Everything you need to know: Sunday’s SFC provincial action


SATURDAY APRIL 23

SFC Ulster Quarter-Final
Antrim 0-10 Cavan 1-20

SUNDAY APRIL 24

SFC Ulster Quarter-Final
Donegal v Armagh, Ballybofey, 2pm

Leinster SFC preliminary round
Louth vs. Carlow, Páirc Tailteann, 2:30 p.m.
Wexford v Offaly, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 3pm
Wicklow vs. Laois, Aughrim, 3:30 p.m.

Connacht SFC Quarter Final
Mayo v Galway, Hastings MacHale Park, 4 p.m.

IN LINE
Live blogging on the RTÉ Sport Online app and RTÉ News Now.

TV
Live coverage of Donegal v Armagh on BBC One NI from 1.50pm. Mayo v Galway will be part of Sunday Game Live, RTÉ2, from 1pm.

On GAAGO, Donegal v Armagh and Mayo v Galway are available worldwide.

Highlights of all the weekend action on The Sunday Game, RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, from 9.30pm.

RADIO
Live commentary on Sunday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1 and in Irish on Raidió na Gaeltachta.

WEATHER
Today should be dry with sunny spells in most areas, but it will be a bit more cloudy in the southwest where there will be occasional light rain and drizzle. Maximum temperatures of 13 to 16 degrees, in generally moderate easterly winds. For more information, visit met.ie.

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Things are speeding up

The opening weekend saw Tyrone, as expected, kick off his campaign with a comfortable victory at the end against Fermanagh, although the Ernesiders were more than competitive in the opening period.

Connacht gave us two entertaining quarter-finals, with London erasing Leitrim’s eight-point lead to the bare minimum late and then pressing for the leveler at Ruislip. On the counter, Ryan O’Rourke coldly found the net for the visitors to fend off the surge. More drama time. In the Bronx, New York certainly got its fill in Sligo, hitting the woodwork three times in its quest to get its nose up on the stretch. A few unfavorable rebounds of the ball also did not help the hosts to provoke.

Niall Murphy and Patrick O’Connor’s final points helped Sligo escape.

And so New York, at the quarter-final stage, Fermanagh, London, and now Antrim after their loss to Cavan, are the first entrants in the Tailteann Cup. Others will join them this afternoon, while the All-Ireland qualifying series will see the first of the names in the hat for the first round. Yes, the provincial race will be over for Donegal/Armagh and Mayo/Galway, a quartet with firm designs to lift the silverware and enter the All-Ireland series without worrying about a backdoor that might be slammed in their face .

There will be a benefit to the action at Ballybofey and Castlebar; it will be very spicy.

After the Letterkenny scrum comes a championship battle at Ballybofey

The scuffles that punctuated the end of the championship meeting on March 27

It is 14 years since Armagh last won Ulster. After a Division 1 campaign where they more than held on, finishing alongside Donegal and Tyrone with seven points, there is more than just hope they can reclaim the Anglo Celt Cup. The victories over Dublin and Tyrone were sort of declarations in late January and early February; McGeeney’s team came from last year. A season in the elite helping their progress.

As for that last game against Donegal in Letterkenny, things warmed up a bit late on. Suspensions were pronounced on both sides. On appeal, the Armagh duo of Rian O’Neill and Stefan Campbell saw theirs suspended. Ciaran Mackin withdrew his case against a one-game suspension at Central Courts last week.

A fourth player, Rian O’Neill, was suspended by the Central Competition Control Committee (CCCC) for his involvement in the review, but was later cleared on a procedural matter relating to how the CCCC filed a complaint against him.

Donegal’s Neil McGee and Odhrán McFadden-Ferry were also cited for contributing to a scrum but accepted one-game suspensions.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Colm O’Rourke can see issues down the line for Armagh GAA over future appeals.

“It undermines the whole disciplinary process, where one body overrules another’s decision. It will be interesting to see what the referees do now. Will they interfere in scrums at all? If they feel they won’t be not supported at central level they can say ‘why would he bother?’ It will also be interesting to see what Armagh County Council does at club level if there are scrums as they wouldn’t have more moral authority after removing their players in this case.”

And so the pot is stirred even further before this shock by the Finn. Donegal, a team capable of giving us more but not delivering, against an opposition who finally believe they are at a point where they can take more than a scalp. Pressure then on Declan Bonner and Stephen Rochford to deliver here. They have key men in Michael Murphy, Paddy McBrearty and Ryan McHugh to help Donegal edge out another contest as well. Playing Ballybofey is also an advantage. Armagh will however be well prepared for this clash.

The winner will face either Antrim or Cavan in the semi-finals.

  • Armagh are seeking their first Championship win against Donegal since 2010. Donegal have won the game three times since then.
  • Donegal have not lost their first game in the Ulster Championship since 2010 when they were beaten by Down after extra time in the quarter-finals.

