The Connacht Football Championship throws-in next weekend meaning it is time to start thinking about who will lift the Sam Maguire Cup later this year.
Obviously, Dublin are favourites to claim the coveted ‘five-in-a-row’ and we are yet to see much that will prove us otherwise. Granted, they had a relatively quiet Football League campaign by their standards but we are all well aware of their capabilities.
As things stand, Mayo and Kerry are probably their biggest challengers. James Horan side claimed their first national silverware in 18 years in Croke Park last month and they did so without the likes of Cillian O’Connor, Seamie O’Shea and Tom Parsons. The attitude of the players following the Football League final suggested that they are not content to stop there, they want to reclaim their Connacht title and push on. Of course, to do so they’ll have to overcome Galway who have been their Achilles heel over the past number of seasons.
Kerry, meanwhile, had a very positive league campaign, their first under Peter Keane, losing only to Mayo. This young side is brimming with talent with Sean O’Shea probably being the most in-form footballer in the country at the moment. Their lethal forwards were well manned by Mayo in the final but they will have learned from that experience. It’s hard not to see them winning yet another Munster crown given that both Tipperary and Cork were relegated to Division 3 of the Football League while Clare just about clung on to their Division 2 status.
Ulster, once again, is primed to be the most interesting and competitive provincial championships. Monaghan will be disappointed with a lot of their league showings but you would expect them to be a different animal come championship. Donegal secured the Division 2 Football League title with relative ease though for large portions of that campaign, it looked as though last year’s Ulster finalists, Fermanagh, would be the team to contest the final.
Donegal fans will be looking forward to seeing Paddy McBrearty back in championship action as his cruciate ligament injury in the Ulster final was a major hindrance to their season. That’s not even to mention last year’s All Ireland football finalists, Tyrone, who recovered well from a poor league start and have introduced some fresh blood into their panel this year.
Regardless of the outcome, the winner of this year’s football championship will make history. There appear to be glimmers of renewed optimism around the sport as we head into a new season off the back of a very competitive league campaign.
With all that in mind, we are asking you to make your early prediction of the team who will lift the Sam Maguire Cup this year by voting in the poll below. You can choose your All Ireland hurling winner by clicking here.