Monaghan v Down, Saturday, 5pm, Croke Park
The sides meet for the second time this year having already met in the Ulster Senior Football Championship semi-final, a game that the Mourne men won. A lot has changed since then though as both sides have been going in opposite ways, Monaghan secured qualifier wins over Cavan, Fermanagh, Wexford and Carlow, while Down failed in their bid to win the Anglo-Celt cup after an Ulster Final defeat to Mickey Harte’s Tyrone.
Monaghan were very poor in the game against Carlow but still won by five points in the end. The Carlow defence were very good and only for a Fintan Kelly goal at the death the game could of went in Carlow’s favour. Monaghan have superb players spread across the field though players like Colin Walshe, Kieran Hughes, Jack McCarron and Conor McManus are all superb and these should flourish at headquarters on Saturday evening. Down will look to players like Connaire Harrison, Conor Maginn, Kevin McKernan and Darragh O’Hanlon.
The winning of this game will essentially come down to which defence copes better with the opposition players, you might say that is obvious but it is exactly what it will come down to. If Conor McManus has an off day it will then be up to McCarron to step up and perform, while similarly for Down if players like McKernan, O’Hanlon and Harrison don’t play well then they will need other players to step up to the plate in Croke Park.
In terms of odds for the game, Monaghan are installed as 4/11 favourites, while Down are 3/1 outsiders. They were 3/1 outsiders when they played the Farney men last time out as well so who is to say they won’t cause an upset once more. However, I see Monaghan edging this game by 3 or 4 points.