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Championship preview: The summ...
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Championship preview: The summer starts here

Off The Ball
Off The Ball

12:07 17 May 2014

The Championship is finally back, and while Mayo and New York kicked off proceedings two weeks ago, this weekend, with five games across three provinces is the real start of the summer action. Here we look at the five games on show and consider where they’ll be won and lost.

Off the Ball is live from Aughrim at 3.30pm on Sunday as Wicklow host Laois, Nathan Murphy is joined by Tomás Quinn and Liam McHale on commentary while Colm Parkinson will be the sideline reporter. David Brady will be bringing updates from Dr. Hyde Park, Conor Deegan is in Omagh for Tyrone and Down and Oisin Langan will be reporting from Longford.

Westmeath vs. Louth - Cusack Park, Mullingar - 7pm, Saturday May 17th

Team News

Westmeath have named key man John Heslin at full-forward after recovering from a groin injury sustained in March. It’s likely that he will alternate with debutant Ray Connellan in midfield throughout the game. Louth also have one debutant in 21 year-old Patrick Reilly who is named at wing-forward. 17 year-old Ryan Burns was called up to the senior panel last week and is on the bench.

Louth: 1. Neil Gallagher; 2. Padraig Rath 3. Dessie Finnegan 4. Gary O’Hare; 5. John O’Brien 6. Derek Crilly 7. Adrian Reid; 8. Paddy Keenan; 9. Mick Fanning 10. Patrick Reilly 11. Brian White 12. Andy McDonnell; 13. Declan Byrne 14. Shane Lennon 15. Derek Maguire.

Westmeath: 1. Darren Quinn; 2. Damian Dolan 3. Kieran Gavin 4. Kevin Maguire; 5. Ronan Foley, 6. Paul Sharry (C), 7. James Dolan; 8. David Duffy, 9. Ray Connellan; 10. Callum McCormack, 11. Ger Egan, 12. Kieran Martin; 13. Denis Glennon, 14. John Heslin, 15. Dessie Dolan

Key Stats

Westmeath

Played; 7 (relegated from Division 1)
Form; L-L-L-L-L-L-L
Players used; 28
Top-scorer; John Heslin 0-21 (16fs),
Discipline; 0 x black cards

Louth

Played; 7 (relegated from Division 2)
Form; D-L-L-L-D-L-L
Players used; 32
Top-scorer; Brian White 1-17 (8fs, 3 ‘45s’)
Discipline; 4 x black cards

Key Battle - Shane Lennon (Louth) vs. Kieran Gavin (Westmeath)

Shane Lennon is Louth’s main threat from play, he returned from injury to play the final two league games, scoring 1-04. If he playing anywhere near his 2013 form, where he kicked 2-15 in four Championship matches Louth will fancy their chances.

Kieran Gavin will mark him from full-back, he was one of nine Westmeath players to appear in all seven league games, and although an injury doubt in the lead up to the game his presence is crucial. He captained the county last year and in 2012 lead both DCU to a Sigerson title and his club Mullingar Shamrocks to the Westmeath senior championship.

Roscommon vs. Leitrim - Dr. Hyde Park- 3pm, Sunday May 18th

Team News

Roscommon haven’t named any of their impressive Connacht winning u21 side in their starting 15. John Evans has however handed debuts to three players, Ciaran Cafferky at wing-back and Ronan Stack and Ciarán Murtagh in the forwards. Leitrim manager Seán Hagan has also named three debutants in his side, Donál Wrynn at full-back, Damian Moran in midfield and Seán McWeeney, who typically operates as a defender, at number 15.

Roscommon: 1. Darren O’Malley; 2. Seánie McDermott 3. Niall Carty (C) 4. Neil Collins; 5. David Keenan 6. Niall Daly 7. Ciarán Cafferkey; 8. Cathal Shine 9. Kevin Higgins; 10. David O’Gara 11. Donie Shine 12. Ronan Stack; 13. Senan Kilbride 14. Cathal Cregg 15. Ciarán Murtagh.

Leitrim: 1. Cathal McCrann; 2. Barry Prior 3. Donal Wrynn 4. Paddy Maguire; 5. Wayne McKeon 6. Gary Reynolds 7. Paul Brennan; 8. Darren Sweeney 9. Damian Moran; 10. Kevin Conlon 11. Robert Lowe 12. Barry McWeeney; 13. Emlyn Mulligan (C) 14. James Glancy 15. Sean McWeeney.

