Saturday – Cavan v Monaghan: Cavan (+2) – Evens
Monaghan travel to Breffni Park just two months after they edged out their Ulster rivals to remain in Division 1 of the National Football League. It reflects a broader trend of the Farney County just about getting the better of Cavan in League and Championship. Three times the counties have met this decade and on every occasion, Monaghan have prevailed with just a score separating the sides.
It’s set to be another tight affair on Saturday night. Monaghan, after their impressive opening day ambush of Dublin, endured their most disappointing League campaign in years as they lost five of their next six games and stayed up by the skin of their teeth.
A three-point win over Cavan in Clones was enough to secure their Division 1 status in the end, but performances were below par throughout.
Monaghan tend to blow hot and cold in Ulster, but in recent years they have flattered to deceive – suffering shock exits to Fermanagh and Down in the last two Championships. They are typically slow starters in the provincial championships and usually take a few games to hit their stride.
If history is anything to go by, we should be in for another close affair between the two counties on Saturday.
Sunday – Sligo v Galway: Cummins to score a goal anytime – 23/10
Limerick’s win over Tipperary notwithstanding, shocks are pretty rare at this time of year in the Football Championship. It’s all just a bit predictable at this time of the year and no game is a better example of that than the upcoming Connacht semi-final between Galway and Sligo. Sligo had the worst National League of any team, losing seven games out of seven in Division 3 for a loss of 48 points.
Galway, on the other hand, enjoyed a fairly middling second season in Division 1, but with an influx of Corofin players coming back into the fold, they should be given a boost for the summer.
There is simply no value in the win market, while nine-point handicaps can be difficult to call, so we think it is wise to stick to the goalscorer markets.
Galway don’t tend to raise a lot of green flags; they only did so on five occasions in the League.
However, against such a weak Sligo outfit, they are sure to play with a bit more of free rein and should find themselves bagging a few goals on Sunday.
Of the Galway forwards, none are more likely to find the back of the net than Danny Cummins. The Claregalway forward was responsible for four of Galway’s five league goals, scoring in four consecutive games against some of the best defences in Ireland.
Coming up against a Sligo defence that is no way the best defence in Ireland, Cummins must fancy himself to continue his superb form in front of goal.
Sunday – Down vs Armagh: Armagh to win – 5/6
Armagh’s fall from grace has been stark. They have now gone four successive years without recording a win in the Ulster Championship, with their 2014 win over Cavan their solitary win in the province since 2011.
However, shoots of recovery are becoming visible. Last year, they were a game away from making the Super 8s when they lost a thriller to Roscommon in the Qualifiers, while this year they held their position in Division 2 after a fairly mediocre campaign.
The return of Jamie Clarke has been a massive boost to the county, and they will be hoping to arrest their provincial slump on Sunday with him amongst the ranks.
Their opponents Down have also endured a fall from grace since their All-Ireland final appearance in 2010 and, but for a shock appearance in the Ulster final in 2017, they have been in a downward spiral throughout the decade.
It makes Sunday a great chance for Armagh to finally register another win in Ulster.
* All odds correct at time of posting and may vary up to throw-in.