GAA Football & Hurling weekend previews

Lonesharkoy looks at the weekend action in the Ulster Football and Munster Hurling Championships and he is going for a Tyrone win with both teams hitting the net and a comprehensive win for Tipperary over Cork.

We hit the crossbar (Wicklow +7pts) and the corner flag (No goalscorer between Offaly and Longford) with our tips last weekend, but since we can’t dine out on the injustice of the better team managing to lose by the exact seven point spread in Portlaoise, we instead have to make up for that this week with two potentially outstanding live games set to be broadcast tomorrow afternoon.

The parallels between the Ulster SFC clash between Derry and Tyrone and the Cork-Tipp game at Semple Stadium are actually quite strong. In both cases we have a rivalry that is traditionally one of the most keenly felt in the sport, where one side is pretty close to the mark in terms of contending for the All Ireland and the other is some way off where they need to be. In both cases, the narrative from the general public is the same – that history and tradition will over-ride that fact and that great games are in store as a consequence.

Perhaps it’s the statistician in me coming out, but I’d always prefer to be on the side of the team with the ability and the results, rather than the one that is dependent on their ability to raise their game in response to the sight of a traditional rival.

In fairness to Derry, while they’ve tended to lose to Tyrone a lot in recent years – four times already in 2016 alone if you count the O’Fiaich Cup – they regularly go close, and the two clashes between the sides in the McKenna Cup were enthralling ties that were as good as you’d see anywhere. There has been plenty of focus on the vitriolic element that runs through this rivalry this week also, but for all that, neither of these two sides tend to get excessively physical as a matter of course. There are plenty of analysts who will regale you with tales of Tyrone’s cynical play, but that’s not quite the same thing – while Derry were one extra goal away from having the worst defensive record in the country during this year’s Allianz National League, conceding an average of nineteen points per game. That’s hardly the type of record that fits into the “dour Ulster football” model that gets lazily put out there. Manager Damien Barton has made no secret of the fact that he wants his team to go out and play attacking football and that’s great from a neutral perspective, but everything they do appears to play into the hands of a Tyrone side that is one of the best counter-attacking teams in the game.

If there is a concern, it’s that Tiernan McCann is so central to that approach and the controversial wing back will have a target on his back after his horrendous hit on Brendan Rodgers at the start of the McKenna Cup final between the two sides. If Derry can curtail McCann, by ay method whatsoever, Tyrone won’t be the same team.

One thing we can say for Derry is that they score plenty of goals – and they may do here again as Tyrone can concede them. It shouldn’t be enough for them though – 5/2 about Tyrone to win and both teams scoring a goal with Paddy Power looks like an excellent bet here.

If the Tyrone vs Derry rivalry is one that has gained national prominence since the 1990’s, Tipperary vs Cork has been a big deal since the Premier County won two finals against the Rebels after replays in the 1890’s. This is the real deal, and yet the difference here is that landslide victories have been very common. Even when the sides were closely matched in famous encounters such as the 1987 replay, the final margin worked out at nine points. Imagine what could happen here, with Tipperary well ahead of Cork in overall form?

Cork’s proud tradition often serves to hide from view the extent to which they have slipped behind this year’s Liam McCarthy cup contenders and Tipperary are very definitely in that category – mediocre and all as their league campaign was, a one point defeat to Clare doesn’t look too shabby now. Tipp managed to compete consistently while giving their fringe players plenty of game time, with Seamus Callanan (possibly the best player in Ireland right now) not really a factor in any of their games. Meanwhile Cork really only performed twice – once against Kilkenny when their pride had been hurt by a hammering the previous weekend, and again in Salthill when their Division 1A status was on the line.

Of course Kieran Kingston’s men deserve credit for salvaging their top flight status in the most important game of the year but this is championship and we can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that Tipperary are going to find another gear – they’re simply too good not to.

To put the two counties into context, in the last ten years Tipperary have won four Munster minor championships and three under-21 crowns – adding one All Ireland at each level. Cork won one Munster title at each age bracket in that time, and nothing since 2008. The production line has dried up down by the Lee and there is no reason to believe that they should be able to compete with a young and talented Tipperary side in the white heat of summer championship hurling, other than historical factors, and these factors don’t outrule a big win.

Tipperary winning by between seven and nine points is a 11/2 with Bet365, while ten to twelve is 8/1. Covering the two of these works out at around 11/4 and that looks like a very solid play for the big game in Semple Stadium.