Opening games in Leinster

Sam Mulroy and Mickey Harte will consider a date with Kildare if Louth overtakes Carlow

Three games to sort in the preliminary round. The winner of Wexford against Offaly will next face Dublin. A chance therefore to have a cut to a team whose invincibility has faded a little, but not enough to suggest that it will not win a 12th consecutive title.

Offaly may have been a bit unlucky to be relegated to Division 3. They could have easily beaten Meath and Cork; the background music would be very different now. Wexford were seen as genuine contenders to escape Division 4, but they lifted little to no canter in their seven games.

  • Offaly won his first Leinster Championship games in 2021 and 2020, ending a poor run. Between 2007 and 2019, they only won one match in the first round.
  • Wexford beat Wicklow in the first round of Leinster last year, ending a losing streak that has seen them lose their first game in each of the previous six seasons.

Louth’s rise under Mickey Harte continued with a Division Two place next year and the guarantee that they will stay in the Sam Maguire race even if they fail to make the Leinster final. They should be too strong for Carlow at Páirc Tailteann.

  • They last met in the Leinster Championship in 2018 when Carlow won by 11 points in a match where Paul Broderick scored 1-8 for the winners.
  • Louth enjoyed a highly successful league campaign this year, earning promotion from Division 3 as champions after winning six, drawing one and losing one of eight games. Sam Mulroy was their top scorer with a very impressive 3-57 (0-42 free, 0-9’45s).

And then we have Wicklow v Laois at Aughrim; the two teams that moved to Division 4 last month. Billy Sheehan’s troops comfortably won the league clash on March 13, enough to suggest they can advance here.

  • Wicklow’s last victory over Laois in the Championship was in 1986. Laois were National League champions at the time but lost by four points in what became known as the ‘Battle of Aughrim’.

Is it now Galway’s turn?

Now in his third season as Galway manager, Padraic Joyce is yet to win a championship against his arch-rivals.

Share and share alike. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Galway came out on top when they met their rivals in provincial bouts. Beginning with an All-Ireland qualifying win at the Limerick Gaelic Grounds in 2019, Mayo then regained the initiative and followed that up with Connacht’s final wins of 20 and 21.

It’s a quarter-final, but a defeat for either of them wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world. Both are well capable of navigating the road to qualifying and reaching the All-Ireland quarter-finals, despite Mayo’s injured list.

We already know Tommy Conroy is out for the season with a cruciate ligament injury. Jordan Flynn (foot) and Fionn McDonagh (hamstring) are expected to miss the Castlebar clash, while there is doubt over Paddy Durcan as he continues to recover from his hamstring issues.

Cillian O’Connor (pictured) will make his first start for Mayo against Galway on Sunday since suffering an Achilles injury against Clare in an Allianz League match last June

O’Connor, who saw playing time in the Division 1 League Final against Kerry on April 3, was named in the full forward line.

In total, Mayo boss James Horan made four changes to the squad after the heavy loss for the Kingdom.

In defence, Oisin Mullen replaces Rory Brickenden at full-back with Eoghan McLaughlin appointed at full-back in place of Enda Hession.

Aidan O’Shea is leaving centre-forward to replace injured Jordan Flynn and will now partner team-mate Matthew Ruane. Kevin McLoughlin enters the squad in place of Jack Carney at winger with Ryan O’Donoghue named at centre-forward and Conor Loftus at the other wing.

Enda Hession, Rory Brickenden, Diarmuid O’Connor, Jack Carney and Aiden Orme are all named on the bench.

Mix some good displays; Derry’s away demolition comes to mind, with less than eye-catching performances including the home win against Offaly, Galway still secured promotion to the top flight. They then narrowly lost to Roscommon in the Division 2 decider, scoring 0-22. The introduction of Shane Walsh inspiring a resurgence of Tribes in the second period when the Rossies built a five-point cushion.

Damien Comer and Paul Conroy are also essential for Galway and how Mayo thwarts their influence could be decisive. What role will Cillian O’Connor play, if any? Will Aidan O’Shea be posted just outside the house to put pressure on the Galway kickers? Will Padraic O’Hora be the man to keep an eye on Comer? Countless matches; countless questions.

Pádraic Joyce needs a big championship. His Galway side withered in the heat of Croke Park last summer. The current Hastings MacHale Park will be something of a cauldron with crowds returning to see if Mayo has any real credentials from all over Ireland following the Kerry cover-up.

Galway will be eager to show that he also has similar credentials.

  • This will be the 92nd league match between the counties with the following results: Mayo 44 wins; Galway 41 wins; Draw 6. This is their 25th meeting at Castlebar with Galway having won 13 times to de Mayo’s 11 of the previous 24.
  • 100% – Mayo manager James Horan led Mayo to six wins in their six league games against Galway. The wins were in 2011-2013-2014-2019-2020-2021. As a player he lined up four times against Galway, winning three and losing one.
  • Close calls – apart from last year when Mayo won by six points, their recent clashes with Galway have been very close. In the previous five games, only one score separated them each time.
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