Key Stats

Roscommon

Played; 8 (Division 3 winners)
Form; W-W-W-W-W-D-W-W
Top-scorer; Donal Shine 0-35 (17fs, 2 ‘45s’)
Discipline; 2 x black cards

Leitrim

Played; 7
Form; W-D-W-W-L-L-W
Top-scorer; Emlyn Mulligan 1-34
Discipline; 2 x black cards

Key Battle - Donal Wrynn (Leitrim) vs. Senan Kilbride (Roscommon)

Just 20 years old, and still an u21 next year, Donal Wrynn is Leitrim’s big hope for the future. The DCU Sigerson footballer had played the majority of his football between midfield and full-forward prior to this year. Seán Hagan has converted him to full-back and he impressed throughout the league, while also playing midfield for the U21 side that reached the Connacht final.

 

He faces his biggest test yet on Sunday, making his championship debut and picking up Senan Kilbride. The St. Brigid’s forward was in fine form throughout the league, scoring 2-20, and alongside Donal Shine is central to the Roscommon attacking blueprint. Wrynn impressed when marking Kilbride during the FBD league final in early January, keeping him scoreless as Leitrim won.

Tyrone vs. Down - Omagh - 4pm, Sunday May 18th

Team News

Mickey Harte has handed Championship debuts to Barry Tierney and Tiernan McCann in defence, while remarkably, Kyle Coney, the 2008 All-Ireland minor winning star, is making his first Championship start. Down have had a number of injury troubles recently and are without at least five potential starters.

Down: 1. Brendan McVeigh; 2. Daniel McCartan, 3. Brendan McArdle, 4. Ryan Boyle; 5. Declan Rooney, 6. Aidan Carr, 7. Conor Garvey; 8. Peter Turley, 9. Ambrose Rogers; 10. Conor Maginn, 11. Mark Poland, 12. Kevin McKernan; 13. Donal O'Hare, 14. Niall Madine, 15. Brendan Coulter.

Tyrone: 1. Niall Morgan; 2. Aidan McCrory, 3. Danny McBride, 4. Barry Tierney; 5. Tiernan McCann, 6. Matthew Donnelly, 7. Peter Harte; 8. Colm Cavanagh, 9. Conor Clarke; 10. Patrick McNeice, 11. Sean Cavanagh, 12. Ciaran McGinley; 13. Darren McCurry, 14. Niall McKenna, 15. Kyle Coney.

Key Stats

Tyrone

Played; 7
Form; D-W-W-L-W-D-L
Players used; 31
Top-scorer; Darren McCurry 3-21 (10fs)
Discipline; 3 x black cards

Down

Played; 7
Form; D-W-W-L-W-L-L
Players used; 31
Top-scorer; Donal O’Hare 1-34 (29fs)
Discipline; 6 x black cards

Key Battle - Peter Harte (Tyrone) vs. Kevin McKernan (Down)

Two men of equal importance to their respective counties. Peter Harte has began to fulfill his potential over the past two seasons or so and is fast becoming one of the best half-backs in the game. Kevin McKernan’s strength around midfield and ability to kick scores on the run and from long-range could prove crucial to Down’s hopes.

When Peter Harte went off injured after a collision with Tom Cunniffe early in the All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo last year, it was clear how crucial he was to Mickey Harte’s plans. Kevin McKernan kicked four points from play in Down’s quarter-final victory over Derry last June. And while he’s been injured throughout much of the league, James McCartan can’t do without him.

Wicklow vs. Laois - Aughrim - 3.30pm, Sunday May 18th

Team News

Wicklow manager Harry Murphy is without three of his regulars through injury and has named two debutants. Ciarán Hyland, Niall Gaffney and Paul Earls, each of whom played in all seven league games, have all been ruled out through injury, so there are four changes from the side that beat Tipperary in dramatic fashion in game week 7, including Mark Kenny and Aaron Murphy who are playing their first Championship game.

Tomás O’Flaharta meanwhile has handed championship debuts to goalkeeper Graham Brody, who was ever-present throughout the league and wing-forward James Finn. Colm Begley isn’t starting after he was reportedly disciplined for playing Dublin club championship during the week.

