Saturday, it’s Cavan v Laois, and Kerry v Waterford in a TG4 All Ireland Senior Football Championship double-bill in Birr. Here is a preview of both games.
Cavan v Laois, Birr, 2:00pm (D. McEnery)
Cavan and Meath are coming into this fixture in very different mindsets. Cavan reached an Ulster final, losing out narrowly, they performed well in the League and they have shown continous signs of improvement. In contrast, Laois have had another difficult Leinster Championship and survived relegation from Division 2 of the Lidl NFL by the narrowest of margins.
Cavan can call on some very talented players especially in defence where Rachael Jordan and Laura Fitzpatrick backbone the team and captain, Sinéad Greene, will attack regularly from the wing. Donna English and Rosie Crowe are a very powerful midfield unit, and up front Róisín O’Keeffe and Aisling Doonan will be expected to provide the scores necessary.
Laois are in the middle of a rebuilding period that has seen them slip down the ranks but they can still boast some top players amongst their ranks. 2014 TG4 All Star goalkeeper, Ciamh Dollard, is a brilliant player between the sticks. Maggie Murphy has been one of the best players for Laois in recent years and her partnership with Fiona Dooley could be vital if Laois are to surprise Cavan. Aileen O’Loughlan will captain the side from full forward where she will be joined by the dangerous Nóirín Kirwan who could prove to be the catalyst for a Laois win.
Cavan go into this match as favourites and their defensive solidity will make it very difficult for Laois to get the scores necessary to create that upset but Laois are a team that are always capable of upsetting the odds and they will have no fear of their opponents.
Kerry v Waterford, Birr, 3:45pm (M. Kenny)
The second match in the Birr double header will be an All Munster tie between Kerry and Waterford. These sides have met already in the championship when Kerry defeated Waterford to reach the TG4 Munster Championship final.
Kerry relinquished their Munster championship crown to Cork earlier in the summer and will undoubtedly be disappointed with their level of performance. However, this Kingdom team is brimming with potential with some real impact players being held on the bench. Aislinn Desmond has been a stalwart for Kerry for much of the last decade and the 2015 All Star will lead the team from fullback. Caroline Kelly plays in the centre of a particularly strong half back line where she is flanked by Eilís Lynch and Denise Hallissey. Their midfield pairing is very strong where Bernie Breen is one of the best in the business alongside the excellent Emma Sherwood. Up front Laura Rogers is a potential match winner but all eyes will be on Sarah Houlihan and Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh who are both excellent attackers.
Waterford won the Lidl NFL Division 3 title and, although they lost to both Cork and Kerry in the Munster championship, they look like they belong at Senior level. Their win over Armagh in the last round was a surprise to many but this well organised team were more than a match for anyone that day. Michelle McGrath, Mairéad Wall and Linda Wall will all need to be at their best against a strong Kerry inside forward line as will Karen McGrath and Leaving Cert student, Emma Murray, in the middle of the field. Their half forward is particularly impressive where free taking sensation Maria Delahunty will be vital along with the tireless Gráinne Kenneally and the 2ndof the Murray triplets, Katie. Aileen Wall is set to start at full forward but she will wander all around the pitch and will be a real danger to Kerry’s hopes.
This will be a fascinating encounter between the established Kerry and the emerging Waterford. Form and tradition is on Kerry’s side but they will be made fight all the way by a Waterford team that could spring yet another surprise. A quarter final date with Monaghan awaits the winner of this game.