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All-Ireland Contenders Out In Force As Football Takes Centre Stage

Gaelic football takes centre stage this weekend as All-Ireland champions, Dublin, start their journey towards what they hope is an unprecedented five-in-a-row. 

They take on a Louth side who will be buoyed by their goal-scoring exploits in 2019. The game in Portlaoise will act as the main event in a double-header with Carlow versus Meath.

Another Leinster double-header goes down on Sunday when Westmeath and Laois lock horns in a repeat of this year’s Division 3 final followed by the meeting of Longford and Kildare.

Elsewhere, All-Ireland finalists, Tyrone, are expected to swat aside the challenge of Antrim in the Athletic Grounds and book their place in the USFC semi-final. While the action in Ulster turns to Fermanagh and Donegal on Sunday as they serve up a repeat of last year’s Ulster final with the winners likely to face Tyrone next time out.

There’s just a solitary game out in Connacht but it is arguably the most intriguing game of the weekend as perennial All-Ireland contenders, Mayo, welcome a recently relegated Roscommon to Castlebar for the right to take on Galway in this year’s Connacht final.

Here is a rundown of all your team news ahead of this weekend’s action.

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Jim Gavin has handed out one debut ahead of Dublin’s championship bow with his namesake, Darren Gavin, taking his place at midfield alongside Footballer of the Year, Brian Fenton.

The big news, however, coming out of the Dublin camp is that there is no place for the returning Rory O’Carroll on the Dublin XV with Cuala’s, Mick Fitzsimons, set to start at full-back.

Dublin XV: Stephen Cluxton, David Byrne, Mick Fitzsimons, Jack McCaffrey, James McCarthy, Cian O’Sullivan, John Small, Brian Fenton, Darren Gavin, Cormac Costello, Brian Howard, Ciarán Kilkenny, Paul Mannion, Con O’Callaghan, Niall Scully.

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Despite a brilliant league campaign that saw them promoted to Division 1, Meath struggled in their opening round game with Offaly and were very lucky to come out with the win.

Andy McEntee has made one change to the side that defeated John Maughan’s men by two points as Adam Flanagan comes in for the injured, Shane McEntee.

Meath XV: Andrew Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Shane Gallagher; James McEntee, Donal Keogan, Gavin McCoy; Bryan Menton, Adam Flanagan; Cillian O’Sullivan, Bryan McMahon, Ben Brennan; Barry Dardis, Michael Newman, Thomas O’Reilly.

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Kildare were pushed all the way by Wicklow last time out eventually coming away with a two-point win.

Cian O’Neill has made just one change from that encounter with John Evans’ side with current U20 Player of the Year, Jimmy Hyland, making way for Neil Flynn who was introduced to great effect against Wicklow.

Kildare XV: Mark Donnellan; Mark Dempsey, David Hyland, Mark Hyland; Peter Kelly, Eoin Doyle, Keith Cribbin; Kevin Feely, Fergal Conway; David Slattery, Ben McCormack, Eoghan O’Flaherty; Adam Tyrrell, Paddy Brophy, Neil Flynn.

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Padraic Davis has named five players from the successful Mullinalaghata side that claimed last year’s Leinster Club Championship for their quarter-final meeting with Kildare on Sunday.

Patrick Fox, John Keegan, David McGivney, Gary Rogers and James McGivney are named in the Longford XV with veteran star man and former AFL player, Mickey Quinn, named at left-half-forward.

Longford XV: Paddy Colum; Patrick Fox, Andrew Farrell, Barry O’Farrell; Colm P Smyth, Padraig McCormack, Darren Quinn; John Keegan, David McGivney; Gary Rogers, Barry McKeon, Mickey Quinn; Daniel Mimnagh, James McGivney, Liam Connerton.

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John Sugrue has named a strong Laois XV ahead of their third meeting of the season with Westmeath tomorrow.

All-Star nominee, Graham Brody, takes up his place between the sticks with Colm Begley named at centre-back. Laois’ main threat comes from the full-forward line where Paul Kingston and Evan O’Carroll flank Colm Murphy.

