The All-Ireland Football Championship qualifiers commenced last weekend with wins for Derry, Longford, Laois and Sligo. On Saturday, the ‘B’ side of the draw takes place with eight more counties in do-or-die action.
For four counties, it will be a disappointingly short summer, while the winners can get the show back on the road and build a bit of momentum.
Here are out five talking points ahead of the this weekend’s games.
Cavan look to get campaign under-way
As the only Division 1 team in the the first round of the qualifiers, Cavan were the team that everyone wanted to avoid in the draw. A trip to Tullamore awaits Mattie McGleenan’s side with the Faithful looking for an upset.
However, given their limp defeat to Westmeath in the replay last week, Offaly are big underdogs and are staring down the barrel of a short summer.
Armagh’s season could turn into a disaster
After slipping up just short of the line in their quest for promotion back to Division 2, Armagh are now under pressure to beat their Ulster rivals, Fermanagh. Kieran McGeeney’s side were seemingly cruising in the third tier before losing a late lead to Tipperary and missing out on a final spot.
Should their championship end with a first round defeat, there will be questions about this Armagh side and how far they have fallen so far this decade.
Fermanagh could start another qualifier run
Fermanagh are a confidence team. When they get a winning run going, they can be wonderful to watch. With Armagh’s aforementioned struggles in recent games, the Erne County will see this Ulster derby as a real opportunity.
A nine-point defeat to Monaghan isn’t how they would have liked to open their campaign but as no strangers to the scenic route, they will feel they can get back on the horse and start a run of form.
Division 4 teams face off
Wexford travel to the Gaelic Grounds to face Limerick, while Carlow are going to London. Of the quartet, Wexford had the best spring, topping the Division 4 table, while Limerick recovered from a poor start to win a few games in the latter half of the campaign. However, Limerick have had the tag of being a ‘championship team’ and will certainly have no fear of their visitors.
For Carlow, they have to back up their gutsy display against Dublin with a win in the English capital. London will be thrilled with the draw as they feel they can put it up to a lot of counties in their Ruislip home. With these two all-Division 4 match-ups, it gives teams from the bottom rung the chance to get a championship win and perhaps build some momentum coming into July.
Managers under pressure
It’s the question every manager gets asked once his team gets knocked out of the championship: are you going to stay on? It’s unfortunate and it must be a nightmare for bosses, who in their heads would have thought they’d spend the next week planning for the next round but instead are now being asked if they will keep their job – something that’s often out of their hands.
This is particularly prevalent in the early rounds as the losing managers have overseen a poor season in charge – and the public want to know if they will be punished for it.
All-Ireland Football Championship Round 1B (first team names are at home)
Saturday, June 24
Limerick v Wexford at 3pm
Sunday, June 25
London v Carlow at 1pm
Armagh v Fermanagh at 6.30pm
Offaly v Cavan at 6.30pm
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena
While you’re here, listen to our GAA podcast – The 16th Man. On this week’s show, we have all the best reaction from Thulres where Cork beat Waterford in the Munster semi-final, while there is appreciation for the footballers of Kildare and Tyrone who both reached provincial finals at the weekend