Championship Watch

Championship Watch Looking back Game of the weekend: Galway and Meath was certainly not a classic but it was always interesting  as the sides battled to stay in the football championship. Meath looked too good for Galway early on but in fairness to Peter Ford’s men they came back into the game well. However Meath answered all the questions they were asked and  while they may not be good enough to win the All-Ireland they will be a hard side to beat in the quarter-finals. I was very disappointed with Cork against Louth. They struggled badly and were lucky to win. If they want to be considered as genuine All-Ireland contenders they will have to improve. Player of the weekend: Stephen Bray of Meath is the clear winner. The way he took his two goals suggests that Meath have found a corner-forward with the skills of Ollie Murphy and Bernard Flynn. Galway simply had no-one to mark him and he was the difference between the teams. Mark Ward and Brian Farrell were also in top form for Meath. For Galway Michael Meehan showed a welcome return to form too but it wasn’t enough to save his team. In the other game Cork were poor but Nicholas Murphy had an outstanding second half for them  and for Louth Aaron Hoey was outstanding in the Wee county attack. Talking point: The return of Graham Geraghty to the Meath team. Despite all the scrapes that he has been in there is no doubt that he is a class player and just when Meath needed a lift in the second half he was introduced as a sub and kicked a great point as Meath reached the quarter-finals. We will see more of him before the summer is out. Something to note: Peter Ford has now come to the end of his three-year term as the Galway team manager. In common with Mayo it is now a time of transition for another of the major powers in Connacht football and it will be interesting to see if the likes of Ja Fallon, Padraig Joyce, Derek Savage, Declan Meehan and a few others play on and whether Galway will be choosing another manager. Looking forward Guinness All-Ireland SHC quarter-finals Tipperary v Wexford (Croke Park, Saturday at 2 pm): Tipp have had a week more of a rest after last weekend’s postponement and it may be a help to them. Eoin Kelly will be back, which is a huge boost. Wexford have been totally written off, which is a dangerous thing to do with any team. If they have any pride at all they will come out fighting. This will be a lot closer than people think but Tipp have the better players and they should win it. Prediction: Tipperary. Kilkenny v Galway (Croke Park, Saturday at 4 pm): Last weekend’s terrible tragedy in Kilkenny puts sport into perspective and if anything Kilkenny will be even more determined now. If Galway are going to produce anything this summer then this is the day that they have to do it. All the mouthing that Ger Loughnane has done will count for nothing on the field on Saturday. Kilkenny look the part to me and while Galway will test them they look weak in a lot of departments. It will be a good game though. Prediction: Kilkenny.   Clare v Limerick (Croke Park on Sunday at 2 pm): A fascinating duel in prospect here. Limerick did so well against Waterford in the Munster Final until they faded in the final ten minutes. Clare are cock-a-hoop after beating Galway but I have a feeling that performance had more to do with Ger Loughnane than anything else. Mark Foley and Ollie Moran are in line for player of the year awards and Clare have no-one in that class. Limerick should be too strong for their opponents.  Prediction: Limerick.   Cork v Waterford (Croke Park on Sunday at 4 pm): This has the makings of another massive game between these two deadly rivals. Cork have a score to settle after the Munster semi-final when the ‘Cork Three’ were suspended. The draw has been very unkind to Waterford who are going to have to do it the hard way if they want to win the All-Ireland. I would dearly love to see Waterford win the McCarthy Cup this year. I love watching Mullane, Shanahan, Flynn, McGrath and the Kellys. These guys deserve to win an All-Ireland medal. I have a a fear that Cork are going to win it though. My heart says Waterford but my head says Cork.  Prediction: Cork.   Bank of Ireland All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers (Round 3)  Donegal v Monaghan (Clones on Saturday at 7 pm): The outcome here depends on how Monaghan have reacted to their narrow defeat in the Ulster Final by Tyrone. I was very impressed with them that day and if they are at full tilt they will seriously trouble Donegal. Donegal are a slow-burner now and are improving with every game. They have players returning from injury and suspension. This game will go to the wire. I am leaning ever so slightly towards Donegal. Prediction: Donegal.  Derry v Laois (Breffni Park, Cavan on Saturday at 7 pm): Derry have done a lot of damage in the qualifiers already, knocking out Mayo and Armagh. In Enda Muldoon and Paddy Bradley they have two of the best footballers in the country. I was underwhelmed by Laois is the Leinster Final and am not sure if they have the stomach for another tough test in the qualifiers. Derry look the safer bet to me.  Prediction: Derry.