Not a ounce of dust has gathered on either Liam McCarthy or Sam Maguire in Kilkenny and Dublin respectively and the glorious confines of Montrose (RTE) are calling out the draw for next season’s senior football and hurling championship draws. Hawkeye Sidekick not one to mope about a televised draw and to see the sight of Marty Morrissey on the telly runs the rule over the provincial draws and tries to spot a potential dark horse from the chasing pack.
Munster Senior Hurling Championship
Robert Frost could not contain his delight when the old firm rivals of Tipperary and Cork were drawn in the opening round of the Munster SHC. The game to be played in Thurles as Pairc Ui Chaoimh continues to be off limits due to renovation work has the potential to be one of the games of the year. Both teams under new management, a sense of new beginnings for both sides with the victor gaining serious momentum before meeting Limerick in the semi-final. It is a hard game to call. Will Cork’s physicality and work rate improve to the level required to challenge Tipperary? Will Tipperary be able to find fresh faces to improve the squad? Those questions are a long way off from being answered but it is guaranteed to be a bumper crowd in attendance. Limerick await the winners; it is a tough assignment for the Shannonsiders considering they are coming into the championship cold and their potential opponent building momentum from their opening round tussle. Limerick contrary to the clubs have pulled a masterstroke in appointing Dinny Cahill as hurling skills coach. His resume and ability to improve teams is evident in his role with Portumna, St Thomas winning both provincial and All Ireland honors. His work in Antrim a couple of years ago was praised by seasoned pundits. Cahill will improve Limerick in their first touch and basic fundamentals of the game which were sorely lacking throughout last season. How the Limerick clubs cannot see that Limerick need a senior team skills coach of the caliber of Dinny Cahill is bordering on arrogance? The other side of the draw has Waterford pitted against Clare. An intriguing tie as Clare will be much improved with the decision that dual players will be able to play for the hurling team. Podge Collins will be a huge addition to the squad. Can Waterford build on last season’s success? The second season syndrome will be posed by media of the Deise next season. Derek McGrath will need to evolve his charges into a far more attacking outfit. Their defensive style of play worked a charm in the NHL but when the pitches dried up in the summer, the tactic was blown away by Tipperary and Kilkenny at the business end of the championship. I suspect Waterford with the return of Padraic O’Mahoney to have the edge in the championship. Munster SHC is primed for another stellar season next year. I personally cannot wait.
Munster Senior Football Championship
Let us be frank. When Kerry and Cork were kept apart in the draw tonight, it is a nailed on certainty that both power houses of Munster football will recommence their rivalry in Killarney next July. Kerry and Cork have questions to answer during this off-season. Kerry will look to rebound from a disappointing All Ireland football final performance. Cork yet to announce a new manager albeit Billy Morgan is rumored to be a leading candidate have redemption on their minds. Cork on another day could have upset Kerry in the first Munster Football final but had no response once Kerry gave them a lesson in the replay; work rate, tactical nous were exposed and Cork’s season spiraled out of control culminating in a shocking loss to Kildare. The rest of the chasing pack will be just that; chasing shadows when Cork and Kerry await in the provincial last four fixtures. Tipperary on paper looks like the team that could (and it is a big could) an upset but with the departure of Colin Riordan to the AFL pastures of Sydney Swans, it looks a forlorn hope. Roll on July and El Classico.
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship
My Geography is going to pot. Kerry and Galway are playing in Leinster, tear up the school books and tell the examiner that GAA borders are endless. Kerry enter the Leinster Hurling championship for the first time in the opening pool round and with two home games will fancy their chances of upsetting Carlow, Westmeath and once hurling superpower Offaly. The Offaly fixture should arouse Kerry player motivation as they will face former manager Eamonn Kelly who takes the reins of Offaly next season. Offaly should (provided the commitment is there) top the pool and will be probably joined by Westmeath. Whoever advances from the opening pool will face an arduous task in the quarter finals as Galway and Laois will lie in wait. This draw was a blessing for Galway, managerial chaos at present, they now have time to get their act together and should advance from their side of the draw. The most intriguing fixture is Dublin and Wexford in the quarter final, two teams who massively under performed last season. The fixture hopefully will build momentum for the victor to face the challenge of Kilkenny in the other semi-final. Kilkenny and Galway on paper look primed for another appearance in a final but Wexford and Dublin will hope to upset the odds.
Leinster Senior Football Championship
This will be short and sweet. Meath and Dublin will be physical but that will be the highlight as Dublin will cruise through the province without hitting second gear. Kildare or Westmeath in the other side of the draw will fancy their chances of getting to the final but they will be blown away by Dublin in the final. The point spread odds in the final for Dublin will be ridiculous.
Connacht Senior Football Championship
The lost two counties of Ireland have being found safe and well. London and New York – come on down to the Connacht football party. Roscommon will be happy with the draw. An opening championship fixture in New York will then setup a quarter final appearance against Leitrim which then going with form will setup a rematch with Sligo in the last four. I sense no repeat of the shock produced by Sligo next season. Roscommon with Fergal O’Donnell and Kevin McStay at the helm surely cannot be caught on the hop again. The other side of the draw sees Mayo travel to Ruislip and the challenge of London. London still looking for a new manager and lack of new player talent coming through should mean that Mayo advance to a meeting with neighbours Galway in the semi-final. Will Galway produce a performance to upset Mayo? The gap has reduced but can Kevin Walsh distill enough confidence and tactical nous to his players to beat Mayo. If Mayo were to fall in the provincial championship, the media will have a field day on the players. This looks an interesting championship and Roscommon look the dark horse to win the championship. Mayo’s reluctance is Roscommon’s gain as Kevin McStay will provide invaluable expertise to Roscommon next season.
Ulster Senior Football Championship
Fermanagh were one of the stories of the championship but the draw for next season’s championship spells doom. Fermanagh should beat Antrim who are in free fall but with Donegal in the quarter final, it could mean a swift exit from the championship. The top half of the draw looks the most compelling. Derry, Tyrone, Armagh and Cavan are all competitive. The Derry and Tyrone encounter has physicality written all over it. The bottom half of the draw has Donegal, Monaghan and Down. It is difficult to pick a winner from the pack. This championship is balanced – both sides of the draw have marquee fixtures unlike last year which saw Derry, Donegal, Tyrone and Armagh in the same side of the draw. Ulster football fans will be eagerly awaiting next season already.
Hawkeye Sidekick Predictions – 2016
Munster Senior Football: Kerry
Munster Senior Hurling: Waterford
Leinster Senior Hurling: Kilkenny
Leinster Senior Football: Dublin
Connacht Senior Football: Roscommon (underage promise reaps rewards)
Ulster Senior Football: Donegal (tentative vote)