Carlow v Monaghan
Another chapter of the fairytale as Carlow’s summer voyale heading into the third week of July. They have recovered well from their Leinster exit to Dublin with wins over London and Leitrim in the back door. They saw off the last-named team by 2-14 to 0-13 with the aid of second-half goals from Paul Broderick and Ciaran Moran. That success was achieved without the services of the suspended Brendan Murphy.
Were on the receiving end of one of the shocks of the summer in the Ulster semi-final when Down got the better of them (1-14 to 0-15) last time but they dusted themselves down and produced a polished performance against Wexford in the qualifiers. That 3-23 to 1-11 win was all the more admirable when you take into consideration that Conor McManus picked up a black card. The aforementioned McManus is still the ace in their pack and has scored 2-14 in four games, an average of five points per game.
Verdict: This should be comfortable for Monaghan. Malachy O’Rourke’s charges conceded just 5-82 in seven league outings in Division 1, an average of 13.85 points per game. Their defence has done reasonably well against Fermanagh (1-11), Cavan (0-15) and Down (1-14) and it is hard to envisage Carlow doing severe damage up front. Carlow may have got 2-14 in their win over Leitrim but they only got 0-13 in the victory over Londay and 0-7 against Dublin so the standout bet on the coupon is for Carlow to score 14 points or fewer.
Down v Tyrone
The surprise packets of Ulster so far. Looked destined for back-to-back relegations in the league when losing to Fermanagh and Clare in their opening two outings in Division 2. Got it together afterwards and survived in the division thanks to wins over Meath and Derry and a draw with Cork. Have upset the odds twice in Ulster so far with wins over Armagh and Monaghan but this would be the biggest of all the surprises if they managed to emerge victorious.
The defending Ulster champions have looked better than ever this year, with impressive wins over Derry (0-22 to 0-11) and Donegal (1-21 to 1-12). Their counter-attacking style has been easy on the eye and Niall Sludden has been their most impressive attacker. He got four points from play in the win over Donegal.
Verdict: Down only managed to score three goals in their seven outings in Division 2, failing the find the net against Fermanagh, Clare, Kildare and Cork. They didn’t find the net against Armagh in their Ulster opener either, but 15 points were enough to get them over the line. Their goal against Monaghan came from the penalty spot and it was a dubious decision by the referee too. Tyrone only conceded a late goal against Donegal and kept a clean sheet in their win over Derry so the Mourne men could struggle to find the net here.
Bet: No Down goal
Dublin v Kildare
The All-Ireland champions quickly put a lacklustre Carlow performance (0-19 to 0-7) behind them to wallop Westmeath in the provincial semi-final (4-29 to 0-10). Paul Mannion was the star of that wide-margin Westmeath win, getting eight points from play and winning the Man of the Match award on The Sunday Game. Dean Rock, Eoghan O’Gara, Ciaran Kilkenny and Kevin McManamon got the goals.
Kildare completed back-to-back promotions in the league by topping Division 2 and they have began the Leinster championship in the best possible fashion with landslide victories over Laois (1-21 to 1-7) and Meath (2-16 to 0-13). Kevin Feely has been lorded the aerial exchanges from midfield in both games, while Daniel Flynn topscored against Meath with 1-4. Cathal McNally got 1-3 in the opening 20 minutes of that tie too.
Verdict: Dublin destroyed Westmeath but they were afforded far too much space up front. Don’t expect Kildare to fall into the same trap. Cian O’Neill’s charges have only conceded a total of 1-20 in their two games to date and they have a system which works well with Eoin Doyle at centre-back and Tommy Moolick dropping deep. Dublin will find it hard to break them down and, while their class could tell in the closing stages, Kildare ought to be able to keep within the generous nine-point handicap.
Bet: Kildare +9