There’s been a bit of debate since Sunday about who we’re likely to face next in the championship so it’s worthwhile clearing this one up. The sense of confusion around this wasn’t helped by this article yesterday on the RTÉ website, which claimed that we’ll definitely be paired against the winners of the Cork/Sligo clash. While this is, indeed, the most likely outcome following the completion of the Round 4A qualifier ties on Saturday week, it’s not the only one.
The sole constraint that applies in the pairings at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage is that counties who have already met in the championship cannot do so again at this stage. This rules out Kerry/Cork and Mayo/Galway rematches (though, of course, either of these could occur at the semis). But the revised championship structure doesn’t – as that RTÉ report incorrectly states – take the form of Connacht Champions vs. Munster finalist or qualifier and Munster Champions vs. Connacht finalist or qualifier. Instead it’s Connacht (and Munster) Champions vs. Round 4A Winner, as the GAA’s own fixtures and results wallchart shows (pdf here).
In theory, then, we could get paired with Cork, Sligo or Tipperary on the August Bank Holiday weekend and, similarly, Kerry could draw Galway, Sligo or Tipp. Because of the constraint that applies, though, both Cork and Galway would have to lose on Saturday in order to trigger an open draw for the quarters – if Galway win, then the winners of Cork/Sligo have to play us and vice versa in the case of who gets paired with Kerry.
Which brings us neatly to the match odds for the Round 4A ties, with Paddy Power pricing the Rebels at 1/20 to beat the Magpies, while the Tribesmen are only narrow 10/11 favourites to get by the Premier County. From our perspective, it’s those 1/20 odds that are most relevant, which means that it’s literally odds-on that we will indeed get to resume our often tetchy relationship with the Donkey Ayters at HQ two weekends from now. If this is the case, it’ll be our first championship meeting with them since we dumped the then defending All-Ireland champions out of the race at the same stage of the championship back in 2011, thanks in no small measure – on a day of enormous collective effort – to this piece of individual magic: