Posted by Shane Stapleton

Why not read how our GAA ambassadors think this weekend's games will go before playing our 'Win, Lose or Draw' game

02 2013 Ambassador Predictions week 7Here’s where the madness begins — it’s qualifiers season. And of course the provinces are still in action too so there’s plenty to get through.

We’re eager to get your predictions but first have a glance over how our GAA ambassadors see this weekend panning out. This week Ciaran Whelan and Michael Murphy are looking to make up some ground in our ‘Win, Lose or Draw’ league so they’ve put their neck on the lines by suggesting that there might be a replay needed in a couple of fixtures.

Others have gone against the grain but, despite their poor home loss to Louth, the consensus seems to be that Laois will knock out Carlow — number 32 in our Power Rankings — in the novel Friday night clash. 

LAOIS v CARLOW
Johnny Doyle
soldiered with the Barrowsiders manager for a number of years but he isn’t willing to put his neck on the line for his former teammate. “A hesitant vote for Laois,” Doyle says. “Might even be seen as a bit of an upset if it happens. I’d know a good bit of what’s going on through Anthony Rainbow and I know what kind of effort has gone into Carlow in the last 12 months under his reign.

“From Anthony Rainbow’s playing days I would’ve seen him as a perfectionist in his own game and his attitude to training. He’s just phenomenal when it comes to getting the very best out of your body. I know there was a couple of occasions over the winter where he brought the Carlow squad for a bit of a run in the Curragh.

“One or two lads couldn’t make it on the Saturday so he brought them on the Sunday himself. There was no excuse – you either want to do this or you don’t. That builds character through a team and I just know that if he can bring some of that application across to his players, then Carlow are definitely on the right road. Whether that’s good enough to topple Laois? Not yet.”

Mickey Harte

Laois

Colm Cooper

Laois

Ciarán Whelan

Laois

Johnny Doyle

Laois

Donie Shine

Laois

Michael Murphy

Laois

WESTMEATH v FERMANAGH
Four of our six GAA stars are going with the Lake County here despite Dublin putting Pat Flanagan’s out of Leinster with a 16-point humbling, and the Erne County pushing Cavan close in the Ulster quarter-final.

Mickey Harte doesn’t agree with Donie Shine, our sole analyst backing a Fermanagh win: “Westmeath felt the full force of Dublin and it made them look less of a team than they are. They’ve a lot more to offer.

“Their Division 2 League final is more like what they’re about. They still have the quality they showed that day and I think it will be good enough to beat Fermanagh.

“Fermanagh didn’t get out of Division 3 and they’ve a few men missing with injury and I don’t think any of them will be back in full flight in time. Away to Westmeath is too much of an ask for Fermanagh.” 

Mickey Harte

Westmeath

Colm Cooper

Westmeath

Ciarán Whelan

Draw

Johnny Doyle

Westmeath

Donie Shine

Fermanagh

Michael Murphy

Westmeath

GALWAY v TIPPERARY
Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper ran the show when Tipperary visited Fitzgerald Stadium during the Munster championship and he, like four of our other five stars, can’t see the Premier County recovering despite Mayo’s destruction of Galway in Connacht.

“I was amazed we beat Tipperary so comprehensively, 12 months ago we had a right battle and they could have beaten us up in Thurles,” says Gooch. “Maybe it was a combination of them having a bad day and us playing quite well in Killarney. They’ve made progress and I think it’s going to be close on Saturday.

“The disappointing thing from a Galway point of view is that they just lay down and didn’t throw caution to the wind against Mayo in any way. They waved the white flag a little early for my liking.

“I’m not too sure where they’re going to be at, but they’re playing in Salthill and surely there’s been a few hard questions asked. I’d be hopeful that Galway will come back with some sort of fight in them and get over the line against Tipperary.”

Mickey Harte

Galway

Colm Cooper

Galway

Ciarán Whelan

Galway

Johnny Doyle

Tipperary

Donie Shine

Galway

Michael Murphy

Galway

DUBLIN v KILDARE
Arguably the fixture of the weekend is the Leinster semi-final between Dublin and Kildare, who have had some thrilling battles in recent season. This will be Dub manager Jim Gavin’s first taste of this rivalry on the sideline and who better to assess their chances than Ciaran Whelan.

