Leinster double-header should attract crowd

Attendances at GAA championship games this summer have been very poor so far, but on Sunday next we should see an increase especially at the Leinster championship double header at Croke Park where Dublin play Laois and Kildare take on Meath. It's a Bank Holiday weekend and many Dubliners will be heading to their holiday homes in Wexford, but there should still be enough football supporters left in the city to swell the attendance at GAA headquarters. Laois looked poor against Longford in the quarterfinal and had Longford taken a fraction of their scoring chances in Portlaoise, it would them and not Laois who play Dublin on Sunday. This will be Dublin's first outing after their second half collapse against Cork in the National League final last month, but despite that setback, they should have no difficulty against Laois.

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The second game at Croke Park should be much more competitive. Meath manager Seamus McEneaney has recalled 38-year-old Graham Geraghty to his squad, a gamble that cost him his two Meath selectors, Liam Harnan and Barry Callaghan. The man known as Banty is expected to name new selectors or he may just rely on his assistant Paul Grimley, who worked with Kieran McGeeney in Kildare for two years. When Grimley left Kildare he was expected to get the Armagh job, but when that didn't happen he linked up with McEneaney in Meath. The Royals were disappointing in the National League and just about avoided the drop to division three. The former Monaghan manager was not a unanimous appointment in Meath and unless they get a decent run in the championship or back-door then McEneaney will be gone by September. Sometimes, though, a row in the camp can help galvanize the players, but I still think Kildare should progress.


Midfield has always been a crucial area in Gaelic Football and the team that wins the midfield battle will always be fancied to win the game. Down through the years Kerry has always had one brilliant midfielder and one honest worker alongside. Mick O'Connell had various midfield partners as did Jack O'Shea and Darragh O Sé. Right now Kerry manager Jack O'Connor has five contenders, but no real star in the midfield area. David Moran is injured but O'Connor can call on: Seamus Scanlon, Micheál Quirke, Anthony Maher and Bryan Sheehan to fill the number 8 and 9 jerseys. All decent footballers, but none of them are really outstanding around the middle of the field, which means that Kieran Donaghy is often brought out from full forward to lend height. But if Donaghy is withdrawn from full forward then the Kerry corner forwards won't benefit from his knock downs inside.

It will be interesting to see what midfield formation O'Connor comes up with against Limerick in the Munster semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday night. Limerick also has its own midfield problems as the powerful John Galvin is ruled out with the dreaded cruciate injury. Kerry will be without defender Tomás O Sé, who got an eight-week ban after being sent off against Tipperary in the first round. It was O Sé's 2nd red card in 48 weeks and that's why he got such a heavy ban. Still Kerry should progress and set up a final meeting with Cork in Killarney on July 3. Cork, who ran up a huge score against Clare in the first round, should have no difficulty beating Waterford in their semifinal at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday.Elsewhere Tyrone manager Mickey Harte says that he will be without Joe McMahon, Enda McGinley and Ronan McNab for their game Monaghan in the Ulster football championship in Omagh. But veteran forward Brian Dooher is expected to be fit. This will be Eamonn McEneaney's first championship game in charge of his native Monaghan, who were relegated from division one of the League and I expect the more experienced Tyrone side to qualify for the semifinal.

A quiet weekend in hurling with Galway the only big name in action. The Tribesmen are hoping that their star man Joe Canning will be fit in time to face Westmeath in the Leinster Championship game at Mullingar. The young Portumna star injured his hamstring in a recent club game.


It seems strange to be writing about the FAI Cup in June, but as we now have a summer soccer season, this weekend will see the third round of games in the Ford FAI Cup. We still have a good few of the minnows left in the competition and one of them, Pike Rovers from Limerick, travel to the Showgrounds to play the holders Sligo Rovers. No upset expected there, but there could be one at Belfield where Cherry Orchard could do a giant-killing act against UCD. Greystones is a town more associated with rugby, but on Sunday the Wicklow club will play Shelbourne just up the coast at Bray Wanderers' Carlisle Grounds. Bray themselves, who beat league leaders Shamrock Rovers for the second time in the league last week, travel to East Cork to play Youghal United. Ah yes the magic of the Cup. (See also Kieran Rooney's report on the opposite page.)


Mick O'Dwyer, one of the longest-serving GAA managers in the country, said that he is definitely quitting Wicklow this year. But the man from Waterville in South Kerry, who will be 75 next week, added he has no plans on retiring. ''I have the same passion for football as I ever had and who knows what the future holds, he said. "There is an American football coach Joe Paterno and he is still going strong with Penn State at the age of 84. '' O'Dwyer said he never intended to stay five years with Wicklow, but each year provided enough encouragement to tempt him back. ''I'm still enjoying it, but whenever this year's championship campaign ends I am definitely finishing with Wicklow. It's time for someone else to take up the challenge, but I won't rule out helping out some other county,'' said O'Dwyer.


A rare intercounty football win for Kilkenny. Last week the county's junior team beat Wexford in the Leinster quarterfinal. In reality the Kilkenny junior team is the same as their senior team. The Cats now play Cavan in the Leinster semifinal. No, that's not a misprint: Cavan play in the Leinster junior football championship as Ulster don't have a junior championship.


GAA president Christy Cooney has defended the right of Ulster counties who turned down an invitation to meet Queen Elizabeth on her recent visit to Croke Park. Only the Down delegate and the Chairman of the Ulster Council attended the historic Croke Park event. Later some of the Ulster counties claimed they were not invited to Croke Park, but Cooney revealed that Central Council delegates from every county were invited. A few weeks back Cooney had issued instructions preventing all county boards from commenting on the visit. Cooney said: ''Some people made the decision not to come and some people were not in a position to come. That is their perfect right. Central Council delegates from all counties were invited. But we had a very good attendance from all parts of the country and from Britain. Overall I think the event went very well.''