Laois XV: Graham Brody; Denis Booth, Mark Timmons, Gareth Dillon; Sean O’Flynn, Colm Begley, Patrick O’Sullivan; John O’Loughlin, Kieran Lillis; Daniel O’Reilly, Conor Boyle, Damien O’Connor; Paul Kingston, Colm Murphy, Evan O’Carroll.

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Jack Cooney has also named a strong outfit for his sides meeting with Laois on Sunday.

Key man, John Heslin will start at centre-forward with Kieran Martin at full-forward in what is a strong spine to their team. Ger Egan has been in electric form as of late, particularly in the Division 3 final win over Laois and he starts at left-corner forward.

Westmeath XV: Eoin Carberry; Kevin Maguire, Ronan Wallace, Boidu Sayeh; Killian Daly, Noel Mulligan, James Dolan; Sam Duncan, Denis Corroon; David Lynch, John Heslin, Callum McCormack; Ronan O’Toole, Kieran Martin, Ger Egan.

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All-Star, Colm Cavanagh, returns to the Tyrone XV for their clash with Antrim having sat out their win over Derry two week’s ago.

Otherwise, Mickey Harte has named an unchanged side with Cathal McShane set to continue in his role as Tyrone’s target man.

GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Quarter-Final, Croke Park, Dublin 5/8/2017 Tyrone vs Armagh Tyrone's Colm Cavanagh Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Tyrone XV: Niall Morgan; Hugh Pat McGeary, Ronan McNamee, Michael McKernan; Tiernan McCann, Padraig Hampsey, Michael Cassidy; Colm Cavanagh, Ben McDonnell; Matthew Donnelly, Niall Sludden, Frank Burns; Cathal McShane, Peter Harte, Richard Donnelly.

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Antrim ace an uphill task if they are to overcome last year’s All-Ireland finalists and Lenny Harbinson has named four debutants for their trip to the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.

James McAuley, captain of the headline-grabbing Naomh Eanna side, makes his championship debut alongside Padraig Nugent, Patrick McCormick and Kevin Quinn.

Antrim XV: Padraig Nugent; Patrick McCormick, Ricky Johnston, Patrick Gallagher; Patrick McBride, Declan Lynch, Niall Delargy; Colum Duffin, Stephen Beatty; James McAuley, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Kevin Quinn; Ryan Murray, James Smith, Odhran Eastwood.

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Rory Gallagher will look to his formidable midfield pairing of Eoin Donnelly and Ryan Jones as Fermanagh look to upset the odds and defeat Donegal at Brewster Park.

Elsewhere, The Erne men will look to Sean Quigley for some vital scores in tomorrows clash at Brewster Park.

Fermanagh XV: Thomas Treacy; Jonny Cassidy, Che Cullen, Lee Cullen; Ultan Kelm, James McMahon, Kane Connor; Eoin Donnelly, Ryan Jones; Ryan Lyons, Aidan Breen, Ciaran Corrigan; Declan McCusker, Conall Jones, Sean Quigley.

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James Horan has made three changes to the side that defeated New York in the Bronx last time out with Chris Barrett, Michael Plunkett and captain Diarmuid O’Connor all returning.

Mayo XV: Robert Hennelly, Chris Barrett, Brendan Harrison, Keith Higgins, Patrick Durcan, Michael Plunkett, Lee Keegan, Matthew Ruane, Aidan O’Shea, Fergal Boland, Jason Doherty, Diarmuid O’Connor, Evan Regan, Darren Coen, Kevin McLoughlin.

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Anthony Cunningham has kept faith with the Roscommon XV that easily dispatched of Leitrim in the last round for tonight’s crucial clash with Mayo.

Roscommon XV: Darren O’Malley, David Murray, Sean Mullooly, Conor Daly, Niall Daly, Conor Hussey, Ronan Daly, Tadgh O’Rourke, Shane Killoran, Hubert Darcy, Cathal Cregg, Niall Kilroy, Ultan Harney, Conor Cox, Diarmuid Murtagh.

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At the time of publishing, Louth, Carlow and Donegal had yet to name their starting XV.

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