Munster & Leinster Football Championship Previews

Lonesharkoy previews the weekend Gaelic Football action and he likes Clare on the handicap against Kerry and Louth at 9/2 to beat Meath.

If Kerry needed to beat Clare by a dozen points on Sunday afternoon in Killarney they probably could – but they don’t, and recent history suggests that a seven or eight point win at Fitzgerald stadium is a far more likely outcome, hence our primary bet this weekend.

The Kingdom opened their Munster championship campaign with wins of six points or less three times in the last four years and while that’s not exactly the type of sample size that we’d like to get too hung up on, there are plenty of other factors that would suggest that Clare might be able to hold their own for long spells in Killarney.

There’s no doubt about the fact that Clare were very fortunate to gain promotion out of division three this year – there was little or nothing to call between several sides in that league and there is no reason to believe that Colm Collins’ side would be strong favourites if they had to meet Tipperary, Offaly or Sligo in the championship this Summer. Nonetheless they demonstrated a solid defensive structure, conceding just four goals in eight league starts, and that form was franked last time out when they kept a clean sheet against Limerick. Limerick may have kicked a lot of wides in that game but Clare were solid close to goal and it’s very hard for any side to cover a large spread without scoring a lot of goals.

Kerry, for their part, aren’t scoring as many goals as one might imagine for a side endowed with so many gifted forwards. James O’Donoghue’s extended absence due to injury is a factor of course but there is also the decision of manager Eamon Fitzmaurice to deploy Paul Murphy – as defensive a player as you’re likely to find in the modern game – at centre forward.

Eamon Fitzmaurice is preparing for August right now, and he knows that in order to win back the Sam Maguire, his players will need to go toe to toe with Dublin, Mayo, Tyrone and the likes – playing freeflowing football and swatting aside Clare will do nothing to prepare for that. Expect a much more defensive approach, with Brian O’Beaglaoich given his chance to impress in the defence, and a much more tight encounter overall. Boylesports still lay 21/20 about Clare plus 11 and that’s our best bet this week.

The absence of upsets has been a hallmark of this year’s championship so far and while Clare might do better than the spread suggests, they won’t end up victorious either – however there could be an upset in Parnell Park, which for an hour and a half will be the centre of the universe for everyone living in between the four corners of Dundalk, Drogheda, Oldcastle and Ballinabrackey. Meath vs Louth is a rivalry that has been dominated by the Royal County for generations and when the draw was made for this year’s championship many people would have expected that this trend would continue with little or no fuss. However Louth have picked up a little bit of momentum now and might yet cause an upset here.

There’s no getting away from the fact that Carlow were very poor in their first round clash with the Wee County at O’Moore Park however regardless of the weakness of the opposition, 2-24 is a seriously impressive total. Louth have no shortage of scoring power and while they will concede plenty this weekend, 9/2 is a decent price about them winning a high summer shootout in North Dublin. After all, for Meath, this is the first game of their championship – for Louth, this is their championship.

Meath have several nice footballers in their team and their strong record at Páirc Tailteann is enough to ensure that they continue to retain their place in the second tier of the National League, but if you put these same footballers into Longford, Laois or Fermanagh jerseys, they wouldn’t get anything like the same respect. Meath’s history is a big factor in why they’re so short this week and while we’d be worried about the Wee County’s ability to fall over the line against their much-vaunted rivals, 9/2 Louth with a variety of firms is too good to turn down.

Recommended Bets:

Clare +11 points against Kerry at 21/20 with Boylesports

Louth to beat Meath at 9/2 with BetVictor and Skybet