“I think it’s a massive day for Kildare with Kieran McGeeney’s sixth year in charge and that heavy defeat in the league,” says Whelan. “Kildare’s problems are around their mental approach rather than their physical approach.

“Dublin were very impressive against Westmeath. Jim Gavin has committed to an attacking style of football and it’s going to be interesting to see how Kildare cope with it. I think since these two teams met in 2011 the gap has widened a small bit.

“Dublin have a team that won an All-Ireland, backed it up with a League win and have youthful players coming through. Kildare have players coming through too but looking at where both teams are it, Dublin look too strong.”

Mickey Harte

Dublin

Colm Cooper

Dublin

Ciarán Whelan

Dublin

Johnny Doyle

Kildare

Donie Shine

Dublin

Michael Murphy

Dublin

MEATH v WEXFORD
Ciaran Whelan knows the other two Leinster semi-finalists — Meath and Wexford — as well as anyone and, interestingly, he is the only one of our ambassadors to put his neck on the line for the Royals.

“Wexford are probably the team that’s come closest to rattling Dublin over the last few years,” says Whelan. “They got out of Drogheda with a win with the likes of Ben Brosnan and Ciaran Lyng performing well.

“I saw Meath in their first game against Wicklow. It took them a while to get into it but I was more impressed with them in the second half. They had better balance in defence and impressed me going forward.

“Mick O’Dowd has gone for a team of more pace and fast movement of the ball along and introduced players like Eamonn Wallace up front. I think Meath will play more direct football than their first game and I expect them to come through.”

Mickey Harte

Wexford

Colm Cooper

Wexford

Ciarán Whelan

Meath

Johnny Doyle

Wexford

Donie Shine

Wexford

Michael Murphy

Wexford

LEITRIM v LONDON
They couldn’t be separated in Carrick-on-Shannon so they’ll have to do it all again in Donie Shine’s stomping ground, Hyde Park. Two of our analysts are going with the Exiles but not 2010 Connacht champion Shine.

“It was a draw the first day but I think London have had their chance,” says Shine. “They’ve a few injuries and it’s not easy to get back over for the second weekend in a row. On the Leitrim side of things I hear Emlyn Mulligan is struggling but I think will be too strong in the replay.

“Initially when I saw there was a replay I thought it would be on in Ruislip and it would be London’s game to lose there. Leitrim will be well used to ‘The Hyde’ so I fancy them to come through it now.”

Mickey Harte

London

Colm Cooper

Leitrim

Ciarán Whelan

Leitrim

Johnny Doyle

London

Donie Shine

Leitrim

Michael Murphy

Leitrim

MONAGHAN v CAVAN
Donegal captain Michael Murphy is lying in wait for whichever of Monaghan and Cavan come through the second Ulster semi-final.

“I genuinely believe this game is too close to call,” says Murphy. “It’s a local rivalry to start with and a lot of boys would know each other from college and work and things like that.

“You’re looking at Monaghan’s impressive league campaign and their win over Fermanagh while Cavan are a young squad with fresh ideas and serious momentum behind them.

“Both teams have defensive set ups but Monaghan have forwards like Dunne and Keating while Cavan can rely on Finlay, McManus, Hughes and McGuinness. I just have a feeling it’s a game that will go down to the wire and could possibly go to a replay.”

Mickey Harte

Monaghan

Colm Cooper

Monaghan

Ciarán Whelan

Monaghan

Johnny Doyle

Monaghan

Donie Shine

Monaghan

Michael Murphy

Draw

ARMAGH v WICKLOW
Our analysts have little doubt about how will win the battle of the Garden and the Orchard, with the consensus that it’s going to be easy pickings for Armagh. Mickey Harte has had plenty of battles with his Ulster rivals down the years so he knows very well of their resilience, and how they will have been stung by the defeat to Cavan.

“Another case of redemption required,” says Harte. “Armagh played Cavan and were castigated for the fact that they played too open with too much of an attack-minded style, which appeared to backfire because Cavan took them for a lot of scores from the inside men.

"I think they probably will have re-adjusted with a covering defender at least to help with the inside men.

