Weekend GAA Preview – Ulster Football & All Ireland Qualifier

Lonesharkoy previews the matches between Tyrone and Cavan in Ulster Football and the All Ireland qualifier between Sligo and Leitrim this weekend.

The Munster Football and Leinster Hurling finals may top the bill from a TV point of view while purists will be drawn to the two semi-final replays taking place in Ulster, but we are going to go far more humble for our first bet of the weekend and say that Leitrim at 9/2 aren’t without hope in their football qualifier against Sligo at Markievicz Park tomorrow evening.

It’s been a tough year for Leitrim football in that they never really got off the ground in Division four, while New York’s exploits ensured that there was little or no chance of Roscommon getting caught on the hop in the Connacht quarter-final at Carrick-on-Shannon. However they’re well used to lean times in that part of the world and it has never stopped them from showing a bit of indomitability before. It’s also the case that a local derby with Sligo is exactly the draw that they would have wanted. Both counties will be acutely aware that the last time these sides met in the championship (in 2011) Leitrim won by a goal, and when you’re a county as used to battling against the odds as Leitrim are, then victories like that are truly celebrated.

It’s also true that while the rest of the country passed little or no heed on their win over Waterford in the first round of qualifiers that was a huge deal for Shane Walsh and his players – just the second time that Leitrim won a qualifier fixture in the history of the competition. They’ve now put themselves in a great position to win two in a row, playing just down the road in Sligo against a side that must feel like they let a glorious opportunity slip by last time out.

Of course Sligo have the better footballers here, and on pure ability, a four or five point handicap is eminently fair. However every manager will tell you that bouncing back after a defeat is not easy and that’s what Niall Carew and his players have to do now. They have to come to terms with coughing up an eight point lead and conceding four goals to Roscommon, and there is no guarantee that they’ll be able to get fired up for a game like this straight away. If this was a newspaper column with a brief to tip the most likely winners we’d back Sligo to come through, but at the odds offered, Leitrim is the only logical play.

The second bet this week will go very much against the grain for a lot of people, but involves taking under 28.5 total points in the replay between Tyrone and Cavan, priced at 2/1 with Bet365. On paper both these sides have scored well this year, but the key factor for this wager is that it’ll be the third meeting between these two counties in a very short space of time – and while there may have been a fair bit held back by Mickey Harte and Terry Hyland in the Division Two league final, there was nothing spared at Clones a fortnight ago.

The footage of that game will have been studied in great detail by both management teams and it’s invariably the case that it’s defences that learn the most from drawn games. It’s far easier to implement an emergency defensive measure than to find a way to score an extra five or six points and one thing is for sure – Cavan simply won’t be scoring three goals this Sunday, as they did last time out.

Even on an individual basis, defenders tend to learn more and more about handling their direct opponents the more they play against them, while forwards thrive on unfamiliarity. There aren’t too many strangers in Ulster football at the best of times, but by now we’ve no doubt that all these Cavan and Tyrone players will be on first name terms with each other, and perhaps even on first name terms with each others’ wives and girlfriends as well – modern football being what it is.

Paddy Power make 29.5 their 50/50 line and that seems fair enough – if your writer was back in the business of compiling, I’d be happy to sign off on that – thus under 28.5 should be no more than 5/4 offered, or 6/4 true price, on that basis.

Advised Bets:

Leitrim to beat Sligo at 9/2 with Bet365, Paddy Power and Coral

Tyrone v Cavan - Under 28.5 points at 2/1 with Bet365