Wicklow: 1. Robert Lambert; 2. Aaron Murphy, 3. Paul McLoughlin, 4. Alan Byrne; 5. Kevin Murphy, 6. Podge McWalter, 7. Dean Healy; 8. Anthony McLoughlin, 9. James Stafford; 10. Rory Finn, 11. Mark Kenny, 12. Darren Hayden; 13. Paul Cunningham, 14. Sean Furlong, 15. Leighton Glynn.

Laois: 1. Graham Brody; 2. Padraig McMahon, 3. Paul Begley, 4. Peter O'Leary; 5. Darren Strong, 6. Stephen Attride, 7. Robbie Kehoe; 8. Kevin Meaney, 9. John O'Loughlin; 10. James Finn, 11. Donal Kingston, 12. Billy Sheehan; 13. Ross Munnelly, 14. Conor Meredith, 15. David Conway.

Key Stats

Wicklow Form; W-W-L-L-W-W-W
Top-scorers; Seanie Furlong 4-27 (11fs, 2 ‘45s’)
Discipline; 4 x black cards

Laois Form; L-W-W-L-L-L-W
Top-scorers; Ross Munnelly 2-22 (12fs, 1p)
Discipline; 2 x black cards

Key Battle - Anthony McLoughlin (Wicklow) vs. John O’Loughlin (Laois)

While the performances of the likes of Donie Kingston and Ross Munnelly and likewise Furlong and Glynn for Wicklow will be crucial, the platform for victory will be laid by either John O’Loughlin or Anthony McLoughlin at midfield.

Laois man O’Loughlin has alternated between half-back and midfield over the past couple of seasons, but in the spring he played all seven games in centre field, scoring 3-06. Kevin Meaney partnered him throughout the league and they’re as strong a pairing as any. Wicklow are missing their other midfielder Niall Gaffney through injury, so Anthony McLoughlin will be partnered by James Stafford. McLoughlin was very impressive in last year’s defeat to Meath, kicking 0-03 from play.

Longford vs. Offaly - Pearse Park- 3.30pm, Sunday May 18th

Team News

Both sides have named a Championship debutant apiece in their respective sides for Sunday’s game. Longford manager Jack Sheedy has paired Shane Doyle in midfield with John Keegan. While Emmet McDonnell has placed his faith in U21 star Joe Maher in corner-forward.

Longford: 1. Damien Sheridan; 2. Dermot Brady, 3. Barry Gilleran, 4. Fergal Battrim; 5. Colm P Smyth, 6. Enda Williams, 7. Shane Mulligan; 8. John Keegan, 9. Shane Doyle; 10. Michael Quinn, 11. Francis McGee, 12. Paul Barden; 13. Mark Hughes, 14. Brian Kavanagh, 15. Sean McCormack

Offaly: 1. Alan Mulhall; 2. Daithi Brady 3. David Hanlon 4. Niall Darby; 5. Brian Darby 6. Johnny Moloney 7. Michael Brazil; 8. Ruarai Allen 9. Niall Smith; 10. Eoin Carroll 11. Graham Guilfoyle 12. Anton Sullivan; 13. Joe Maher 14. Niall McNamee 15. Peter Cunningham

Key Stats

Longford

Played; 7 (Relegated from Division 3)
Form; L-L-W-W-L-L-L
Top-scorer; Sean McCormack 2-35
Discipline; 4 x black cards

Offaly

Played; 7 (Relegated from Division 3)
Form; L-L-L-L-L-L-D
Top-scorer; Niall McNamee 0-25
Discipline; 4 x black cards

Key Battle - Sean McCormack (Longford) vs. Niall McNamee (Offaly)

Possibly the toughest game to call this weekend, Longford and Offaly, the two sides relegated to Division 4, could be decided by a shootout between the star forwards, Sean McCormack and Niall McNamee.

 For Longford McCormack has been standing out for years now. Between two league campaigns and last years Championship, McCormack has played 17 competitive inter-county games in the past 12 months, in that time he’s scored a remarkable 6-90.

McNamee is of a similar ilk in Offaly. He kicked 0-25 in their league campaign this year, and 3-14 last year, he’ll need to score more than the four championship points he registered last year though if Offaly are to progress past Longford.

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