-elect?
Kerry versus Donegal is the battle of the establishment versus the pretenders.
Both sides have been in imperious form and the winners of this match up will probably have the momentum and credibility to be considered the favourites to capture the All-Ireland crown.
Since Kerry were knocked out of the Munster championship they have been in great form, egged on by criticisms of their fairly impeccable record over the past few years, beating Tyrone and Clare.
Donegal captured their second successive Ulster title in a fashion that suggests that Jim McGuinness’ tenacious side have evolved and added more sizzle to their hefty steak.
The question mark is over how good the Ulster Championship is since the decline of Armagh and Tyrone – is it still the most competitive breeding ground for All-Ireland champions?
The noises emanating from the Donegal camp have been ones of quiet confidence, we at JOE reckon it will be the most enthralling game of the weekend and the young pretenders of Donegal will prevail and become the championship-elect.
Eoghan O’Gara has been Dublin’s ace-in-the-hole for the past two summers. The rampaging forward came from footballing obscurity to become a destructive force in the Championship, charging and bulldozing his way through the toughest defenders with pace and power.
Kevin McManamon has been dropped for him this week. McManamon has been arguably Dublin’s most impressive forward this summer, digging them out of a hole against Wexford in the Leinster semi-final. He is altogether different from O’Gara with his ability to pivot on a six-pence and hook points over.
It’s a small risk from Dublin boss Pat Gilroy but he may be able to afford it against Laois, who have impressively fought their way back into the Championship following their early exit.
Laois don’t have the fire power to cope with Dublin and giving O’Gara a longer run out may pay dividends later on if they beat the O’Moore County men.
No O’Shea a downer
Anyone who watched Mayo’s impressive league campaign will know how important young midfielder Aidan O’Shea is to the Connacht champions. His injury could well have upset Mayo more than premature retirement of Conor Mortimer.
The latest we know is that O’Shea is said to be fit again but he won’t start this weekend. Down are probably still lacking that little bit of confidence given their Ulster final trouncing at the hands of Donegal, but Mayo will need to be at their league best to beat Down, who have been impressive championship contenders for the last two years.
Time for a good plan to come together...
Kildare can always demolish clearly inferior sides at this stage of the season, but in Cork they face the top dogs. Cork haven’t been tested for a while and the Munster final against Clare - with no disrespect to the Banner - was not an adequate test for Conor Counihan’s men.
Some people have questioned Kildare’s actual ability as a side since they were dumped out of the Leinster Championship by Meath in a close affair. Wins against Cavan, Limerick and Sligo since have made Keiran McGeeney’s men battle-hardened but won’t silence the naysayers, a win against Cork will.
Geezer will have to bring all the experience from his time as Armagh captain to bear and make this Kildare side believe in themselves as the Orchard County did in 2002.
In terms of ability the dream team forward line of Johnny Doyle, Seanie Johnston, Eoghan O’Flaherty and James Kavanagh to all reach their full-potential all at once, a tall order especially against a side as polished as Cork who are able to match the Lilywhites in terms of physicality...
We expect Cork to march on, unless Kildare produce something magical that they haven’t mustered to date this summer.
Play that again Croker?
With four matches in HQ this weekend it will be interesting to see if Croker replays any controversial incidents on the big screen like they did with the Eoghan O’Gara point again this weekend.
And remember, if you are travelling to any of the games, or just watching them closer to home, be smart and be safe and check out drinkaware.ie