A few thoughts on the quarter-final draw

So it’s Down in the quarters for us next weekend. Going on the poll that was running here on the site prior to the draw being held earlier this evening they weren’t our opponents of choice – that honour went to Kildare – but I voted for them. Not because I thought they’re a soft touch (I don’t for one minute believe they are) but rather I felt that the Mourne lads would represent a different kind of challenge for us as well as a new departure for the both of us as this will be our first ever meeting in the championship.

I’d say most supporters are happy enough with the draw, but then again I’d equally guess that most Down fans will be happy enough that they’ve pulled us rather than facing Cork or Dublin. A semi-final date with the latter will surely be the reward for the winners of our quarter-final – Dublin are 1/9 with Paddy Power to see off Laois and I can’t in all honesty see any circumstances in which Pat Gilroy’s defending All-Ireland champions will fail to make it to the penultimate stage.

But the Dubs are for another day: instead we need to concentrate on the challenge that Down will present to us next weekend. We’re reasonably warm favourites to prevail – Paddy Power have us at 4/7 to do so – but if memory serves me correctly we were priced at similar odds when we went to post against Meath in 2009 so I wouldn’t read too much into that particular statistic.

Despite having never met each other prior to this in the championship – we had our three All-Irelands in the bag a fair while before they began to collect their haul of five – we’ve seen a good bit of each other in the league in recent times. Down were promoted to Division One two seasons ago and we drew with them in McHale Park in the opening round of the 2011 NFL while earlier this year they beat us by five points, also in Castlebar.

That latter match was made notorious due to the atrocious refereeing of it by Derry’s Barry Cassidy – who issued a straight red to Aidan O’Shea after just eight minutes and then proceeded to make a total hames of proceedings thereafter –  but if our lads think back to it in sufficient detail they’ll know that they owe Down one for the way that match panned out for us.  Nothing like a revenge mission to get the juices flowing, eh?

As it happened, this year’s NFL worked out quite similarly for both of us – we both made it to the play-offs and we both ended up getting clocked by Cork. They took a thumping from the Leesiders in the semi-final (the day we downed the Kerrymen) while we got ours from the pugilistic Donkey Ayters in the final.

Since then our form lines haven’t really been comparable, with Down battling through to the Ulster final (admittedly in the soft half of the draw) while we had only to get past the supine challenge of Leitrim to make our provincial decider. Down had a routine enough win over Fermanagh in the quarter-final but looked to be headed for the qualifiers at the semi-final stage when Monaghan led them by nine points just before half-time. The Mourne lads pulled off a remarkable comeback in the second half that day to win by the minimum margin and so reach the Ulster decider for the first time since 2003 but that was as good as it got for them in that part of the campaign. Ulster finals aren’t often lost by eleven point margins but that was the gulf between them and Jimmy McGuinness’s Donegal when the final whistle was sounded in Clones last weekend.

Down were fortunate to draw Tipperary in Round 4 of the qualifiers – seeing as they could instead have ended up with the likes of Kerry or Kildare – and, despite the fact that the Stone Throwers are an improving force in football, this no doubt helped them in today becoming only the second ever beaten provincial finalist to break the six-day turnaround hoodoo (Dublin being the other back in 2001).  But it’s still a considerable achievement to have done this, one that will, no doubt, do much to erase the memories of that Ulster final drubbing and help them to get into the right frame of mind for Croke Park.

And let’s not forget that Down quite like playing in Croke Park at this time of year. I was there with the little lad the last time they did the shaking the jerseys routine at Kerry (that was in 2010, also in the quarters) and you could see how they got the wind into their sails after the positive start they enjoyed that day. We’ll need to be on our guard next weekend not to let them settle into the surroundings of HQ in the same kind of reassuring manner.

Although I wasn’t there to witness our own provincial decider at first-hand, I could see from the tape that we struggled for long periods to overcome Sligo’s massed defence. Down don’t take defending to the demonic lengths that their Ulster conquerors do but they’re still a Northern team and they use large swathes of the Nordie playbook so we can expect them to be equally tough to break down at the back. We’ll certainly need to have advanced our thinking on this front a fair bit since Hyde Park, not least because – with Ambrose Rogers and Kalum King at midfield – Down won’t be ceding as much advantage to us around the centre as the Magpies did.

