This short lull between the conclusion of our latest failed provincial campaign and the start of what we hope will be a more productive backdoor run has felt like an eternity.
With the Round 1 matches set to be played this weekend, however, and the Round 2 draw taking place next Monday, with those matches down for decision the weekend after next, this hiatus is, mercifully, coming to and end. It’s not a moment too soon – there’s only so much of this cranky, talking-in-a-vacuum stuff a sane person can put up with.
There are eight pairings in Round 1, which means that us benighted Round 2 qualifier entrants will be drawn against one of these on Monday morning. Here are these pairings:
- Offaly v London
- Leitrim v Wicklow
- Wexford v Derry
- Louth v Antrim
- Monaghan v Fermanagh
- Down v Tipperary
- Westmeath v Waterford
- Carlow v Longford
There are often shock results in the qualifiers but, on form, from the above slate of games, Round 1 should produce the following winners: Offaly, Leitrim, Derry, Louth, Monaghan, Down, Westmeath and Longford. If so, it’s one of them we’ll be paired with on Monday morning.
Monaghan – or, indeed, Fermanagh, should that one provide a surprise result – are obviously the team we want to avoid, and vice versa. Away ties to any Ulster opposition are never easy and so a trip to Celtic Park to face Derry or Páirc Esler to tackle Down wouldn’t be overly appetising either.
Offaly – who gave Meath a right rattle in Leinster and are, according my Faithful County informants, playing with more zip than they have in years – would be an intriguing pick. Not least given the John Maughan connection.
Lookit, we’ll take whoever the fates decide it’s to be. Lord knows, we’re well versed in this qualifier nonsense by now to know we could be sent off in any direction in Monday morning’s draw.
The final list of Round 1 winners should be known by early evening on Sunday. If time permits, I might stick up a poll here on the site then to see who you’d like us to pull in the draw and who you’d prefer us to avoid. The draw itself is on RTÉ Radio One on Monday morning, as part of the Morning Ireland sports bulletin after the 8.30am news headlines.