All-Ireland champions Dublin last night landed on the more desirable side of next year’s Leinster championship draw.
Within a fortnight of landing a second All-Ireland in three years, the defending champions came out of the bowl on the other side of the draw to this year’s provincial final and semi-final opponents Meath and Kildare.
Leinster chief executive Michael Delaney said last night that the provincial council would be starting its fixtures' planning with a clean slate.
“Everything’s up for grabs,” he said. “I’ve already had a text from someone in Laois saying that if they beat Wicklow, the match against Dublin should be in Portlaoise. It’s not set in stone that all of Dublin’s matches have to be in Croke Park.
“I’d have to say though, in fairness to Dublin, they’ve never made an issue out of where they play. They just say, ‘name the date and we’ll be there’.”
The controversial Munster championship draw in which Cork and Kerry have been seeded on opposite sides has drawn criticism from players in Clare, Waterford, Tipperary and Limerick who have threatened to withdraw from the 2015 championship and next season’s McGrath Cup.
Equity and fairness
They found support last night from Kerry All-Ireland winning player and selector John O'Keeffe. "I'd have to say that the decision lacks equity and fairness. Having been involved with both Limerick and Clare I can see where the players' anger comes from.
“It’s also unfair on counties in other provinces that Cork and Kerry are effectively guaranteed either an All-Ireland quarter-final or a fast track to round four of the qualifiers.”
Commenting on the draw he said: “It looks like a shoo-in for both counties, although Cork will have a slightly more difficult route to the final. That’s going to be in Cork, which has always given them an advantage.”
In Connacht, champions and All-Ireland finalists Mayo, who are in search of a fourth successive title, will open their campaign in New York, but they have been kept on the opposite side of the draw to Galway.
"Galway obviously need to step it up," according to O'Keeffe, "but will have learned from the extra matches in the qualifiers. Mayo have to be psychologically scarred by their latest All-Ireland defeat and I'd expect player changes next year, as James Horan looks to strengthen the squad, particularly in the forwards."
Ulster has thrown up an encouraging draw for Donegal. Nothing’s easy in the province and Jim McGuinness’s team must open their campaign against Derry, but defending champions Monaghan and last August’s All-Ireland semi-finalists Tyrone are on the other side of the draw.
“Donegal should come through on their side,” said O’Keeffe, “and it will be interesting to see if Jim McGuinness and a new management team can build a stronger panel and have better luck with injuries.
“The other side is very competitive, but I still think Tyrone will come through.”
O'Keeffe believes that Dublin can only get better. "The experience their young talent got this season will bring them on and Jim Gavin will also unearth new young players to strengthen them further. They'll be formidable.
“The other side of the Leinster draw is very even between Meath and Kildare and a lot will depend on what sort of a bounce Kildare can get from new management but Meath’s new players will have learned a lot after this year.”
Changes made at this year’s congress in order to streamline the qualifier system mean that all of the provincial draws have been divided into an ‘A’ half and a ‘B’ half, allowing the different sections to make staggered entries into the qualifiers and speed up the process as well as giving greater clarity to counties in respect of club fixture schedules.
Quarter-finals: Tipperary v Limerick; Clare v Waterford.
Semi-finals: Cork v Tipperary or Limerick; Kerry v Clare or Waterford.
Preliminary round: New York v Mayo.
Quarter-finals: London v Galway; Roscommon v Leitrim.
Semi-finals: London/Galway v Sligo; New York/Mayo v Roscommon/Leitrim.
Preliminary round: Tyrone v Down.
Quarter-finals: Monaghan v Tyrone/Down; Fermanagh v Antrim; Derry v Donegal; Armagh v Cavan.
Semi-finals: Fermanagh/Antrim v Derry/Donegal; Armagh/Cavan v Monaghan/Tyrone or Down.
First round: Wicklow v Laois; Longford v Offaly; Westmeath v Louth.
Quarter-finals: Wexford/Laois v Dublin; Longford/Offaly v Wexford; Westmeath/Louth v Kildare; Carlow v Meath.
Semi-finals: Wicklow/Laois or Dublin v Longford/Offaly or Wexford; Westmeath/Louth or Kildare v Carlow/Meath.