CHAMPIONSHIP WATCH

Looking Back Game of the weekend: There was only one game really and that was the Longford v Westmeath one and I have to say that I was very disappointed with it. I was supposed to go to the game but had to settle for a place in front of the TV and boy was I glad I was at home. It was poor stuff with mountains of errors on both sides. Westmeath were very lucky to have survived. They got a soft goal from Dennis Glennon and a dubious enough penalty too. Let’s hope the standard of football improves this weekend. Player of the Weekend: Martin Flanagan is my choice. I saw Martin playing football for St. Mels in Longford about fifteen years ago and he was earmarked to become a top class player at that stage but it is remarkable to say that it is only in the last two years or so that Martin has really come to the fore. His fielding and distribution in Pearse Park were excellent to watch and he is now one of the best midfielders in the game.  Talking point: Longford are now out of the Leinster SFC and have no game until the middle of July. That’s a full TEN WEEKS without competitive action. How Luke Dempsey (or any other manager) is going to keep the players interest going for that long without a game is beyond me.  Looking Forward Connacht SFC first round: Galway v Roscommon (Sunday in Pearse Stadium at 4 pm): This game is previewed in detail elsewhere in the paper this week. Despite the long history of Roscommon teams always doing well against Galway in the championship, it’s hard to see anything other than a Galway victory. Roscommon fans will be hoping for a big performance though. Bookies odds: Galway 1/10 v Roscommon 13/2; Draw 12/1. Prediction: Galway.  Leinster SFC 1st round: Kildare v Wicklow (Sunday at Croke Park at 2 pm): A very interesting game in prospect here. Kildare have gone for a very high profile manager this year in Ciaran McGeeney and he was almost upstaged in his own county recently by Glen Ryan who brought the U-21 team to the All-Ireland final. McGeeney will face Micko on the touchline on Sunday and the wily Kerrymen will have Wicklow ready to cause a shock. I am expecting Wicklow to give it everything but, with a lot of excellent young players at their disposal, added to the older heads like Anthony Rainbow and Dermot Earley, I expect Kildare to win it by a few points. Bookies odds: Kildare 2/9 v Wicklow 4/1; Draw 10/1.  Prediction: Kildare.  Leinster SFC 1st Round Carlow v Meath (Sunday in Croke Park at 4 pm): It’s very hard for teams like Carlow to have to come to Croke Park every year and run into the likes of Dublin or Meath. Carlow have a very proud tradition and they will certainly give Meath plenty to think about but after about 50 minutes the green and gold juggernaut will crush the challenge of the minnows and they will roll on into the quarter-final. Meath have a few high-profile injuries but they will still win this easily. Bookies odds: Meath 1/20  Carlow 9/1 Draw 16/1. Prediction: Meath.  Ulster SFC 1st round: Antrim v Cavan (Sunday at Casement Park at 3.30 pm):This could well be the best and cloest game of the day. Cavan will be favourites but Antrim at home will be very hard to beat. Antrim were going along very nicely at the head of Division 4 in the league but they lost their last two games and were pipped by Tipperary for promotion. Cavan were very poor in Division Two and they never won a game at all. They rely on Seanie Johnston far too much for their scores and I think that if there is going to be a shock on Sunday this is where it will be. If Antrim have recovered from their league disappointment they have every chance here. Bookies odds: Antrim 2/1 v Cavan 1/2; Draw 15/2. Prediction: Antrim. Eamon Mulry finally took the game off the knife-edge in the final minutes with a goal five minutes from time and going into injury time St. Aidan’s led by 5-6 to 2-10.