Dublin to face another trip north, as this year’s Super 8s take shape
Mayo and Galway head for Limerick as last qualifier round details confirmed
Healy Park, Omagh for the clash of Dublin and Tyrone last summer. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Monday’s All-Ireland qualifier round four draw has clarified the picture on the All-Ireland quarter-final group stages, which begin later this month.
In a tweak to the system after the inaugural year, the provincial champions each have a home fixture both as recognition of their achievement and to guard against last year’s experience, which saw provincial champions playing their first matches against each other in Croke Park.
Donegal and Kerry lost to Dublin and Galway, respectively and never recovered from the bad start so it was decided to give the champions their home fixture in round 1.
The danger with the new schedule is that it will create a situation that the original sequence was designed to avoid. By arranging for provincial champions to drop points early on, it was hoped that dead rubbers could be avoided. In this the GAA were successful, as by the final weekend only one of the four matches - Dublin-Roscommon - had nothing riding on it.
Group 2 could end up with three of the same counties as last year. Should Tyrone beat Cavan, they will join Dublin and Roscommon like 12 months ago with Cork or Laois replacing Donegal, who are now in Group 1.
Looking down the line, All-Ireland champions Dublin will have to travel north for the second year, as their third fixture will be away to the winners of Cavan and Tyrone. This sets up the possibility of another trip to Omagh to face Tyrone, which was also part of last year’s round robin for champions.
On an exciting night in Healy Park, they came away with a three-point win, 1-14 to 0-14 before a crowd of 16,205 in what was Dublin’s first away championship fixture in 12 years.
It was speculated on at the time that the match might well be replicated at Croke Park in the final and that’s how it played out with Dublin winning 2-17 to 1-14.
Jim Gavin’s side have played Cavan away in the counties’ last two league meetings, this year and in 2017. Last March, Dublin won by 1-16 to 1-10 on the last day of the regulation season whereas two years previously on what was the opening day of that season’s competition they came away 0-18 to 0-11 winners.
In Group 1, Kerry will be glad to have home advantage against whoever wins the all-Connacht qualifier, as they have lost their most recent matches in Croke Park against both Mayo (this year’s league final) and Galway (last year’s quarter-final round robin).
The Munster champions will however have to travel to take on Meath or Clare in the last round.
Interest in the round four qualifiers has intensified over the past two years because of the desire to reach the last-eight round robin. The highest-profile of this year’s draw, Galway v Mayo, has been fixed for Limerick this Saturday at 7.0 pm.
The clash will stir memories of the All-Ireland semi-final replay controversy from five years ago when Mayo protested against having to travel to the Gaelic Grounds to play Kerry, the switch necessary because Croke Park had been booked for an American football match.
On this occasion the venue was accepted by the counties, who couldn’t agree to toss for venue and with Hyde Park in Roscommon having a 17,000 all-ticket capacity, which wouldn’t have been big enough to accommodate the expected crowd, Limerick was deemed the best option.
The 2014 semi-final was the last match of manager James Horan’s first stint in charge of the county, culminating in extra-time defeat against a Kerry team that went on to win that year’s All-Ireland.
Galway and Mayo have plenty of recent history and under manager Kevin Walsh, the former haven’t lost to their neighbours since 2015, a run that encompasses the three most recent championship encounters and also the past two league meetings in Division One.
Neither have been in particularly convincing form this summer and the clash offers an opportunity of a significant bounce for the winners, who will head into Group 1 of the quarter-finals, playing Kerry away, Meath or Clare in Croke Park before finishing at home to Ulster champions Donegal.
Other fixtures see the all-Ulster clash of Cavan-Tyrone taking place in Clones at 5.0 pm on Saturday. Earlier that day, Munster finalists Cork take on Laois, also at 5.0 with the final qualifier, between Meath and Clare, in Portlaoise on Sunday afternoon at 2.0.
Cavan-Tyrone was played in Brewster Park, Enniskillen almost exactly a year ago in round three of qualifiers with Tyrone winning by 0-18 to 1-12. This year’s move to Clones also facilitates the staging of the Ulster under-20 championship tie between the same counties.
The draw fell in such a way to give a real chance of progression to two of football’s more established counties, who have recently been out of the spotlight. Cork and Meath were defeated in their provincial finals, albeit in contrasting circumstances by Kerry and Dublin, respectively, and both have been drawn against teams who they will feel are very much within their range.
Cork were relegated to Division Three for the first time back in March but won two of their last three matches and have impressed so far in Munster, giving Kerry their best test in the province in four years.
Opponents Laois have leap-frogged them by going up into Division Two. They come into this on the back of two good wins, away against Derry and at home to neighbours Offaly last weekend.
All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round four
Cork v Laois, Semple Stadium, 5pm
Cavan v Tyrone, Clones, 5pm - Sky
Galway v Mayo, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 7pm - Sky
Meath v Clare, Portlaoise, 2pm - RTE
All-Ireland quarter-final round robin
(first team, home advantage)
Group 1: Kerry v Galway/Mayo; Donegal v Meath/Clare
Group 2: Dublin v Cork/Laois; Roscommon v Cavan/Tyrone
(Croke Park round)
Group 1: Kerry v Donegal; Galway/Mayo v Meath/Clare
Group 2: Dublin v Roscommon; Corl/Laois v Cavan/Tyrone
(first team, home advantage)
Group 1: Galway/Mayo v Donegal; Meath/Clare v Kerry
Group 2: Cork/Laois v Roscommon; Cavan/Tyrone v Dublin