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Four GAA Match-Ups That Whet The Appetite Ahead Of Bumper Weekend

Four GAA Match-Ups That Whet The Appetite Ahead Of Bumper Weekend
By Aonghus Ó Maicín

For the first time in 2019 we appear to have an evenly balanced weekend of football and hurling, the former taking centre stage this Saturday with all eyes on the small ball the day after.

Moreover, a healthy mix of familiarity and unfamiliarity between the sides makes for what is surely going to be a weekend that won't fall short on drama. Mayo and Armagh, for example, are meeting for the first time in the championship since 1950 while the hurling provincial finalists - Kilkenny and Wexford in Leinster, Tipperary and Limerick in Munster - are possibly more familiar with one another than their own families.

The intriging part of the week however will be some fascinating player match-ups, where those involved could define the summer for their counties. In the case of football after all, it's knockout.

So who do we expect to be coming face-to-face?

TJ Reid/Matthew O'Hanlon

The task of keeping tabs on TJ Reid seemed like an impossible one. The man had been electric, picking off scores and breezing away from markers at his will. Then, Matthew O'Hanlon took on the challenge head-on and the results were staggering.

As a direct result of O'Hanlon's presence, Kilkenny's talisman was left scoreless from play at Wexford Park. The robust centre-back was eventually dismissed but he will be back to take up residency wherever Reid situates himself this weekend in Croke Park.

How will the Wexford man deal with the prowess of Reid in the space Croke Park provides?

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Surely the Ballyhale Shamrocks man will be determined to make his mark on this occasion after having his influence diminished by his Wexford counterpart last time out? All the ingredients are there for a fascinating tussle.

Aidan O'Shea/Jarly Óg Burns

Now, this is a compelling match-up - if they line up opposite each other that is.

Jarly Óg has been immense for the Orchard County this year, his relentless work-rate and ability to get around the pitch proving vital to the county's success thus far. Aidan O'Shea, meanwhile, could prove the toughest test to date for the 20-year-old. The Armagh midfielder is sublime in the air but there's nobody better at commanding aerial dominance around the middle third than the Breaffy man.

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Moreover, O'Shea is more agile now than he has been in the past, popping up to dink over a neat score last Saturday in Newry just one example of his agility. Will he, however, be able to keep up with the younger man?

Padraic Maher/Kyle Hayes

The hardy old veteran versus the plucky young tyro: Maher v Hayes - a riveting prospect.

But don't be fooled, 30-year-old Maher is no geriatric, possessing the meanest shoulder in the game. Likewise, Hayes is no juvenile, capable of giving the best defenders in the country a day they won't want to remember. There's no guarantee both men will line up across from each other, giving the depth of defence and attack both sides boast - but they won't be far away from one another.

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For a lean 20-year-old, Hayes' strength and composure is something not to be scoffed; it landed him the Young Hurler of the Year award last season. Maher, though, is the most feared defender in the business. And this weekend is different to their last meeting. For this time there's a Munster title at stake. Sparks will fly.

David Hyland/Cathal McShane

Of the four match-ups this is probably the one that will command the least headlines but, make no mistake, it's a pivotal one. A different approach from Tyrone this year sees Cathal McShane often the furthest man forward, his strength and frame a menace for opposing back-lines as was illustrated last Saturday in Longford.

McShane's goal-scoring threat is obvious, hence the Kildare full-back will need to be at his best if the Lilywhites are to pull off another major scalp in the qualifiers.

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The Owen Roe's man is the county's top scorer this year and only the most reliable of names can in some way tame him. The Athy man has the experience and with the home crowd at this back it's far from inconceivable seeing Kildare slaying another giant 12 months on from their Newbridge-or-Nowhere saga.

SEE ALSO: Counties Deserve Better Than Patronising Response To The GAA Funding Debate

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