HomeFootballFootball previews: Galway need a big upswing to defend title while Clare...

Football previews: Galway need a big upswing to defend title while Clare hope for home comforts


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Connacht SFC final: Galway v Mayo, Pearse Stadium, 4.0 [Live, RTÉ2]

Over the years this has generally been a fixture in which no favourites are so far ahead that they could survive playing badly if the opposition play well. That said, the evidence in this points more firmly in Mayo’s direction depending on the weight one attaches to the law of averages.

Pádraig Joyce endured a difficult league, trying to stay afloat in Division One despite a full infirmary. That he succeeded was a positive from the league but there is no form to speak of – Damien Comer is back, which is a big lift for the home team, as he looked sharp off the bench against Sligo, but Shane Walsh was substituted, as the search goes on for his 2022 form. There is no sign of the third of that year’s triptych, Cillian McDaid, returning from his injury.

Mayo haven’t been sparkling this year but they weren’t looking to win another league, had to clear New York and a potentially tricky trip to Roscommon. They have also had the edge on Galway since Kevin McStay took over, emphasised by January’s league bulldozing of the neighbours, who were, it must be acknowledged, terrible. This is Mayo’s third trip to Salthill, having won last year’s preliminary quarter-final as well, although Seán Kelly is now fit and well to contribute and he has been a big influence on these matches.

Galway’s inability to cope with the athleticism and power of Mayo’s counterattacks has been a feature of the recent reverses and that may be influenced by captain Patrick Durcan’s questionable fitness. Both sides are capable of limiting the other in the marking of go-to forwards: Jack McGrath on Ryan O’Donoghue, David McBrien on Comer and Sam Callinan on Walsh. However, it will take a step change in form for Galway to upset the form book and that, combined with Colm Reape’s greater variety of kick-outs and what looks a stronger bench, suggests that the visitors can depose the champions. Verdict: Mayo

Munster SFC final: Clare v Kerry, Ennis, 1.45 [Live RTÉ 2]

Even in retirement former Clare manager Colm Collins has been flying the flag. When asked by Des Cahill on RTÉ, what would constitute a “good result” he indignantly answered, “a win!” As a long-serving keeper of his county’s flame, Collins was unduly persecuted by Kerry in Munster draws and even an All-Ireland quarter-final.

Kerry were given plenty to do by Cork in the provincial semi-final before the latter ran out of steam. Mark Fitzgerald has done exceptionally well since succeeding Collins, controversially denied promotion straight back to Division Two and now with a home provincial final, delivered when he poker-faced Kerry into drawing lots for home advantage.

The question for Fitzgerald and his players has been posed as to whether they believe they can win but first, they need to make sure that they don’t underperform through inaccuracies and concentration lapses, a fate that has bedevilled Clare in the past. There’s an optimism about them at the moment but the challenge of Kerry doesn’t change. Jack O’Connor brings back Jason Foley for the champions after injury and Shane Murphy takes over in goal. Clare bring back then energetic Danny Walsh after injury. Verdict: Kerry

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