Mayo's first round qualifier opponents will be known after the draw on Radio One next Monday morning. We will all be eagerly tuned in to see who Mayo get drawn against as there are teams in there that could easily send us packing out of the championship for 2022.
We would prefer not to be drawn against any of the Ulster contingent - all of whom are serious operators on their day, all playing in division one - as they would love nothing more than a Mayo scalp to ignite their season.
The other four teams are all very beatable and would be considered the more appealing to be pitted against. If I was to rank the teams in order of who we would be better to avoid, it would look something like this 1. Tyrone 2. Monaghan 3. Armagh 4. Cork 5. Meath 6. Clare 7. Louth.
Home advantage could be key but the last thing you'd want is an away trip to any of the Ulster teams. Should Mayo navigate that first hurdle the round two qualifier will be against any one of the following: Kildare, Limerick (presuming they lose their Provincial finals which they will ), Galway or Roscommon, Donegal or Derry ie the losers of the Connacht or Ulster finals which are both fifty fifty games.
The football Gods could look kindly on Mayo and give us home draws against Louth in round 1 and then Limerick in Round 2 but things don't always turn out that simple and the draw could easily be a lot tougher than we might hope. Worst case scenario would be an away trip to All-Ireland champions Tyrone in round 1 and if we somehow managed to win that one, an away trip to either Donegal or Derry in round 2 - now there's a nightmare scenario.
There hasn't been a murmur coming from the Mayo camp since the defeat to Galway on the 24th of April and yet again, we are relying on loose information regarding the fitness and welfare of several players, some of whom were deemed unfit to take to the field against Galway, and others who we hear have picked up knocks in training since. It will probably be two days out from that first round qualifier when the team is announced before we get a picture of who has recovered fully, as rumours are circulating now that Ryan o Donohue and James Carr have both picked up knocks.
The draw for the first ever Tailteann cup took place last Monday morning live on air on round one and was very underwhelming, to say the least. The fact that the first two teams out of the bowl, Wexford, and John Maughan's Offaly, had already played each other in this year's championship, didn't help matters from a novelty perspective.
GAA president Larry Murphy did his utmost to big the competition up with gusto and enthusiasm on the radio when he said the competition was going to “take off like a meteorite”. A witty punter on social media replied to Larry’s comment with “does Larry not realise that meteorites actually crash and burn”.
The jury is well and truly out on this second tier All-Ireland championship. It will be interesting to see how it is embraced by players and supporters alike starting this weekend. Down forward Barry O'Hagan who criticised the competition in the immediate aftermath of his team's heavy loss to Monaghan, has made a full Uturn, promoting it and he even turned up at the launch in Croke Park last Monday afternoon.
The draw was split into a northern and southern divide to apparently make it financially viable from a logistics perspective for both supporters and county boards. Cavan seem to be the early favourites after putting Donegal to the pin of their collar in the Ulster semi final.
I'm not sure how Cavan supporters will embrace this competition as they will feel it's the big boys they should be competing against. Although the league tables don't lie and all teams were aware that their standing in the league for 2023 will determine their championship fate, it's only 18 months since Cavan were crowned the Ulster champions and they surely will feel little in the line of respect for the Tailteann cup. We shall wait and see how this pans out. I'll be in Aughrim this Saturday afternoon for the very first Tailteann cup game between Wicklow and Waterford.
Three of the four football games played last weekend went as planned; however the Ulster semi final caused quite a few to sit up and take notice of Derry after they dispatched a well-fancied Monaghan on a scoreline of 3-12 to 0-17.
Derry have certainly been the team of the championship so far, beating All-Ireland champions Tyrone and now Monaghan on route to the Ulster final where they will face off against Donegal. Meath were desperately disappointing again against Dublin who cruised to victory in the Leinster semi final, winning by 1-27 to 1-14.
Dublin were up by 15 points at half time. How frustrating must that be for Meath supporters when their team is clearly not closing the gap on Dublin? I fully expected Kildare to beat Westmeath by more than the three points they did but maybe it's an ideal result for the Lillywhites as no one will be expecting anything from them in the Leinster final against the Dubs.