Championship watch

Looking back Game of the Weekend: Longford v Westmeath. It looked over at half-time but Longford stormed back into contention with a sensational second-half display. Brian Kavanagh, David Barden, Declan Reilly and Paddy Dowd were all excellent as Luke Dempsey’s men overturned a nine-point deficit. Player of the weekend: Longford’s Brian Kavanagh, who followed up on his form of last year by scoring 2-6 in a brilliant second-half display. Benny Coulter gets a mention too. The flame-haired Down attacker  terrorised the Cavan defence in Breffni Park. Talking Point: The number of players who went down with cramp which is hard to believe given the huge amount of training that we hear about nowadays. Something to note: For Roscommon followers – there was a warning from Sligo who hammered New York at the weekend by 2-18 to 1-3. They will come to Hyde Park on June 17th with all guns blazing. Referee watch: Two excellent displays in the TV games by Derek Fahy and Pat McEneaney.  Looking forward Bank of Ireland All-Ireland SFC. Leinster – Louth v Wicklow (Croke Park, Sunday at 2.10 pm): After all the ballyhoo about Mick O’Dwyer joining Wicklow they have only one chance to prove themselves in the championship as they will operate out of the Tommy Murphy Cup if they lose. Louth are no world-beaters but they improved well in the past two years. Wicklow will huff and puff a lot. Louth will take the spoils. Prediction:Louth.   Leinster – Meath v Kildare (Croke Park, Sunday at 4 pm): Kildare are the favourites to win this game but without Dermot Earley they are not as formidable as they might seem. Meath had a morale-boosting win over Roscommon in the League Division 2 final recently and they look strong down the middle. I think Kildare rely too much on John Doyle so an upset is the verdict here. Prediction: Meath.   Connacht – Galway v Mayo (Pearse Stadium, Sunday at 4 pm): It’s a pity that this is not a knock-out championship game because there would be a fantastic atmosphere in Salthill on Sunday. Still there will be a lot at stake as these age-old rivals go head to head. There is a feeling about that Galway were only treading water against Mayo in the league semi-final but I am not so sure about that.    Mayo are struggling to find a full-back which should be good news for Padraig Joyce who is Galway’s main man. Joyce will need help from the likes of Joe Bergin and Michael Meehan if Galway are to win because he will not beat Mayo on his own. I think that John O’Mahoney would rather win the Connacht title than go the qualifier route. Mayo are too strong overall. Prediction: Mayo.   Ulster: Tyrone v Fermanagh (Clones,  Sunday at 2.15 pm): On the face of it this should be a fairly easy start to the year for Tyrone. It’s hard to know what to expect from Mickey Harte’s men this summer. If they get all their players back then they could go all the way. Fermanagh were good two or three years ago but they have fallen back. Prediction: Tyrone.   Ulster: Down v Cavan replay (Newry, at 4.15 pm on Sunday): Last Sunday’s drawn game was riddled with mistakes but Down were the team who threw it away. Cavan look very shaky at the back and Benny Coulter can make them pay in this replay. Prediction: Down.   Munster: Clare v Waterford (Sunday, Dungarvan at 3.30 pm): These two teams will be fighting to stay away from the Tommy Murphy Cup as long as they can but neither will be challenging for a Munster title. Paidi O’Se has found it tough going in the Banner. They will probably survive here but will fall at the next hurdle. Prediction: Clare.   Munster: Cork v Limerick (Pairc Ui Caoimh, 3.30 pm on Sunday): This could be a very lively game. Limerick were relegated from Division 1 but they played well in almost every game. They will put it up to Cork but if the Leesiders are to make any major impression this year they would want to be winning this one. The recent U-21 All-Ireland win will be an inspiration. A few frights for Cork here but they should prevail. Prediction: Cork.   Guinness All-Ireland SHC Ulster: Down v Derry (Sunday, Casement Park at 1.45 pm). The big guns in the hurling championship are starting out next week but here in Ulster Down should beat a Derry team who were narrow winners last weekend. Prediction:Down.