Dublin and Kerry the big winners as Derry face tricky group after All-Ireland draw

Mayo and Galway left with Connacht final conundrum after Sam Maguire draw

Dublin, Kerry and Derry are the three favourites to lift the Sam Maguire Cup. Photograph: Evan Treacy/Inpho

For Galway and Mayo, Sunday’s Salthill showdown has now become something of a Connacht conundrum.

The latest glorious mysteries of the GAA’s competition formats were delivered without any fanfare on a grey Tuesday afternoon at the end of April, when among the revelations it emerged the prize for the winners of Sunday’s Connacht final will be a place in the toughest of the four All-Ireland SFC groups.

The GAA opted for a no frills, meat and potatoes approach to the Sam Maguire and Tailteann Cup draws – stripped back and streamed live from a suite at Croke Park, neatly presented by Gráinne McElwain and ably conducted by Jarlath Burns and Feargal McGill.

If you can stream it, you can dream it. But if it’s razzmatazz and pageantry you wanted at Croke Park, you’ll have to wait for Taylor Swift.


It’s fair to say it wasn’t quite a plum draw for Mayo or Galway, rather it has provided Pádraic Joyce and Kevin McStay with a Pearse Stadium pickle when they consider the Sam Maguire implications from the outcome of Sunday’s Connacht final. They’ll both be going all out to taste victory, but there is certainly food for thought from what the draw has served up.

Group One includes the Connacht winner (Galway or Mayo), the Ulster runner-up (Donegal or Armagh), Derry and Westmeath. Derry were the third seed all teams wanted to avoid, but Mickey Harte’s men will be travelling to either Galway or Mayo for their first game in the All-Ireland round-robin series.

The defeated team in Sunday’s Connacht final will be placed in Group Two alongside the Leinster winner (Dublin or Louth – most likely the former), Roscommon and Cavan. It’s a much more agreeable group.

With three teams emerging from the four groups, the lack of (don’t say it, don’t say it ... aarrrgh) jeopardy means both Mayo and Galway will still expect to finish in the top three of either group.

However, and here’s the kicker, the winner of each group advances to the All-Ireland quarter-final stages while the four second-placed teams will be drawn to face the four third-placed teams in preliminary quarter-finals – fixtures for which the second-placed sides will have home advantage.

Kevin McStay: next business for the Mayo boss is a Connacht final against Galway in Salthill. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

It’s certainly not a straightforward draw for Derry either, who now also face the possibility of meeting Donegal again just weeks after Jim McGuinness outmanoeuvred them in Celtic Park.

And if Derry don’t play Donegal in their second game, then it will be Armagh – so Group One is stacked in comparison to some of the others.

Knockers of the system must be wondering at what stage of the year will Dublin and Kerry be called upon to show their full hand, because Tuesday’s draw has potentially dropped them on top of a green slope with a gentle downhill route to the All-Ireland quarter-finals which, to be fair, is just what they’ll need to recover after such bruising provincial campaigns.

Should they win a 14th consecutive Leinster SFC, Dublin will be in Group Two alongside the Connacht runner-up (Galway or Mayo), Roscommon and Cavan.

And should Kerry overcome Clare in Sunday’s Munster final, Jack O’Connor’s side will be in Group Four alongside the loser of the Leinster decider (Dublin or Louth – likely to be the latter), Monaghan and Meath. Nobody in that group will be too unhappy with their lot, including the Kingdom.

If Louth do lose the Leinster final, their first match in the All-Ireland SFC will be a home match against Meath – but the Wee County have used Páirc Tailteann in Navan as their home venue for championship matches in recent years.

Mickey Harte: his Derry charges will face the Connacht champions and could be facing Donegal again if the latter lose the Ulster final. Photograph: Lorcan Doherty/Inpho

Group Three will see the eventual Ulster champions (Donegal or Armagh) go up against the defeated Munster finalist (Kerry or Clare – likely to be the latter), Tyrone and Cork. It could see Donegal and Tyrone meet again, just weeks after their Ulster semi-final battle.

The schedule of the games will be as follows:

The first round of matches will take place over two weekends. The games involving the Connacht and Munster finalists will be played on the weekend of May 18th-19th, and the fixtures involving the Leinster and Ulster finalists will be played on the weekend of May 25th-26th.

All four provincial champions have a home game in that opening round against the third seed team in their group, and all four beaten provincial finalists will have home advantage against the fourth seed team in their group.

Round Two is scheduled for June 1st-2nd, where third seeds will have home advantage against second seeds, and fourth seeds will have home advantage against first seeds.

Round Three will take place on the weekend of June 15th-16th, where first seeds will play second seeds, and third seeds will play fourth seeds – with all matches at neutral venues.

The Tailteann Cup draw also took place on Tuesday, with Glenn Ryan’s Kildare picked in Group One alongside Leitrim, Longford and Waterford. The Tailteann Cup will begin on the weekend of May 11th-12th.


GROUP 1: Connacht winner (Mayo/Galway), Ulster runner-up (Donegal/Armagh), Derry, Westmeath

GROUP 2: Leinster winner (Dublin/Louth), Connacht runner-up (Mayo/Galway), Roscommon, Cavan

GROUP 3: Ulster winner (Donegal/Armagh), Munster runner-up (Kerry/Clare), Tyrone, Cork

GROUP 4: Munster winner (Kerry/Clare), Leinster runner-up (Dublin/Louth), Monaghan, Meath


GROUP 1: Kildare, Leitrim, Longford, Waterford

GROUP 2: Sligo, Antrim, Wexford, Tipperary

GROUP 3: Fermanagh, Laois, Wicklow, Carlow

GROUP 4: Down, Offaly, Limerick, London

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times