Monday 26 September 2016

Usual suspects to rule roost as race for Sam gets more and more predictable

Published 02/11/2015 | 02:30

There has been a levelling downward in Ulster in the past few years so there could be an opening for a different county to win the Anglo Celt Cup next year, like Conor McManus (left) did for Monaghan this year
There has been a levelling downward in Ulster in the past few years so there could be an opening for a different county to win the Anglo Celt Cup next year, like Conor McManus (left) did for Monaghan this year

Regardless of what discussion may take place about changes in Gaelic football structures in the near future, there is little doubt that as regards winning the Sam Maguire Cup, very little will change in the short term.

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Indeed, so predictable has the All-Ireland race become that one can almost forecast the closing stages of the competition next September already.

The draw for the semi-finals next year is Munster v Leinster and Ulster v Connacht. So barring miracles we can state now that Dublin will play either Kerry or Cork in one semi-final and Mayo will play the Ulster champions in the other one.

The only unpredictable part of this scenario is who will win the Ulster title, with most people expecting Tyrone to do so, but bearing in mind the recent tradition in that province, making any county favourite is hazardous.

For instance Tyrone have to play Derry in the first round in Ulster and even that game is a toss-up.

But there has been a levelling downward in Ulster in the past few years since the likes of Tyrone and Donegal stopped winning All-Irelands. Donegal will probably struggle to reach the heights of their 2012 final success, so there could be an opening for a different county to win the Anglo Celt Cup next year, like Conor McManus did for Monaghan this year.

However, at the end of the day it is hard to see anyone other than Dublin, Kerry, Cork or Mayo winning the Sam Maguire Cup in 2016, and I am even being a bit charitable by including some of these four in the list.

The GAA public is crying out for more counties to be competitive in August and September, but don't hold your breath as far as 2016 is concerned.

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