Editor's note: Cork worthy favourites as full-blooded battle for Sam gets under way
IT'S Championship time again and the quest for glory will be uppermost in the minds of players, managers and supporters in the weeks ahead.
The race for Sam Maguire begins in earnest and that means wherever you go, there will be no shortage of predictions.
It's always hard to go against the favourites, but shocks can happen at any stage of the championship. Just cast your mind back to last year when Kerry and Tyrone were stunned by Down and Dublin within hours of each other in the quarter-finals on the last Saturday of July in Croke Park.
So, All-Ireland champions Cork won't be taking Clare for granted on May 22. Many have been slow to praise the Rebels, but they have the best squad in the land, showed immense composure to retain their League crown and are worthy favourites to retain Sam Maguire.
Old rivals Kerry have much to prove. Despite being the only team to beat Cork last summer, they folded badly against Down and failed to set the world alight in the League.
Up north, while Tyrone have been installed favourites to retain the Anglo-Celt Cup, there's no shortage of challengers. Down are full of vigour following last summer's exploits, Donegal had a great League, and enigmatic Derry can never be overlooked.
Having failed to reach the Connacht final last summer, Mayo and Galway will be keen to set the record straight.
In Leinster, the focus will once more be on Dublin as Pat Gilroy's men bid to put the disappointment of their League final loss behind them. Meath have been slow to find their stride under Seamus McEnaney. Louth will be out to make amends for last year's heartbreaking final loss to the Royals, Kildare are sure to be in the mix, while Laois and Westmeath are dark horses.
It's always difficult to predict what's going to happen, but there is one thing you can rely upon, and that is getting the best and most comprehensive coverage of this season's GAA championships from the Irish Independent.
Our award-winning team of reporters and commentators is committed to keeping you abreast of all that is happening on and off the field of play.
Martin Breheny, Colm Keys, Vincent Hogan, Cliona Foley, Liam Kelly, Donnchadh Boyle and Ruaidhri O'Connor will bring you the stories behind the headlines, while columnists Eugene McGee and Keith Barr will tap into their All-Ireland experience to analyse the unfolding events, Christy O'Connor will give you the dressing-room insight and Billy Keane will be on hand to give his unique perspective.
In this GAA magazine, we give you a flavour of what is to come -- including interviews with some of the country's top players and managers, as well as in-depth previews of the exciting action that lies ahead. We hope you enjoy the games as we bring you every step of the way.
Executive Editor, Sport,