Luck of the draw brings Monaghan to Mayo

See you in Castlebar: Mayo's Padraig O'Hora and Monaghan's Jack Macarron will be tangling again next week in Hastings Insurance MacHale Park in the qualifiers. Photo: Sportsfile.

See you in Castlebar: Mayo's Padraig O'Hora and Monaghan's Jack Macarron will be tangling again next week in Hastings Insurance MacHale Park in the qualifiers. Photo: Sportsfile.

It's probably not the worst draw in the world, but it could have been a little more straightforward as Mayo were pulled out of the bowl first in the live draw on Radio One last Monday morning, followed closely by our first round qualifier opponents, Monaghan.

I ranked the teams in order of difficulty last week and Monaghan were of course number two behind All-Ireland champions Tyrone. The only solace we can take from the outcome is that at least we will have home advantage, which, in turn will mean a huge home support for the clash.

It's hard to get your head around that this will be the first ever championship encounter between the two counties. When you factor in all the back door qualifier games and even some quarter finals both teams have played down the years - and that both teams are very much part of the heavy hitters group of championship football - makes it even more difficult to comprehend.

Despite playing each other umpteen times in the league, this will be the first time their paths collide in the championship. I expected there would be at least one big clash from last Monday's draw but you couldn't have made it up as all four division one teams were drawn against each other as Armagh received home advantage against All Ireland champions Tyrone in another mouth-watering clash.

We knew there would be little margin for error with this draw as all the division three and four teams that lost in their Provincial championships entered the Tailteann cup but it could have been kinder for all four division one teams. I can only imagine that Louth and Clare were the preferred choices for any of the other teams in the draw, although Meath and Cork haven't exactly scared the life out of anyone of late and would have been a lot more preferable than Monaghan.

I'm solely basing that opinion on the traditions in the Rebel and Royal counties. The bottom line is that there are going to be two “big hitters” gone from the championship by June 5.

After last weekend's overload of hurling this coming weekend it's football's turn with an absolute feast for us to enjoy. To my knowledge, it's the first time all four Provincial deciders are to be played on the same weekend.

What makes it even more exciting and appealing for the neutral watching on is there has to be a winner on the day in all four finals which may take extra time and penalties.

I don't expect any such scenario in Munster and Leinster where we can presume Kerry will despatch Limerick with consummate ease and although it may not be as straightforward, Dublin will still beat Kildare by 10 points if they so desire.

Kerry are priced at 1/100 to defeat Limerick while the Dubs are priced at a very modest 1/7 to defeat the Lillywhites. Those odds would suggest the price makers feel the gap is closing in on the Dubs in Leinster but they won't lose and are going for their 12th Leinster title in a row.

However the Ulster and Connacht finals are not so easy to call and could both go to the wire. Two months ago, Donegal would have snapped your hand off if you told them they would be facing Derry in an Ulster final and Tyrone and Monaghan - from the other side of the draw - were out of the picture.

The bookmakers have Donegal as slight favourites probably on the back of their experience at this stage of the competition. This is their 10 Ulster final in 12 years which is serious going. However they looked flat against Cavan in the semi final and I think Derry have a great chance of upsetting the odds. Donegal are 4/5 while Derry are 11/8.

Bizarrely, Galway are 1/2 favourites against Roscommon in our Connaught showpiece, the Rossies are priced at 2/1 which is serious value considering they turned the Tribesmen over twice in the last two games that they played against each other. I wouldn't be one bit surprised if this game went the distance. Roscommon have no fear of Galway and love going to Salthill while Galway are under pressure to deliver some much-needed silverware.

Galway have lost the last three Connaught finals, in 2020 and 2021 against Mayo and in 2019 against the Rossies in Salthill. The significance of all these games is of huge importance to Mayo.

If Mayo navigate the very tricky round one qualifier against Monaghan, they will be playing against one of the Provincial final losers for a place in the All-Ireland quarter final. The first round proper of the Tailteann cup is also taking place which means a total overload of football. Better get the popcorn in.


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