Summer of Sam: Focus turns to All-Ireland race

GAA news

Cavan’s one-point loss to Tyrone in the Ulster SFC quarter-final on Saturday brings their involvement in the Ulster Championship to a close and means they will have a month to rest up before the start of the All-Ireland Championship proper.

After two seasons in which they were diverted to the Tailteann Cup after exiting Ulster, Cavan’s place in the Sam Maguire has been secured by virtue of finishing third in Division 2 of the league and results in the four provinces having fallen their way.

Cavan will go into the draw as fourth seeds, meaning their next match, the first round of the Sam Maguire group stage, will be away from home against a second seed, which will be one of the four provincial runners-up.

If Cavan draw the Connacht or Munster runners-up, that game would be at an away venue on the weekend of May 18/19. If the beaten finalists in Leinster or Ulster provide the opposition, that game would take place on the weekend of May 25/26.

In round 2, Cavan will be at home to a provincial champion, which raises the prospect of Kerry or Dublin coming to Kingspan Breffni in what would be a novel tie against the two leading counties of recent years and, indeed, historically.

Kerry and Dublin are heavily fancied to win the Munster and Leinster Championships respectively; should that come to pass, the second seeds would include four from Clare, Louth, Kildare, Mayo, Galway, Armagh, Donegal and Tyrone.

It is possible that Cavan could meet Tyrone or Monaghan again as the only match-ups prohibited under the rules are repeats of provincial finals. The top seeds are made up of the four provincial winners which, at the time of writing, the bookmakers predict will be Kerry, Dublin, Mayo and Armagh and Donegal (the latter pair are joint-favourites), although Connacht and Ulster look very hard to call at present.

The group stages will see the bottom side in each group eliminated, with the four group winners advancing to the All-Ireland quarter-finals and the remaining eight playing off in the preliminary quarter-finals.

Much is dependent on the draw, with Derry, who won the Division 1 league in some style before getting beaten by Donegal, looking like the third-seeded team that most will likely want to avoid.

“We’re going to go off now, put the head down, hopefully add strength to the panel over the next couple of weeks and really embrace the All-Ireland series and see where it takes us,” Cavan manager Ray Galligan stated after the loss to Tyrone.

“We’re after playing two huge teams in Monaghan and Tyrone, that’s the level you want to be playing at because it’s the only way we’re going to know where we’re at in the sense that playing the top teams is how you improve and you learn.

“We’re really looking forward to it now, obviously we’re hugely disappointed not to be in a semi-final next week. It’s going to be difficult now for Tyrone with such a quick turnaround, it’s going to be hard for them to get back ready to go but for ourselves, we’re just going to look forward to it, we’re going to train really hard and try and improve things and see where it takes us.”