The contrasting number of games the two teams will have played prior to next weekend could also be a factor. Down will be playing their third championship match in as many weeks, while we’ll be lining out for our first match in three weeks and our third in all. Will they be feeling the effects of all those games? Will we be too laid back and rested for our own good? It’s hard to tell where the advantage lies here but it is likely to be a factor all the same.

Overall, I think it’s a good draw for both counties and it gives us both a clean shot at securing a semi-final meeting (almost certainly) against the reigning All-Ireland champions. I think the working assumption that most will make is that our end of the draw presents Dublin with an easy enough run to the final, with all those hard chaws left to battle it out amongst themselves over on the other side. That may well prove to be correct but, as already pointed out, Down are rather partial to Croke Park in August and September and our win over the Dubs back in 2006 shows that we’re not averse to upsetting the odd applecart either.  For all of us, there’s a place in the final up for grabs and – starting (and hopefully not finishing) with the Down match next weekend – we need to do everything in our powers to make sure we’re the ones that’ll claim this.

18 thoughts on “A few thoughts on the quarter-final draw

  1. I’m finding it very hard to work out how good teams are, what i mean by this is take for instance today Kildare destroyed Sligo in every way, does that make us not near as good as kildare?

    Downs match against Fermanagh they won but i’m near sure Fermanagh were down to 14 men for a good part of that game, then they were getting hammered by Monaghan in the next one but staged a remarkable recovery , i felt by that Monaghan would easily dispose of Laois but i was wrong again and then again today i was full sure Meath would dispose of Laois, wrong again . I’m ramblin on a bit here i know but my point is it’s very hard to weigh up , that said though here we are in q/f stage with 6 div one sides (i think) so the cream maybe does eventually come to the top.

    Can we beat Down? I see no reason why we can’t but they will feel the same, as pointed out above Down play a more traditional six defenders , this will only play into our hands if we can get the right ball in though.

    Personally i hope JH mixes it up a bit, a surprise element to tactics could prove to be a match winner in this game, maybe bring feeney in and move DV to the 40.

    Anybody here have an idea as to how they think the q/fs will be scheduled? Two double headers?

  2. There’s one on next Saturday according to TV3, so my is guess they will put the Kerry Donegal match on Saturday, Mayo match with Kildare-Cork on Sunday, and the Dubs a standalone the following week, like they did last year.

    One thing I’m certain on is that Andy Moran should continue in full forward for the Down match – the Down no.3 McArdle likes to go walkabout and isn’t a tight marker, Andy will make hay in there.

  3. Yes Séan,as someone who tries to fleece paddy power I can’t fathom out form or who’s gonna win anymore in any two team matchup in GAA,NFL or soccer!.Theyre big boys in the middle alrite & A.O’S will be needed for whole game,are Freeman,Varley,Conroy & Cillian O’C ever gonna find a bit of form?-it’d be a nice time to show it!.
    PS-wouldn’t it be gas IF laois beat Dublin!!!

  4. Well called WJ. I didn’t factor them into my thinking but it’s a good draw for us. Both sides are fast healers and recover fairly fast to travel long distances. We need only look at Mayo 1993/94 and see them 1996/97. Likewise 2004 final massacre didn’t terminally end us.

    Down were well beaten by Wexford in 2008 QFs, again outclassed by Armagh in league 2 final in 2010 the day Cork wiped us. But Down regrouped, refocused and took out Kerry and Kildare before losing All Ireland by a point to Cork.

    I think we are as good as them. Better to play a team where your neither a mad underdog or raging favourite. Down fill that criteria, they too will fancy us. However this is a game we cannot lose, if we do then the work of the last 18 months is wasted. That is a challenge we should welcome .