“Wicklow had a good game against Meath and will but come up with a lot of confidence. They actually drew with Armagh last year and brought them back to Aughrim but Armagh should have enough quality at home to make it to the next round.”

Mickey Harte

Armagh

Colm Cooper

Armagh

Ciarán Whelan

Armagh

Johnny Doyle

Armagh

Donie Shine

Armagh

Michael Murphy

Armagh

LOUTH v ANTRIM
The Wee County have also gotten a round of thumbs up from our GAA stars, despite falling to Wexford at home in Leinster. Antrim took a lot of criticism for their display against Monaghan in Ulster and Johnny Doyle is inclined to back a man he knows well from his days as assistant coach with the Lilywhites.

“I would know Aidan O’Rourke from his time with Kildare. He’s the Queen's University GAA Development Officer now as well and has spent an awful lot of time studying the game looking for ways to rejuvenate Louth.

“I saw them first hand against Laois and where they won pulling up by 10 points. I think they’ll be too strong for Antrim. Obviously John O’Brien will be a big loss; Andy McDonnell is gone to the States and he’s a scoring forward but they have the comfort of bringing in the likes of Colm Judge – on his day he’s a match winner. I just think they’ll have too much for Antrim.”

Mickey Harte

Louth

Colm Cooper

Louth

Ciarán Whelan

Louth

Johnny Doyle

Louth

Donie Shine

Louth

Michael Murphy

Louth

LONGFORD v LIMERICK
This is another game with a split vote from our panel. Longford lost to Wicklow in Leinster while Cork had as many as 18 points to spare over the Treaty men in Munster.

Last year, these sides also met in the qualifiers and Limerick had too much down the stretch, winning by six points in extra-time. Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper knows the Treaty well, but is not pulling with his Munster neighbours.

“The only reason I’m going for Longford in this one is home venue; it’s always a big help in the qualifiers,” says Gooch. “We’ve had battles against Limerick in Munster semi-finals and finals and found it very hard against them.

“They’ve put it up to Cork in recent years as well even though they got a bit steamrolled a few weeks ago. The qualifiers seem to galvanise Limerick a little bit but the trip to Pearse Park could prove their undoing.

“We were up there a couple of years ago and found it a difficult place to get out of. Slight victory for Longford in what should prove an interesting battle.

Mickey Harte

Longford

Colm Cooper

Longford

Ciarán Whelan

Limerick

Johnny Doyle

Longford

Donie Shine

Longford

Michael Murphy

Limerick

OFFALY v TYRONE
Tyrone are the only team in Gaelic football championship history to ever win the All-Ireland having entered the qualifiers in Round One. Donegal sharpshooter Michael Murphy has already faced the Red Hand County this year and doesn’t see any reason why they won’t be making another push.

“I’ve been impressed with Tyrone both in the championship and the National League,” says Murphy. “They have a nice blend of attacking football with a very, very good defensive set up.

“Had they taken more of their chances against us they would have come through. The loss of goalkeeper Niall Morgan might have been a bit of a blow to them but they have adequate back up in the free-taking department with Sean Kavanagh and Stephen O’Neill.

“That game is on in Offaly but I still expect them to go out all guns blazing.”

Mickey Harte

Tyrone

Colm Cooper

Tyrone

Ciarán Whelan

Tyrone

Johnny Doyle

Tyrone

Donie Shine

Tyrone

Michael Murphy

Tyrone

DERRY v SLIGO
Sligo’s shock defeat to London is Ruislip has turned our GAA stars hugely, with all six giving a vote of confidence to a Derry side that lost out in a classic with Down recently.

Donie Shine knows the Yeats County very well but has given the nod to the Ulster men.

“Derry probably feel they were unlucky not to beat Down a few weeks ago while Sligo are coming off the back of a bad defeat to London,” says Shine.

“Both sides will look to get a few wins in the qualifiers and prove critics wrong. Derry might be too strong on the day though.”

Mickey Harte

Derry

Colm Cooper

Derry

Ciarán Whelan

Derry

Johnny Doyle

Derry

Donie Shine

Derry

Michael Murphy

Derry

Think you know better than our ambassadors? Why not play our Win, Lose or Draw prediction game to be in with a chance to win 2 VIP tickets to the All-Ireland final.