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Dubs and Lilies on summer collision course

NEW Dublin boss Jim Gavin won't be making any such wild presumptions, but already the stage looks set for a Leinster SFC semi-final showdown with arch-rivals Kildare next summer.

Gavin's championship baptism will come against the winners of the clash between Westmeath (hoping to build on their defiant qualifier display against Kerry) and a Carlow team now managed by Anthony Rainbow.

For Rainbow's home county, Kildare, it's a case of deja vu all over again - as with last June, they face a quarter-final opener against Offaly.

The Faithful were pummelled by 13 points then, but the newly appointed Emmet McDonnell may spy a morsel of hope in the Lilies' subsequent dramatic downturn in form.

Still, in all likelihood we'll have an early summer chance to see Gavin pitting his wits against a county (Kildare) and manager (Kieran McGeeney) desperate to prove they can also take down a heavyweight contender.

On the other side of the draw, Meath's manager-elect Mick O'Dowd faces a tricky opener against Longford or Wicklow. Survive that, however, and the Royals will be favourites to reach a second consecutive Leinster final.

Elsewhere, the standout draw already has the Ulster Council bean-counters salivating at the latest instalment of Donegal/Tyrone.

For the first time in three years, the newly crowned All-Ireland champions have avoided the preliminary round - but the alternative is arguably tougher still, as they'll need to peak early against Tyrone.

Donegal have vanquished the Red Hands in consecutive Ulster semi-finals, but Mickey Harte will doubtless back himself to buck that trend - especially if he can avoid any more crippling forward injuries.

Unlike last summer, beaten All-Ireland finalists Mayo have received Connacht's equivalent of the draw from hell - an opener against arch-rivals Galway, the winners to face Roscommon, with Sligo sitting pretty (we think!) on the opposite side.

In hurling, if Anthony Daly is to finally conquer Leinster at the fifth time of asking, the Dublin manager must do it the hard way. A quarter-final opener against Wexford is probably the ideal test - far better than this year's Laois non-event - but if he comes through that then Kilkenny (barring an Offaly miracle) await.

As provincial holders, Galway now receive Kilkenny's usual prize of a bye to the semi-finals. But a completely lopsided draw ensures they must only beat one minnow to reach the final - hardly ideal preparation is their opponents happen to be you-know-who.


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