So after last weekends first round qualifiers and provincial semi-finals we’re a step closer to knowing the make up of the two groups in the new Super 8’s format.
This weekend will see the first team secure a spot in the Super 8’s. The winner of the Connacht final between Roscommon and Galway will be guaranteed a spot alongside the Munster champions in Group 1. I can see Galway winning the Connacht final by a couple of points. Roscommon caught Galway cold with a flying start in Pearse stadium in last years final, but this year has seen much more consistency in Galway’s league performances especially in defensive areas. Roscommon also carry impressive league form into this match albeit at a grade lower. The calibre of opposition these sides have faced since they last met could be the deciding factor.
The other team guaranteed a spot in group 1 are the winners of Cork v Kerry, who meet next Saturday 23rd June at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Kerry scored an impressive 32 points against Clare last time out. The Kingdom had seven championship debutants in their side for that game. While perennial rivals Cork were expected to struggle against a fancied Tipperary side, but they swept them aside with a comprehensive win in Semple stadium on a scoreline of Tipperary 0-9 Cork 1-17. It’s hard to read that Cork performance against Tipperary, as the rebels had struggled in Division 2 in the league this year, and I suspect Tipp were well below par on the day. So Kerry get my vote to win Munster and take a spot in Group 1 alongside Galway.
The Leinster champions will be in Group 2 and will join the winners of the Ulster final between Donegal and Fermanagh to be played in Clones on Sunday 24th June. Sorry Laois fans, but it’s hard to see anything but a Dublin victory in the Leinster final. Fermanagh provided the shock of the Championship so far with their surprise win against Monaghan, but Donegal have impressed in their three Ulster championship games so far. They firstly beat Cavan by 8 points, before a 6 point win against Derry and a 13 point win against Down last time out. Their scoring rate in all three games was impressive, racking up 2-20, 2-16 & 2-22 in those victories.
So that’s Dublin and Donegal securing spots in Group 2.
The four remaining places will be made up of the winners of Round 3 of the qualifiers against the beaten provincial finalists (Round 4 – to be played on July 7th & 8th)
The second round of the qualifiers will be played next weekend and I predict Mayo will be too strong for last years surprise semi-finalist Tipperary. Monaghan should have too much experience for a Waterford side who may sill be celebrating a fantastic win over neighbours Wexford in the last round. Cavan and Down have both suffered defeats to Donegal in Ulster, but Cavan have an extra game under their belts and responded well with a 2-16 to 1-5 win over Wicklow in Aughrim.
The Carlow v Tyrone game is a fascinating match. Carlow’s tight defensive gameplan unravelled against Laois last Sunday is the vast expanse of Croke park, but should be more effective in Netwatch Cullen Park. Tyrone lost out to Monaghan by 2 points in the Ulster championship, before beating Meath after extra-time in the last round of the qualifiers. Turlough O’Connor’s Carlow will hope to use the much derided blanket defence, first attributed to Tyrone, combined with a swift counter-attacking template to overturn the Ulstermen. The recent public spat between former Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh and Micky Harte’s assistant manager Gary Devlin have increased tension within the county. Carlow will be relying on free taker Paul Broderick for the majority of their scores and if he’s on song with the boot I can see Carlow causing an upset.
Offaly had an impressive win against Antrim last time out and will look to build on this against a Clare side smarting after a 22 point beating by the Kingdom. League form would suggest that Clare under-performed against Kerry as the banner men finished in the top half of division 2 while Offaly placed 6th in Division 3. I see Clare bouncing back from their outing against Kerry with a win in Tullamore.
Kildare will look to build upon their impressive win against Derry last time out against Longford in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park. While Longford will look to restore some pride after a heavy defeat to the Dubs last time out. If Kildare can play with the increased work-rate and accuracy they showed against Derry rather than the panicked and wayward showing against Carlow they should have too much firepower for their Leinster rivals.
Sligo were poor against Galway last time out and it’s hard to see them improve sufficiently to defeat division 3 champions Armagh. Fermanagh overcame Armagh 0-12 v 0-7 in the Ulster quarter-final, but the orchard county responded with an impressive win over Westmeath by 3-16 v 1-11 in Mullingar.
The final tie of the round sees Leitrim take on Louth. After narrowly scraping past New York by a point after extra-time, Leitrim suffered a 14 point beating at the hands of Roscommon in the Connacht semi-final. Louth lost by 9 points against Carlow in the opening round in Leinster, before a comfortable win in Ruislip against London. Louth should have enough to win this encounter.
Now we enter crystal ball territory, the eight winners of Round 2 will be drawn to face each other before being paired off against the beaten provincial finalists. So according to my predictions above Mayo, Monaghan, Cavan, Carlow, Clare, Kildare, Armagh and Louth will meet each other in Round 3. So randomly I’m pairing the first four winners against the second four winners, bearing in mind the draw forbids repeat pairing of provincial matches where possible.
So if Mayo were to beat Clare, Monaghan were to beat Kildare, Cavan were to beat Armagh and Carlow were to beat Louth then Round 4 would potentially see Mayo, Monaghan, Cavan and Carlow face off against Roscommon, Fermanagh, Cork and Laois.
Mayo could meet Roscommon as they were kept apart in the Connacht championship, Monaghan couldn’t play Fermanagh again, so for arguments sake, I’ll guess they might face Cork instead. Cavan could play Laois and finally Fermanagh v Carlow.
The groups into which the winners of those ties are placed will then be decided by the province of the defeated provincial finalist. The winners of the ties between the beaten Ulster finalist and beaten Leinster finalist will be placed in Group 1, while the winners of the ties between the beaten Munster finalist and beaten Connacht finalists will be placed in Group 2.
That would give us final groups of:
Of course there’s plenty of other permutations and possibilities before we get to the Super 8’s. Let us know your own thoughts and opinions in the comments box below.