The Super 8s officially get underway this evening in Dr Hyde Park when Tyrone travel to take on Roscommon. Focus then turns to Croke Park where Dublin welcome a renewed Cork side to HQ.
Ballybofey hosts the meeting of Donegal and Meath tomorrow before the opening weekend finishes off a glamour tie in Killarney as Kerry host Mayo.
There are sure to be plenty of twists and turns over the coming four weeks. Here are our key talking points heading into the opening weekend.
How Good Are Mayo?
It feels eerily similar to so many of Mayo’s All-Ireland runs in the past. Crash out in Connacht before stumbling through the qualifiers, counting their lucky stars that they’ve made the last eight.
So often in the past what follows is Mayo find a new lease of life from the quarter-final on before reaching the decider and losing to Dublin by a point.
Is that going to be the case this year though? There seem to be two schools of thoughts.
No. 1) Mayo are back and better than ever with their big game players ready for one final push.
No. 2) This Mayo side are past their sell-by date and haven’t produced the required talent capable of sustaining their perennial contender status.
One thing is clear, we will know a lot more come Sunday evening. Mayo may have already beaten Kerry twice this year but the Kingdom haven’t lost a Championship match in Killarney since 1995. Expect plenty of fireworks.
Can Roscommon Step Up?
Roscommon are back in the final eight for the third straight year. However, their recent record at this stage is nothing short of abysmal. A 22-point defeat to Mayo in 2017 was followed up with a -39 scoring difference in last years inaugural Super 8s.
They will be desperate not to repeat these failings in 2019.
The early signs say that Roscommon are all the better for their recent quarter-final drubbings. They’ve been uber impressive in the Championship dispatching of both Mayo and Galway and have added real steel to their defence.
Conor Cox is one of the form players in the country right now and has the ability to shoot the lights out every time he steps onto a pitch.
Tyrone await this evening and they’ll find it tough coming up against Roscommon at home in front of a packed out Dr Hyde Park. This is the Rossies moment. They need to step up.
Are Cork A Threat?
In order to beat Dublin, you must get goals. It’s imperative. Kildare had four gilt-edged chances in the Leinster semi-final but failed to convert any. They wound of losing by 15 points.
It’s very premature to say that Cork are back considering they only beat Limerick and Laois in this year’s Championship. The narrative around their return probably has more to do with the fact they ran Kerry to just three points in Munster.
However, the one area where Cork have excelled this season is in front of goals. They’ve scored nine goals in three Championship games. Brian Hurley and Mark Collins have been in sparkling form and Ruairi Deane is causing problems wherever he goes.
Dublin’s one true weakness is seen as their full-back line. Can Cork exploit that this evening in Croke Park? Ony time will tell.
Who Starts For Dublin?
Dublin have become so dominant that their biggest threat seems to be themselves. With the added incentive this year being the chance to play in a five-in-a-row winning team the competition for places among Jim Gavin’s roster must be fierce.
Gavin has named his starting Xv for tonight’s encounter with Cork but don’t be surprised to see at least two changes.
Dean Rock came in the last day for 20 minutes and nearly walked away with the man of the match award, it was as clear a sign as ever that Dublin’s biggest threat continues to be one another.
Who will get their opportunity tonight? Who will take it?
The talk around town is that Donegal at present look like the only side capable of defeating Dublin. It’s not a completely outlandish prediction by the way. They are the form team in Ireland while Dublin have failed to ignite (despite multiple double-digit wins). Jamie Brennan has kicked 2-11 from play and Paddy McBrearty is sure to catch fire at some point.
Least we forget the Michael Murphy factor.
It’s hard to see them losing tomorrow at home to Meath but with Kerry and Mayo waiting in the wings, we’re finally going to get to see where this Donegal side are truly at.