Thursday night saw the draws take place for the 2018 GAA hurling and football championships.
It may only be October, but it is never too early to look forward to the summer when top-level GAA returns. While we have great club action to get us through the winter followed by the shadow-boxing of the National Leagues, it is the summer that we all live for.
After the draws were made, a number of match-ups stood out immediately.
Here are five of the clashes we are counting down the days and weeks to already:
Connacht SFC quarter-final: Galway v Mayo
Galway prevailed over Mayo last year before shipping a heavy defeat to Roscommon in the Connacht final – a game detailed in the brilliant ‘Behind The Gates’ series. However, the Tribesmen’s big win over Donegal in the qualifiers re-assured the public that the Mayo win was not a one-off performance.
Mayo, suffered their now traditional September heartbreak, as once again they fell oh-so close to the line, but ultimately, Dublin went up the steps of the Hogan Stand. Having not won the Connacht title since 2015, Mayo could do with provincial silverware, if for no other reason than they need to get into the habit of winning finals.
Ulster SFC quarter-final: Tyrone v Monaghan
Two more big guns face-off in the early rounds of the provincial series when the Red Hand County meet the Farney. Two sides who will have series ambitions of reaching the first ever Super 8s, this has all the makings of an Ulster classic.
Defending Ulster champions Tyrone won’t give up their crown without a fight, while Monaghan will feel like 2018 can be a coming of age season for this ever-improving but inconsistent side.
Leinster SFC quarter-final: Louth/Carlow v Kildare
Dublin’s dominance of the Leinster Championship has meant the eastern province is often overlooked. However, Kildare look like the most likely side to end Jim Gavin’s All-Ireland champions run of seven provincial titles in a row and will feel they need to put in a good performance in their opener.
Carlow got plenty of plaudits for a good showing against Dublin last year, so they will look to build a bit of momentum. Louth will play in Division 2 in 2018 and will look to cement their place in the top 16 of the country by winning their first game and possibly causing an upset against the Lilywhites.
Munster SHC round five: Clare v Limerick
1993 was the last time these Shannonside rivals met in the championship in Ennis. Say what you want about the new championship structure, but giving sides like Clare Munster Championship games in Cusack Park is undoubtedly one of the biggest benefits.
Limerick have won two of the last three u-21 All-Ireland Championships and will look need their experienced players to help guide the youngsters into the cut and thrust of championship hurling. Clare have flattered to deceive since winning the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2013.
With this game taking place in the final week of the round robin series, there could be a Munster final or All-Ireland quarter-final spot on the line for the winners.
Leinster SHC round three: Galway v Kilkenny
Galway’s long-awaited first home game in the Leinster Championship takes place in the third round of action in the new provincial structure.
After the Tribesmen travel to Offaly (where, ironically, they have played the majority of their Leinster SHC games) they have a bye in round two before welcoming the Cats to town.
The All-Ireland champions will face Brian Cody’s side, who will have played Dublin and Offaly in rounds one and two.
Should the earlier rounds go to the formbook, the winner of this clash, should be one of the teams competing in the Leinster final.
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man, where we spoke with new Dublin hurling manager Pat Gilroy, as well as Shane Dowling and Paul Kerrigan.