UnTitled GAA Newsletter

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This weekend we learned the identities of the four remaining teams that will make up the Super 8’s round-robin series, starting next Saturday. The line-up is as follows:

Group 1: Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Monaghan
Group 2: Donegal, Dublin, Tyrone, Roscommon

All eight of these teams were either in Division One this year, or will be next year. Bar the absence of Mayo, this is just about the strongest eight teams in the country at present and a fascinating series of games awaits. On all known form, the four provincial winners should make it through to the semi-finals, but you just know there is going to be a fall-guy (or two) somewhere!

Donegal look like the side that could potentially trip up. In any four-team round-robin, in any sport (as we should know from the World Cup), group dynamics play a huge part. To that end, Declan Bonner’s team facing Dublin first is possibly the worst outcome for them. In previous years, a team like Dublin may well have been caught cold at this stage in the championship, but there are three primary reasons – besides them being the greatest footballing team of a generation – why the Dubs are unlikely to be caught on the hop in their opening game:

  1. The compact nature of this year’s championship means Jim Gavin’s side won’t face a long break between competitive games. (Okay, okay… the Leinster SFC is not exactly “competitive”, but Dublin were at a pretty high level throughout.)
  2. The furor surrounding the venue for the game against Donegal will surely keep Dublin heads focused on that particular fixture. Privately, they will have been smarting from the movement to take this game away from Croke Park, and they will likely have built a siege mentality of their own.
  3. Paddy McBrearty’s cruciate injury is a huge blow to the Tír Chonáill side. Not only does it deprive them of a solid scoring output, but it removes the one x-factor they had in their forward line, that would have occupied Dublin bodies and minds.

Taking all of the above into consideration, there’s a strong chance Donegal will face into the second round of games sitting bottom of the table. Suddenly the pressure is on. Then they must travel to Roscommon, which would be a very awkward tie, under the circumstances. The fixtures have not worked out well for Donegal.

Meanwhile, the winners of the Tyrone/Roscommon match will be the beneficiaries. If the Red Hands come out on top – as the bookies currently expect – then all the pressure comes off Tyrone and one more win would probably see them through.

A similar fate awaits Galway, if they lose to Kerry in Croke Park next Sunday. They’ll be on the brink after just one game, before travelling to Newbridge to face “Resurgent Kildare”. It’s not beyond the realms of possibilty that as many as two provincial champions will go into the final round of games on both zero points and without having played a Super 8 game at their home venue.

Like I say, it’s all going to be fascinating: intercounty Gaelic football teams are not used to this type of short-term dynamic in a championship traditionally centred on the concept of survive and advance. The order of the fixtures actually places the provincial winners at a major disadvantage: they play each other first, then they play an away fixture. Maybe that’s another item the GAA can add to their list of refinements for 2019.

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