Well, here we are. The Covid-era rapid-fire Championship of 2020 is down to the final four and we’re still standing.
An odd quartet we certainly make, even if, from a historical standpoint, this year’s All-Ireland semi-final pairings are nothing if not apposite. I think it’s fair to say, though, that even a few short weeks ago nobody would have predicted we’d end up with the semi-final line-up we have.
Dublin would, needless to say, have been on everyone’s list. Their drearily dominant march through the artist formerly known as the Leinster Championship was as uneventful and one-sided as had been expected. That’s ten Leinster titles in a row for them now and the notion that any other county might take that crown off them any time soon is laughable.
Former Westmeath player John Connellan summed up Leinster’s plight in a cri de coeur posted on Twitter (here) following Dublin’s defenestration of Meath the other evening. We’ve seen many of these stats before but they still have the capacity to shock, not just the obvious stuff on funding but also the fact that Dublin’s average winning margin in Leinster finals over the past decade has been 14.25 points.
So, the Dublin juggernaut is in the house and they’re the unbackable favourites to land six All-Ireland titles in a row. Can you see them being beaten this year? In truth, I can’t.
We’re already being touted as the main hopes for giving the Dubs some kind of test before they get their hands on Sam yet again. But we can’t afford to think like that ourselves, as we’ve a tricky challenge to face in the form of Tipperary in the semi-final on Sunday week.
While we may have hoped – rather than expected – to make the final four, the fact we’ve done so is no great surprise. I did wonder in advance of the Connacht Championship if we’d manage to rouse ourselves for battle in the manner we needed to, in the way we’d so manifestly failed to do in the province every year since 2015. Well, we did and we got our reward, even if the margins were extremely tight in the decider at Salthill.
For Tipperary and Cavan, this must be something akin to dreamland. Neither would have been given a prayer of making it out of their respective provinces a few weeks ago and both of them came very close to getting dumped out of the reckoning in their opening matches.
Both needed extra-time and a little rub of the relic to stay in it then. Luck had no part to play last weekend, though, as Cavan and Tipperary produced performances that will live long in the memory for both counties’ supporters.
For Cavan it may have been their 38th Ulster crown but it’s only the second time they’ve won the Anglo-Celt Cup in the last fifty years. It’s also the first time they’ll be contesting an All-Ireland semi-final since 1997.
Tipperary, as we know, made the final four as recently as 2016. That summer they emerged from the qualifiers to ambush an over-confident Galway, fresh from claiming the Nestor Cup, in the quarters before going under by five points to our lads in the penultimate round. This year, though, for the first time since 1935, they’re in the final four as Munster champions.
So here we are then, in an All-Ireland semi-final line-up that’s the same as it was in the 1920 Championship. That competition – which wasn’t played off until 1922 – saw Tipp and Dublin advance to the final, with the Premier County eventually, on 11th June 1922, emerging as champions as they won the 1920 final at Croke Park on a scoreline of 1-6 to 1-2.
It’s still too early this year to be thinking about the final so let’s finish up with a poll on who you reckon will make it to the pre-Christmas decider. In this poll you’ve got two votes so just pick the two counties you think will be battling it out for Turkey and Sam in December.
Who'll advance to this year's All-Ireland decider? Pick your predicted final pairing
- Dublin (45%, 917 Votes)
- Mayo (42%, 855 Votes)
- Tipperary (8%, 166 Votes)
- Cavan (4%, 84 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,033