Championship Watch

Looking back Game of the weekend: Plenty of choice this week -Cork v Tipp was a really top class hurling game and although it was not strictly knock-out it was great stuff and Tipp are now back in the All-Ireland equation as a result. The Cork/Waterford re-match has the makings of another epic.    In football both provincial finals were very good competitive games with the Ulster final the pick of the bunch.    Monaghan will be a handful in the qualifiers if they can keep up last Sunday’s form while the Dubs were simply physically too strong for Laois in Croker.  Player of the weekend: In hurling the award goes to Lar Corbett who rolled back the years with a brilliant display against Cork in Thurles. His inspirational long-range points were key to Tipperary’s success in what was a great game.   In football there were loads of candidates. Paddy Bradley terrorised Mayo in the qualifiers while Kevin Cassidy was the star as Donegal mastered Westmeath in Mullingar.    Brian Farrell was again brilliant as Meath beat Fermanagh and Paddy Keenan and Mark Stanfield were the key men for Louth as they upset Kildare. Sean Kavanagh was brilliant for Tyrone againt Monaghan for whom Tommy Freeman and Paul Finlay gave their all but this week the football award goes to Ciaran Whelan who was majestic as Dublin won their third Leinster final in a row against Laois.    Much-maligned over the years, Whelan was in mighty form as the Dubs strode on in the championship. Talking point: The demise of  Mayo. To have to travel to Celtic Park to play Derry was never going to be easy for Mayo but very few would have forecast a 10-point defeat for John O’Mahoney’s team.    This Mayo team have reached two All-Ireland finals but a lot of their players have a lot of miles on the clock so it will be interesting to see how many of them play on.    There were also a load of non-competitive games in the hurling qualifiers and in the Nicky Rackard Cup where teams were beaten by massive margins. Something to note: Roscommon’s minors will now face Laois in the All-Ireland quarter-finals on the weekend of the 4th/5th August at a neutral venue. The much-vaunted Laois side were decidedly lucky to hold out against Carlow to win the Leinster title at Croke Park last Sunday. They led by 3-5 to 0-5 at half-time but Carlow edged their way into the game and Laois were hanging on and in the end they won by two points, 3-8 to 1-12. Looking forward Guinness All-Ireland SHC quarter-finals: Galway v Kilkenny (Croke Park on Sunday at 4 pm):   The bookies will have Kilkenny as the raging hot favourites to win this game and rightly so too but if the Cats have had any bogey team in recent years the it has to be Galway. Ger Loughnane’s  motor-mouth performance in The Clare Champion really backfired on his team the last day. He should let his players do their talking on the field. If the Cats have a real bad day and Galway have a real good one you would never know what could happen. I think the Cats will be all revved up and will win.  Prediction: Kilkenny. Wexford v Tipperary (Croke Park on Sunday at 2 pm): If I was a Wexford player or official I would be really up for this game. They have been given no chance by any of the so-called experts. The fact that it’s Tipp and not Cork that they are meeting makes little difference now. This is Tipp’s seventh championship game in seven weeks but on the evidence of last Saturday night they are only warming to the task. It will be closer than a lot of people think but Tipp are on a roll and Eoin Kelly will be back.  Prediction: Tipperary. Bank of Ireland All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers: Louth v Cork (Saturday in Portlaoise at 2 pm): If Cork want to be thought of as possible All-Ireland winners then they will want to be winning this game easily. The Leesiders were very unlucky to lose to Kerry in the Munster Final but that might be a blessing in disguise. Louth have won two games in the qualifiers already and will arrive in O’Moore Park with nothing to lose. I expect a close game but I also expect Cork to win easily.  Prediction: Cork.   Meath v Galway (Saturday in Portlaoise at 4 pm):   This has the makings of a good game. Meath are a big, strong, physical side but they lack that bit of class needed to be a top class team capable of winning the All-Ireland title. Galway on the other hand were very poor against Sligo but they have in their squad players of proven quality. If they raise their game they are well capable of beating this Meath side. Will depend on their attitude on the day. I am hoping that Galway will be right on the day.  Prediction: Galway (just!).