Another weekend of championship action and this time it’s happening everywhere except Connacht. It’s better that way, I suppose, as it saves us having to watch the latest bloody instalment of the slow march towards what is now the inevitable Herrin’ Choker v Sheep Stealer Connacht final. All in good time we’ll have that one to savour.
The first bit of the weekend’s action took place this evening in Tullamore with the meeting of Laois and Longford in the Leinster championship, a match that was carried live on RTE. It was a good contest too, with underdogs Longford giving Laois a right good scare before the Moore county men started to let rip in the rain-filled second half. A succession of good points from play killed off Longford’s challenge and so Luke Dempsey’s lads now join ourselves and the rest of the poor sods in the qualifiers.
Tomorrow, meanwhile, there’s championship action to enjoy from Ulster, Munster and Leinster. Down south, Waterford will get to have their annihilation at the hands of defending All-Ireland champions Kerry shown live across the country. Well, we had that honour in 2004 and again in 2006 so it’s good to see the experience being shared around a bit. Away from the cameras, meanwhile, Cork are certain to follow up the hammering they gave Limerick with an equally severe dose of the same for Tipperary. Cork for Sam: you heard it here first.
Up in Ulster, Derry (still minus Paddy Bradley, though he’s no longer suspended) should get past Antrim without too much bother. Indeed, with Bradley back in their ranks and a nice easy draw, Derry look a good bet to reach the Ulster final this time out.
All eyes, however, will be on Croker tomorrow for the first full house of the Summer, where Wicklow square up to Louth for the third Sunday running and where, a little later, de Dubs take on old rivals Meath. It’s hard to know how the curtain raiser will go: Micko does certainly seem to have worked some magic on Wicklow but it’s got to end somewhere and it could do so tomorrow.
The only certainty is that it’ll all be over before most of the 60,000 fair weather Dubs supporters have started to make their way towards HQ. But will the throw-in take place promptly at 4pm as the GAA insist it will? We shall see.
As regards the action, de Dubs start the campaign convinced, of course, that this year they’re going to win the All-Ireland. Once again, their arrival onto the championship stage has been accompanied by acres of newsprint, details of or links to which I’ll not bore you with, dear reader, as you’ll undoubtedly have waded through them already.
Meath, meanwhile, take the field with their first serious team since 2001 and, with that slightly unexpected win over Kildare a few weeks back already under their belts, Colm Coyle’s charges won’t be lacking in confidence, especially when they see all that blue all around them when they run out onto the pitch. However, de Dubs (even with the Pillock, God love him, calling the shots) should prevail, not least because Meath’s best forward, Brian Farrell, is suspended due to the straight red he picked up the last day. Which is all for the best, because the GAA needs the Dubs . . . that’s the line isn’t it? And despite this need, last year we only went and did this to them – how could we?