Championship Watch with Seamus Duke

Looking Back Game of the Weekend: Down v Tyrone in the Ulster SFC: I’m resisting the temptation to go for the Tipp/Cork match which was always interesting but in fairness to Down and Tyrone who provided the big crowd in Omagh with a top class contest I am going for that game. Tyrone blazed away and looked like they would win easily but Down fought back impressively and some of their youngers player played very well. Westmeath v Offaly was a very poor game and Westmeath were by far the better team. Dublin also pulled away from Louth at Croke Park to win very easily and set up a very interesting game against Westmeath in the semi-final. The hurling game was good rather than brilliant but now Tipperary have established themselves as serious contenders for the Liam McCarthy Cup. They will be hard to beat in Munster now. Player of the Weekend: Ambrose Rogers (Down): Several contenders here. In the hurling John Gardiner played well for Cork while Conor O’Mahoney was the man of the match and he played brilliantly for Tipperary at Pairc Ui Caoimh. Alan Brogan and new recruit Eamonn Fennell impressed for Dublin at Croke Park while Dessie Dolan was (again) the main man for Westmeath as they beat Offaly. I was very impressed with Brian Dooher as Tyrone held out against Down but Ambrose Rogers gets this week’s award. The big sub made a massive impact as he came on for Down and it was noticeable that their fortunes changed when he came on – and he scored a great goal into the bargain Talking Point: It must be acknowledged that the the crowds at the matches last weekend were huge and a welcome change from the smaller crowds that we have seen this summer so far. However the big talking point came in Cork where there were crowd control problems at Pairc Ui Caoimh and several hundred supporters had to watch the game from behind the goal and from the sideline. There is no need for that to happen in these days of all-ticket matches and the lame excuses made by GAA officials since Monday simply do not wash. The facts are that the stewarding at the ground was not good enough on the day. Referee Watch: A good weekend for referees. After criticising him last weekend, I must acknowledge that Marty Duffy did well in the Dublin v Louth game — as did David Coldrick (Down/Tyrone) and Jimmy McKee (Westmeath/Offaly). Barry Kelly handled the Cork/Tipp match well but there was a question mark over the Tipperary goal when Eoin Kelly seemed to overcarry the ball. Looking Forward Leinster SHC semi-final: Dublin v Wexford (on Saturday at 4.15 pm in Nowlan Park) Every year Dublin are getting closer to establishing themselves as the number two team in Leinster and the bookies odds reflect that. Dublin have had success at colleges, minor and U-21 level in recent years which has certainly boosted them. Wexford have been going through a tough time and will be under pressure but the siege mentality might serve them well in this game. I think that they will scrape through. Bookies Odds: Wexford 4/7, Dublin 13/8. Draw 9/1. Prediction: Wexford. Leinster SHC semi-final: Kilkenny v Offaly (on Sunday in Portlaoise at 4 pm) Offaly will probably make a game of it for 45 minutes or so but Kilkenny are just so far ahead of the rest there isn’t much point in trying to make a case for Offaly. Bookies Odds: Kilkenny 1/50, Offaly 14/1. Draw 22/1. Prediction: Kilkenny. Ulster SFC quarter-final replay: Down v Tyrone (on Saturday at 7 pm in Newry) Down will be delighted at the way they played last Sunday and after a lot of underage success in recent years they are finally starting to show their strength at senior level. However Tyrone will be angry that they threw away a game that they had almost won and some of their prominent players did not play well last Sunday. This game could go all the way but I’m sticking with Tyrone. Bookies Odds: Down 15/8, Tyrone 4/7. Draw 7/1. Prediction: Tyrone.  Ulster SFC quarter-final: Cavan v Armagh (on Sunday at 3.45 pm at Breffni Park) Cavan have the luxury of a game under their belts which will be an advantage to them and the fact that they are playing in Breffni Park is also a help. However despite that, Armagh look to be far too strong and if they can get the ball in to Stevie McDonnell and Ronan Clarke they should be able to win the game by five or six points. Bookies Odds: Cavan 5/2, Armagh 2/5. Draw 15/2. Prediction: Armagh.  Connacht SFC semi-final: Galway v Leitrim (on Sunday in Pearse Stadium at 2 pm) Galway eased past Roscommon in the first round three weeks ago and they have another home draw this weekend. They are probably not as good as the final scoreline against Roscommon would suggest but they should be good enough to beat Leitrim who put up a good score against New York a few weeks ago. The Galway attack will be too strong and the Tribesmen should qualify for another Connacht Final. Bookies Odds: Galway 1/14, Leitrim 8/1. Draw 12/1.  Prediction: Galway.  Munster SFC semi-final: Kerry v Clare (on Sunday in Killarney at 3.30 pm) The bookies’ odds say it all. It’s unfair that this turkey-shoot takes place every year in the name of competition. Kerry could play 10 players and still win this game. That’s no slur on Clare but just the way it is. Bookies Odds: Kerry 1/200, Clare 25/1. Draw 20/1.  Prediction: Kerry.  Munster SFC semi final: Cork v Limerick (on Sunday in Limerick at 3.30 pm) This will be a far more competitive match than the other semi-final but there is an air of inevitability about the outcome at the same time. Limerick are not a bad side but Cork will need no motivation after what happened last year against Kerry and then the strike earlier in the year. Bookies Odds: Limerick 13/2, Cork 1/10. Draw 12/1. Prediction: Cork.  Ulster SHC Final: Antrim v Down (on Sunday in Casement Park at 3.45 pm) Another game where the outcome is very predictable. There was a time when Down were able to put it up to (and occasionally beat) Antrim. Those days are gone now and although Down will be there or thereabouts for a lot of the game, Antrim will win another title. Bookies Odds: Antrim 1/5, Down 5/1. Draw 12/1.  Prediction: Antrim.