So we’re down at last to the final eight in the championship, the point where the real fun begins. The draw for the quarters takes place later on today (at 6.30 pm, to be exact and it’ll be live on RTÉ2) and, while the pairings that’ll be decided this evening are in the lap of the gods, I know who I’d like to be matched with whom later on.
From the perspective of the qualifiers, the Rossies are the girl they all want to dance with, while everyone will want to avoid pulling one of the Big Two (and, after Cork’s abject performance against Limerick, I think we’re back in duopoly territory again). Provincial champions tend to be less bothered about who they draw but I suppose Down (notwithstanding their freakishly large win over poor, broken Sligo yesterday evening) might be the favoured pick from that pot. Such kind of wishing can, of course, be dangerous and the Rossies are in delicious territory in this respect – all the qualifiers think they’ll hammer the shite out of them but whoever pulls them could get considerably more than they bargain for from Fergie and his lads.
Anyways. Onto my dream draw for later on this evening, one that is pitched to provide the right kind of challenge to each of the teams left in the race at this stage.
First up – Meath v Dublin. The Ball Throwers (thanks to DocG for coming up with this very appropriate nickname for the ex-Royals) find themselves even more unloved than ever this year following Joe Sheridan’s antics in the Leinster final and everyone will be hoping they pull a real pig of a draw this evening. The best porker would, I reckon, be Pat Gilroy’s resurgent Dublin who have come on considerably since Meath walloped them in the Leinster semi-final. Nothing went right for the Dubs that day (including the bizarre way the game was reffed) and they’ve got better as they’ve come through the qualifiers. Gilroy’s Dublin are – much like the Rossies, in fact – a hardworking and honest bunch of players and I’d say they’d relish a chance to turn the tables on those sneaky Meathmen, who would surely view another clash with the Boys in Blue like they would the acquisition of a hole in the head. A perfect match, then.
Next – Kerry v Kildare. Kerry are always vulnerable at this stage of the championship though the hoors always seem to have enough in the tank to wobble through to the semis (where they really start to pick up the pace). With injuries, suspensions and the lingering effects of the five players gone from last year, Kerry are, once again, susceptible to going under to a haymaker in the quarters. And who better to deliver such a punch than Kieran McGeeney’s rapidly improving Kildare who, after a dreadful championship start, seems to be peaking at just the right time? I think Geezer’s lads could have a big say in this year’s championship and pulling Kerry this evening offers them the chance of stepping up to the big time, big time.
Then – Tyrone v Cork. This would be a rematch of last year’s thunderous clash when a rising Cork outmuscled and outplayed what looked to be a fading Tyrone. This summer, though, the roles are reversed – Tyrone are back playing like the Duracell bunnies (hairy ones at that) they all were back in 2008 and Cork look like they peaked back in April. The Rebels have been flattering to deceive all summer and Tyrone are the just the lads to test the proposition that the Rebels deserve to be viewed as serious candidates for Sam dish ear.
Finally – Roscommon v Down. Made for each other, in many respects: neither will fear the other and both would have a genuine chance of progressing to the penultimate stage. In recent years, the All-Ireland semi-finals have featured unheralded teams (Meath in ’07 and again last year, Wexford in ’08) and this pairing would guarantee such an outcome in 2010 as well.
That’s my tuppence worth at any rate. Let’s see what Christy Cooney’s version will be later on today.