Mayo v Down, Saturday 5pm, Croke Park
Both teams will be confident that they can win this game so it might be a difficult one to call.
Mayo had a hard-fought win over Sligo in the Connacht Final and that’s got to count for something. It was a dismal game of football but Mayo at 4/7 seems about right to me.
I wouldn’t touch them on the handicap of -2 points at 6/5 though. It could be close enough and the draw at 15/2 can’t be ruled out with maybe a speculative punt on Andy Moran to be the first goalscorer or at least Mayo’s first goalscorer.
There’s a cutting edge to this Mayo side that we haven’t seen in years. They’ve good forwards, a strong midfield and I think they can see this out.
Dublin v Laois, Saturday, 7pm Croke Park
Complacency could be a massive issue for the reigning All-Ireland champions. I think the last 20 minutes against Meath is enough for Pat Gilroy to remind his side of the dangers of thinking a game is over before the whistle blows.
They were outscored by the Royal County 1-6 to 0-2 there and that is very dangerous. They came from behind in four of their six matches to win the All-Ireland so they know what can happen.
Laois have a good system, good players and a good manager so it’s not going to be a stroll in the park for Dublin who are 1/8 favourites. I’d be looking to Dublin to win on the handicap at -7 points at even money for a bit more value here.
Cork v Kildare, Sunday 2pm, Croke Park
Cork have virtually been in hibernation this summer and this is their first test after an eight-week break. Will they be fresh or will the lack of a game hinder them?
I’ll think they’ll be fresh and ready for the challenge because they had a long League campaign, they’re Division 1 champions, so the break may have done them the world of good. The 4/9 for them to beat the Lilywhites is a fair price. There won’t be too much in it and 11/10 the Rebels at -2 points on the handicap makes appeal.
Kildare have a bit to prove although Kieran McGeeney would argue that they have been there or thereabouts in the last two or three years. But they don’t seem to have the willpower or know-how against the top football sides to get the big results.
Kerry v Donegal, Sunday 4pm, Croke Park
Kerry are the wounded animal in this year’s tournament. They’ve been stung by criticism of the team and some personal criticism of certain players.
I keep saying you can never write Kerry off and their performance against Tyrone shows there’s still a kick in the Kingdom despite the mileage on the clock.
But they’re coming up against a Donegal side who have laid down a marker with their win against Down and they look like genuine All-Ireland contenders.
Jim McGuinness’s side cut their cloth to suit their measure. If the opposition allows them to play open, expansive, football they’ll do just that but if they have to they’ll strangle the life out of you.
Donegal are ravenous this year. They remind me of Dublin before they won Sam last year. The Tir Conaill men got to the the All-Ireland semis and just came up short but this year the signpost is pointing in the right direction all the way to Croke Park in September.
I think Donegal are great value at 11/8 and if they are still with Kerry after 60 minutes I fully expect Donegal to see the game out. Paddy Power’s online betting makes them eevens at +1 point on the handicap, I think that’s worth a shot also.