Weekend Leinster Football Championship Best Bets

Lonesharkoy previews the Leinster Football Championship and he likes 6/1 about no goalscorer between Offaly and Longford and Wicklow on the 7 point handicap against Laois.

There won’t be too many senior intercounty championship games played in 2016 where the bookies will have more form to work with than this Sunday’s clash between Offaly and Longford. These two sides have been joined at the hip over the past couple of seasons and while Longford enjoyed a run of victories at the start of the rivalry, an equilibrium has now settled, to the point that match odds of 8/11 about an Offaly win make perfect sense.

That price would suggest that Offaly are one point favourites, which is just about right when we consider that Pat Flanagan’s side will have home advantage in a contest that is otherwise too close to call. Everything we’ve seen backs that up – from the championship game in 2015 when Offaly looked vastly superior for the middle third of the tie only to cough up a commanding lead, to the league game this year and even the final league table where both sides were tied on eight points.

Longford manager Denis Connerton did grab the headlines in the last month for his protestations against the playing of a round of league games a fortnight ago. However it’s a rare county manager who wouldn’t ask for his players to be wrapped in cotton wool in the lead up to a Leinster championship clash. In this instance Connerton just decided to use the situation to play down expectations surrounding his side, though not too many will have fallen for it.

We also know that familiarity tends to favour defensive players, and results would bear that out to a certain extent also. In the six meetings between the two counties since the 2014 league, four matches have ended goal-less. Of the other two, one was the O’Connor Park clash of 2014 where Offaly were struggling for form, and the other was the Croke Park league final where a very different dynamic was in play.

We can say with a reasonable degree of confidence that there is unlikely to be a goalscoring extravaganza in O’Connor Park this Sunday afternoon unless something very unusual happens, so the last remaining 6/1 about no goalscorer, available with Ladbrokes, should be snapped  up.

Of the other games taking place this weekend, a seven point handicap in Wicklow’s favour, 5/6 generally, could be a little generous for their clash with Laois at O’Moore Park tomorrow night.

Admittedly there is a world of difference between playing football in division 2 and division 4 and even if Laois did get relegated, it’s impossible to imagine Wicklow travelling to Armagh and coming away with a win, as the midlanders did already this year.

That said, Laois are without two crucially important defenders in Robbie Kehoe and Colm Begley, while Wicklow  match up well with Laois man for man as they are one of the very few counties that will have the physical power to contain players like John O’Loughlin and Brendan Quigley in the middle third of the field.

The decision to take advantage of Anthony Cunningham’s new found availability is also one that could be read either way also. The St Thomas’ club man is a shrewd operator in either code and no side would be worse off for having his advice available to them. However it’s also a sign that there were a few boxes not being ticked by Mick Lillis up to that point.

Wicklow have a poor record in the qualifiers but they have usually found a way to muster up a decent showing in their Leinster championship outing, most notably against Meath a couple of years ago, and while Laois will almost certainly find a way to win this, they might not do so with the same panache that they’d need to rack up an eight or nine point winning margin.

Advised Bets:

No Goalscorer between Offaly and Longford  at 6/1 with Ladbrokes

Wicklow (+7 pts) to beat Laois at 5/6 with Paddy Power. Ladbrokes and Stan James