    Already Dublin and a compliant media are looking at whom their All Ireland opponents will be. Good! Remember 2006, let’s simply go for this one and if successful then ambush the next team up, great if it’s Dublin. Mayo should not fear Down, we won a famous league title v them in 1970. That was a Down team that had beaten Kerry in the 1968 All Ireland final.

    Our minors of 66 beat a Down team that provided 6 of the senior All Ireland winning team in 68. We lost a close minor final to them in 1999 and were well beaten in 2005. The U21s lost to theirs in 2008 I think, was at the match in Longford and we kinda froze on the day despite having a solid team. As long as we avoid the pitfalls of Meath 2009 and get the benefit of a FAIR referee then we should be fine.

  5. Only conclusion I have from the Sligo Kildare match is that Sligo have a very weak midfield, conclusion from that is that our midfield hasn’t been tested, conclusion from that is the last strong midfield yardstick we have for our potential midfield pairing is cork in the league final, and that didn’t go well. That concerns me. The forward line conversation has been almost done to death so I suppose will leave that until the team announcement

  6. We are definitely in the easier side of the draw, I would much rather play Dublin than either Cork or Donegal. I have to agree with East Cork, the way Kildare beat Sligo has really worried me as to how good we are. In saying that, everyone leaving Hyde Park two weeks ago knew that we had to improve greatly, had we taken our early chances, we would have won easily.

    In terms of fixtures, I’m not sure that the GAA will put Dublin on their own, Laois have not got a great following and even the Leinster final last week was not near a sellout.

  7. We are happy to have Down and They are happy to have us i would say!!!!!!! Interesting game it will be!!!!
    how are the minors doing …… ? does anyone know!!! I know they were to play tipp….. Have they played yet??

  8. The minors are due to play Tipp in the quarter-finals next weekend but there’s no word yet on whether or not this will be doubled up with the seniors’ match. I doubt this will happen, though, given that we’re already likely to be in a double-header with one of the other quarter-finals.

  9. Nice draw for us. Keeps us away from the awful Cork/Kerry lot. Mayo v Down is probably the least talked about fixture of the 4. Suits us. The Dubs are already looking to the final. Suits us. I suppose 2 double headers at Croker where we will be the curtain raiser to the more attractive Dub/Laois. Then Cork/Kildare main course on the other day with Kerry/Donegal as support act. I dont think they would have Kerry v Donegal on its own as there would be nobody there from Kerry and the place would look empty. Lets see what the CCCCCC come up with.

  10. I don’t have concern’s about midfield. Barry Moran,Aiden O’Shea is the best midfield pairing Mayo have for year plus plenty of options on the bench if needed.

    Down are weak at the back O’Connor,Moran etc should make hay while the sun shines.

  11. At the Kildare V’s Sligo game, Sligo were not up for this game, Kildare cleaned up on the breaking ball but still huffed and puffed to score 13 points. Kildare did however put a huge amount of pressure on the Sligo backs, which Sligo struggled with, which meant that the ball was turned over quickly.

    The reality is that we were always going to have to win plenty breaking ball once we get to Croke Park, may see Andy coming out to half forwards to assist in this task.

    Out of curiosity, did Down beat Dublin, Laois and ourselves in the league?? I am sure that they are confident of beating us now in Croke Park also, I was very happy with the draw at first, less confident now. It will be very interesting to see how we set out the team, as this game has all to play for!!

  12. Hate to spoil the party boys but we need to get real here.if we are not good enough to beat Down next weekend we have no business thinking about Dublin or anyone else.! I’m not convinced that we will beat Down but hope we can come out a play with a bit of pride and confidence and see where we go from there!.
    On our day we are competitive but I would worry about where scores are coming from. We need to be doing a Donegal job on Down and our fitness should enough to see them off.

    Fogra : have waited since 1996 to see Meath concede a point to a ball hop over the bar!

  13. I’ve major concerns with Saturdays game we have to stop goin crazy on scoring goals the Sligo first half was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen I hear Alan Murphy was called into the camp not many might know of him but he is every good might lack size which is something we are used of ..I predict mayo 1-14 down 1-8

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