Westmeath vs Clare: Clare to win – 11/8
Clare have not really kicked on in the All-Ireland Championship since their quarter-final appearance in 2016, but have consolidated their place in Division 2 in the National League, which is a brilliant achievement for the Bannermen.
Despite not making a Munster final since 2012, Clare are arguably now the second-best team in the province. They are certainly the second highest ranked in the current league format, following Cork and Tipperary’s relegation to Division 3.
Clare have beaten Cork in each of their three seasons in Division 2 and, had they not been drawn against Kerry in a Munster semi-final for the last four years, they surely would have made at least one Munster final.
They battled gamely against The Kingdom this year, but were ultimately outclassed by a superior outfit before clinically disposing of Leitrim in the Qualifiers.
It is, therefore, somewhat surprising that Clare are seen as underdogs in this one. Granted, Westmeath are at home and enjoyed a fruitful campaign in Division 3 of the National League, but they have been underwhelming in the Championship.
With none of the four beaten provincial finalists looking infallible, the winner of this tie stands a reasonable chance of making the Super 8s. Based on form, that victor should be Clare.
Laois vs Offaly: Laois (-2) – Evens
No disrespect to Offaly, but they are only in the Championship because of an extremely favourable draw so far in the Qualifiers. The Faithful County got London and Sligo out of the hat in rounds one and two of the qualifiers, teams that finished bottom of Division 4 and Division 3 respectively.
They now come up against a Laois side that has enjoyed a far more impressive run so far. Away wins against Division 3 champions Westmeath and Division 4 champions Derry have seen Laois’ stock rise over the last few weeks.
The counties also enjoyed entirely contrasting seasons in Division 3 of the National League, with Laois winning promotion to the second tier and Offaly avoiding relegation thanks to a last gasp win over a dreadful Sligo team – who have lost every game in League and Championship this year.
It all points to a comfortable home win for Laois, who should easily beat the two-point spread.
Kildare vs Tyrone: Tyrone (-3) – 11/10
Tyrone had a strong finish to the League and looked to be building up a head of steam before they were resoundingly beaten by Donegal in the Ulster semi-final. A routine win over Longford came after that defeat, where Tyrone were efficient and yet uninspiring.
Kildare, on the other hand, are in disarray. Shocking performances against both Wicklow and Longford were unsurprisingly followed by an almighty hammering at the hands of Dublin in the Leinster semi-final.
A win over Division 4 Antrim saved them from the embarrassment of going out with a whimper, but the Qualifier draw has been unkind to them now.
Tyrone have more experience than any team of coming through the back door; reaching the semi-finals in 2013 and 2015 following early provincial exits and making it all the way to the final last year.
The big question for Kildare is whether this third-round game will resemble their performance against Mayo last year, or whether it will echo some of their more underwhelming Leinster showings.
We’re siding with the latter, as Kildare look a shadow of the side that reached the inaugural Super 8s last year. Tyrone’s qualifier experience should also prove vital.
Mayo vs Armagh: Armagh to win – 11/4
Arguably the pick of the round, Mayo face another Ulster banana skin in the form of Armagh. This is a far sterner test than the one against Down last weekend and Mayo must be wary of the threat Armagh pose.
The Orchard County have been impressive so far this year, and their attack has been uncharacteristically free scoring. If Mayo defend the way they did against both Roscommon and Down, they could be in serious trouble.
This is make or break for The Westerners. Lose and they’re obviously out of the championship in the Qualifiers for the second consecutive year and you get the sense that that could mean the end of the road for this well-travelled team.
Win, however, and very few people would back against Mayo making the Super 8s. Once there, the likelihood they will probably make a semi-final at the very least.
The loss of captain Diarmuid O’Connor is huge though, and the rate that they have been coughing up goal chances is a major cause for concern.
It just feels like this could be the end for the National League champions after such a promising spring.
* All odds correct at time of posting and may vary up to throw-in.