Okay, then, it’s Monday morning and it’s all starting to sink in. Our Connacht crown is gone and with it our safety net in this year’s championship. One more slip-up, one more ghastly display like the one we gave on Saturday night, and the curtain comes down on us for this year. It really is one game at a time territory for us now.
So, from a logistical point of view, what does this mean? Well, we’re on the B side of the qualifier draw and, as a losing provincial semi-finalist, we enter the qualifiers in Round 2. The draw for the Round 2B ties takes place this day week, live on RTE’s Morning Ireland programme just after 8.30AM.
The Round 1B fixtures are on this coming weekend. They comprise Offaly v London, Antrim v Limerick, Down v Longford, Wexford v Fermanagh. The winners of these matches will then be paired with the losing provincial semi-finalists in next week’s draw. As well as ourselves, that particular cohort includes Cork, Westmeath/Kildare and Donegal/Monaghan. Those latter two provincial semi-finals are, by the way, down for decision this coming weekend as well.
In next Monday’s draw, the Round 1B winners are in one bowl and the losing provincial semi-finalists are in the other so we can’t be paired in Round 2 against, for example, Cork. Round 3, however, pairs the 2B winners against each other so if we make it through Round 2 (keeping that one game at a time dictum firmly in mind) then we could get them or maybe Monaghan or Westmeath at that stage.
The Round 2B ties are scheduled for 9th July so it’ll definitely be another Saturday game which will be fixed for the afternoon or evening that day. Precise details will be confirmed once the draw takes place next Monday.
If we get over that hurdle – and we’ll need to be a hell of a lot more switched on then than we were on Saturday night to ensure this happens – Round 3B is fixed for the following Saturday, 16th July. From a personal point of view I have to say my heart sank when I saw this as that’s also the date of the Westportif cycle. If we’re still standing after Round 2B I’m all spun out of that one (the cycle, I mean).
Venturing further forward (with increasing trepidation, given that 9th July really is the only firm diary date we now have) Round 4B is fixed for the August Bank Holiday weekend. If we’re still standing then we could be playing the Saturday, Sunday or Monday of that weekend. Which, lapsing back to my cycling (not a topic that concerns most of you, I know, but is one close to my heart), may or may not leave me free to tackle the Giro de Baile. Here’s hoping … on all fronts.
If we’re still in the mix at that stage, Round 4B pits the 3B winners against either the beaten provincial finalists in Leinster or Ulster. So, that’s a choice between a county that has just been disembowelled by the Dubs or a battle-hardened outfit that has come off second best from a fist-fight up North.
Thereafter, the Round 4B winners go forward to meet either the Leinster or Ulster champions in the All-Ireland quarter-finals. These matches are fixed for 6th August.
What happens after that – and, I know, we’re now firmly into the territory of wild speculation – depends on who draws whom at the quarter-final stage. Say we draw the Ulster champions and beat them, then we become the “Ulster” representative in the semi-final and so would play the Connacht champions (or whoever beats them in the quarters, should that happen). In that case, we play the semi-final on 21st August whereas if we get drawn against the Leinster champs (I know!) and beat them (I know! I know!) then our semi-final would be 28th August.
So that’s the obstacle-strewn path now facing us as we – as An Spailpín Fánach put it so well this morning – seek to put the Green and Red Humpty Dumpty back together again in this year’s championship. It’s a path we can only take one hurdle at a time.