After a weekend which saw Cork surprisingly beaten by Kildare, here we rank the ten remaining teams in this year’s All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.
The pinnacle of Sligo’s summer had to be when they shocked the country and knocked out Roscommon to set up a Connacht final against Mayo. It’s shocks like those that make the provincial championship special.
Unfortunately for Sligo, they were destroyed by Mayo. On that day we learned that Sligo aren’t at the same level as the top teams yet, and although they have made great strides this year, they will ultimately struggle against the men from Tyrone in their qualifier bout this weekend.
Pete McGrath has done a magnificent job since joining Fermanagh, completely turning their fortunes around. They have shown what makes the qualifier system such a great idea.
Fermanagh have achieved some great results this summer, including that epic comeback against Roscommon. They face the daunting prospect of facing the Dubs in the quarter final. Although Pete McGrath’s men are well set up and will fear nobody, Dublin should be a bridge too far for the Erne men.
2015 has been quite a funny year if you’re a Kildare fan. First the relegation to Division 3, then the hammering from Dublin, which would have had most Kildare fans becoming disillusioned with their senior team.
However, following an impressive performance against Longford, Jason Ryan’s men claimed their greatest scalp in years last weekend against Cork. Kildare certainly have the potential to give Kerry a good game in the quarter-final, but this writer expects the Kingdom to have too much for them.
Kevin Walsh’s men have made great strides this year and it’s great to see Galway football on the way up again. They gave a very impressive performance against Mayo and had a massive result against Derry the other week. Their qualifier against Donegal has the potential to be a cracker. It should be a close one but one would have to tip Donegal and expect Galway to bravely bow out this weekend.
Since narrowly losing to Donegal in their first game this summer, Tyrone have been quietly going about their business in the qualifiers, dispatching of Offaly, Meath and Tipperary. They impressed everyone the other week when they comprehensively beat a decent Tipperary side.
One would expect them to easily beat Sligo this weekend and march on to a quarter-final against what should be Monaghan (provided Donegal beat Galway).
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Donegal started the championship in an impressive fashion, beating Tyrone and Armagh. However in their games against Derry and Monaghan they seemed quite flat compared to the usual Donegal. The positive for Donegal to take away is that even though they played poorly against Monaghan, they still only lost by a single point.
So, if Rory Gallagher can get the Donegal boys back to their best, they have the potential to win an All-Ireland. Their game against Galway will tell a lot, but one would expect them to progress and set up a quarter-final clash with Mayo.
Monaghan have been superb to date this year, fully deserving the title of Ulster Champions. Their next major test will be to get that elusive ‘big scalp’ in Croke Park. It’s been a long time since Monaghan have delivered the goods in Croker.
Will Conor McManus & co. be able to achieve that when they potentially clash with Tyrone in the quarter-final? This writer believes so, and maybe after that they can begin to plan for an even bigger scalp.
The obliteration of Sligo on their way to a fifth successive Connacht title didn’t really teach Mayo or Sligo anything, so Mayo will be eager to get a real test in their quarter-final to prove what they are really made of.
As it stands, it looks like Donegal could be this test. The winners of that game will more than likely go on to face Dublin in a semi-final. This is certainly the tougher side of the draw. Can Mayo go on to win Sam for the first time since 1951? Their quarter-final will tell us a lot.
Not much needs to be said about Dublin, everybody knows that they are a phenomonal team. The stength and depth in their squad is scarily good. They cantered through Leinster without being truly tested, and with no disrespcect to Fermanagh, they probably won’t be ran that close by Pete McGrath’s men in the quarter-final either.
The fact that they will play a semi-final against Mayo or Donegal without really being tested in this year’s championship could prove to be the downfall of Dublin.
Kerry surprised many by winning Sam for the first time in years last year. The difference between them and the other sides this year is that they have played in two big games against Cork already and have gotten by them. This will stand to the Kingdom in the latter stages.
The draw is in their favour this year, meeting Kildare in a quarter, and potentially one of Monaghan, Tyrone or Galway in a semi.
They should have too much quality for all the teams mentioned above. One would expect Kerry to progress to the All-Ireland final on the third Sunday in September, and once they get there they will be very hard to beat.
Killian Healy, Pundit Arena