Cork v Laois: Cork (-2) – Evens
Laois GAA has experienced something of a renaissance in 2019. Both their footballers and their hurlers are just one game away from competing in an All-Ireland Quarter Final, which is a commendable achievement in its own right.
The Midlands county also swapped places with Cork in the National League in the spring, gaining promotion to Division 2 as the Rebels were relegated to Division 3 – making this a far more evenly matched game than it would have been half a decade ago.
Having said that, Cork have been much improved in the Championship, following a dismal League campaign.
It was hard to gauge where they were after a facile win over Limerick in the Munster semi-final, but a battling performance against a Kerry side that had wiped the floor with them a year previously was a marked sign of improvement.
With the prospect of a maiden Super 8 appearance dangling in front of both counties, this qualifier has an awful lot riding on it and a hugely improved Cork team should have too much for Laois.
Mayo v Galway Mayo to win – 10/11
Mayo meet Galway outside the Connacht Championship for the first time in their history on Saturday and it is undoubtedly the tie of the round.
Beaten Connacht finalists Galway went down with a whimper against Roscommon, registering just two points in the second half of a game they led by five at the break, but they’ve had something of a hoodoo over their fiercest rivals recently.
The Tribesmen have won each of their last seven games against Mayo since 2016. They recorded three provincial wins over the green and red between 2016 and 2018, whilst also triumphing twice in the League and twice in the FBD League.
However, Galway have been hugely unimpressive in this year’s Championship, barely getting over the line against London before imploding completely against Roscommon. They’re extremely limited in their offensive approach and even a Mayo side decimated by injuries should be able to cope with them.
Not since 1999 has a Galway versus Mayo match had so much riding on it because, while Galway’s recent wins were undoubtedly significant, they did not knock Mayo out of the Championship and Mayo managed two All-Ireland final appearances following defeats to Galway. This, however, is sudden death.
Add in that this is most likely the end of an era for whoever loses Saturday’s game and the stakes rise even higher. Should Mayo lose, it’s hard to see this current crop ever reaching their holy grail, while Kevin Walsh is sure to step aside as manager should Galway fall by the wayside.
Mayo’s pedigree in the Qualifiers, coupled with Galway’s underwhelming form, leads us to believe that it will be the latter.
Cavan vs Tyrone: Cavan (+4) – 10/11
Is there a team better suited to the Qualifiers than Tyrone? If there is, we haven’t seen them.
Not only did two of their three All Ireland titles come off the back of runs through the back door, but they have also won their last 10 outings in them.
They come up against a Cavan side who they beat in last year’s Qualifiers and will fancy their chances of doing so again. Cavan, however, are much improved and enjoyed an excellent campaign in Ulster.
Their wins over Monaghan and Armagh were impressive, but they faltered badly against Donegal.
The final score might have suggested a close game, but Cavan were outclassed. That’s the thing about scorelines; they can be utterly misleading.
Two late goals made it look as though Cavan were within striking distance of Donegal, when in truth Dublin and Meath was a more evenly contested game despite ending in a 16-point hammering. It’s difficult to see Cavan recovering sufficiently from that Ulster final defeat, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy game for Tyrone.
They will rely on their experience and their know-how to get them over the line in what promises to be a tight game.
* All odds correct at time of posting and may vary up to throw-in.