What a weekend we have in store. The Super 8s are back for a second year as two teams from each province begin their quest over the coming weeks to book a spot in this years All-Ireland semi-finals.
The one slight change to the system in 2019 sees the provincial winners host the opening round of fixtures as opposed to last year when the provincial champions were made to play each other in the opening weekend at Croke Park.
It’s a move that has been widely praised from all corners of the country as it gives weight to winning in one’s province.
Roscommon v Tyrone (Saturday 5 pm live on Sky Sports)
It’s been an epic Championship so far for the Rossies who defeated both Mayo and Galway en route to a third Connacht title this decade.
The win marked their second title in four years following four consecutive finals which is no mean feat. However, Roscommon have consistently failed to deliver at the quarter-final stage. They do look a lot stronger this season, with the re-introduction of the three Daly brothers adding a steeliness to their defence while Conor Cox has lit up the Championship thus far with a couple of scintillating performances.
They’ll get it tough against a Tyrone side who have bounced back well from defeat to Donegal with wins over Longford, Kildare and Cavan. Mickey Harte’s men look to be coming into the game in strong form and will be many people’s favourites to come away with a win.
However, Roscommon will be buoyed by their progress so far under Anthony Cunningham and the vocal home crowd should be worth a couple of points. After three years of poor results at this stage, the stage is set for Roscommon to finally announce themselves as a top-tier side.
Prediction: Roscommon by 1
Dublin v Cork (Saturday 7 pm live on RTÉ)
In a previous life, this would have been the most intriguing game of the weekend, however, given the dominance of Dublin coupled with Cork’s fall from grace, it’s difficult to see anything other than a win for the Sky Blues this weekend.
Let’s not be too harsh on Cork, they had a miserable league campaign but have rallied well to defeat Limerick and Laois sandwiched in between a Munster final defeat to Kerry where the Rebel men ran the Kingdom very, very close.
All in all, it’s brilliant for Gaelic football that Cork are involved in the business end of the Championship, however, such is the strength of Dublin currently, it’s difficult to see anything but a runaway win (yet again) for Jim Gavin’s side.
Prediction: Dublin by 10
Donegal v Meath
The third meeting of these two sides in 2019 following two league meetings including this year’s Division 2 league final. Declan Bonner’s men have come away with two-point wins on both occasions but Sunday’s encounter presents a whole new obstacle in the white heat of Championship.
Meath have had a fantastic season to date gaining promotion to Division 1 as well as reaching the Leinster final. On provincial final day, they let themselves down up front as they kicked 16 wides and were punished for it by a rampant Dublin side in the second half.
Andy McEntee’s side bounced back with victory over Clare and now find themselves in bonus territory. They’ll need to cause an upset this weekend to stand any chance of reaching the semi-final.
Donegal are the form team in the country with the form player in Jamie Brennan and they possess the nation’s finest talent in Michael Murphy meaning it is difficult to see anything other than another Tír Chonaill win in Ballybofey on Sunday.
Prediction: Donegal by 4
Kerry v Mayo
The standout tie of the weekend. In fact, the standout tie of the Championship to date. It’s Kerry versus Mayo at the business end of the Championship so it would be fair to assume that we can expect fireworks.
Mayo have toppled the Kingdom twice this year. They stopped Peter Keane’s side in their tracks in round six of the Allianz League before putting them to the sword once more with three goals in the Division 1 final.
However, Mayo followed that win up with a shock defeat against Roscommon in the Connacht Championship while Kerry collected their seventh straight Munster title.
Many are looking to Kerry’s Munster final performance against Cork as a reason to back against them this weekend, however, they should be all the more prepared for this encounter given that they haven’t been tested provincially for a while now.
Mayo have come through a difficult qualifier run to make the Super 8s but do they have it in them to go all the way? Only time will tell.
A true heavyweight clash awaits.