By Paul Walsh
We have reached the stage of the season were the serious business begins. The four provincial winners meet four battle-hardened teams that have emerged from the qualifiers.
On Saturday, the champions Kerry will continue the defence of their crown against Down at 2pm. Kerry will enter in as heavy favorites for this clash. Their team is packed with genuine stars and in “The Gooch” and Kieran Donaghy they have two of the most gifted attackers in GAA.
Down crushed Sligo in their last match but were far from impressive in their previous outing against Offaly. Benny Coulter the star man for Down limped of with 10 minutes remaining in the Sligo match. For Down to have any chance, Coulter must be fit.
Kerry have dangerous and effective players all over the park and this factor will give them the edge. My prediction is Kerry by at least 4.
That match will be followed by a mouth-watering clash between Dublin and Tyrone at 4pm. These teams have been involved in some classic matches in recent history. They met at the same stage in 2008 when Tyrone beat Dublin comprehensively and gave them a footballing lesson.
Well they say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and Gilroy’s attempt to mould Dublin as a defensive counter attacking team is clearly an attempt to ape Tyrone’s style. Dublin have improved throughout the qualifiers but Tyrone showed in the Ulster final that they are serious All Ireland contenders.
Mickey Harte and Tyrone have been on the road a long time and I expect to see this experience defeat a developing Dublin side with a little to spare. I expect to see a Tyrone victory but also Dublin to make a battle out of it before losing by at least three points. I think most Dublin fans will be happy if we avoid the humiliation of the last two years and restore some pride.
Connacht champions Roscommon will face Cork at 2pm on Sunday, with Meath’s match against Kildare throwing-in at 4pm.
Roscommon caused the shock of the All Ireland so far when defeating Sligo to claim the Connaught title. Sligo’s subsequent heavy defeat to Down has cast a shadow over the quality of the Connaught championship this year.
Cork are among the three contenders for the All Ireland along with Tyrone and Kerry. They laboured through their victory over Limerick but I expect that shock to the system to inspire them on Sunday. Cork are a class above Roscommon and I fear that the Westerners may be in for a torrid time. I would expect Cork to win by a margin of 6 points or more.
Meath V Kildare is probably the closest game to call. Meath are not as good as the margin of victory against Dublin in the Leinster championship would suggest. Their “win” against Louth was underserved and all the negative publicity surrounding their team will either get to them or fire them up.
Kildare after their disastrous loss to Louth have impressed as they comfortably negotiated their way through the qualifiers. This is their third year in a row in the All Ireland Quarter Finals and I expect them to progress further this year. Dermot Earley should dominate a weak Meath midfield and this could be the platform for a narrow Kildare victory.
All matches will be held in Croke Park:
Kerry v Down – 2pm
Dublin v Tyrone – 4pm