Sunday 21 January 2018

Dubs to take show on road as Tipp face tough title defence

Michael Verney

REIGNING Leinster and All-Ireland champions Dublin are likely to be on the road again in the Leinster SFC as they embark on their three-in-row journey against the winners of Carlow and Wexford.

The prize for Turlough O'Brien's Barrowsiders or the currently managerless Model is a daunting one but bringing the Dubs to Netwatch Cullen Park or Wexford Park would be lucrative should it happen.

Jim Gavin's men are chasing seven-in-a-row at provincial level and are on the same side of the draw as Westmeath and Offaly, with Meath and Kildare, in particular, breathing a sigh of relief in the opposite half.

In Connacht, Sligo will make the preliminary-round trip to New York, where Roscommon nearly came unstuck this year, with the winners meeting All-Ireland finalists Mayo.

If Stephen Rochford's side prevail they'll set up a semi-final rematch with Connacht champions Galway, while in Munster, traditional kingpins Kerry and Cork have been kept on opposite sides of the draw.


Eamonn Fitzmaurice's side are likely to renew acquaintances with Clare, who they played twice in this year's championship, while Peadar Healy's Cork, should they negotiate Waterford, get a chance to avenge this year's seismic defeat to Tipperary.

In his 14th season in charge, Mickey Harte's reigning champions Tyrone will open their Ulster SFC campaign against Derry and should they prevail, they are likely to face a rematch of this year's provincial final against Donegal, this time in the semi-finals, should Rory Gallagher's side account for Antrim in the quarter-finals.

Before this year, it was 1966 since any team went from a Munster SHC quarter-final through the front door to claim Liam MacCarthy, but Tipperary will have to do it all again if they want to achieve back-to-back titles.

Should they beat the Rebels, Waterford await in what would be a huge last-four clash with both sides harbouring genuine All-Ireland aspirations, with Derek McGrath's Deise side having contested the last two Munster finals only to fall to the Premier twice.

Elsewhere in Munster, it's a meeting of new managers as John Kiely, successful with the Limerick U-21s in 2015, and Gerry O'Connor/Donal Moloney, All-Ireland U-21 winners with Clare from 2012-14, take charge of their native counties for the first time. It also sees Treaty coach Paul Kinnerk return to face the Banner, with whom he worked alongside Davy Fitzgerald in the 2013 All-Ireland win.

Meanwhile in Leinster, Brian Cody is looking for his 16th provincial title success as Kilkenny manager and the Cats are likely to open their campaign with a juicy semi-final tie against Fitzgerald's Wexford side, if they can negotiate the winners/runners-up of the round-robin series.

Galway and Dublin meet in an intriguing quarter-final, with the winners fancied to defeat the managerless Offaly or the round-robin first/second.

Interestingly, steps have been taken to ensure that last year's anomaly doesn't occur again, with the round-robin top two seedings now set to be decided upon its completion.

Irish Independent

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