Ulster Council officials are hoping that there will be a healthy representation from the province in the draw for the third round of the All-Ireland football qualifiers which will be made on Sunday evening.
Tyrone, Armagh, Antrim and Down will all be in action on Saturday when eight games are scheduled, and the winners from these ties will be pitted against each other when the draw is made.
“If you consider the fact that we have four teams in the qualifiers with Derry and Donegal also set to contest the Ulster final this means we still have six teams in the mix for All-Ireland honours,” points out Ulster secretary Danny Murphy.
Tyrone boss Mickey Harte has made it clear that “the serious end of the season” has now been reached and this will become even more evident over the next fortnight.
Following Saturday’s round two games, the third round ties will be staged on Saturday week with the fourth round pencilled in for Saturday July 23.
“The pressure is coming on and teams hoping to advance through the Qualifiers will face games that will come in quick succession,” says Harte.
This weekend his Tyrone team faces a Longford side that has acquired a reputation for claiming significant scalps in the Qualifiers.
Last year they swept a fancied Mayo side out of the competition and in 2002 Down, then under the baton of James McCartan, fell to the midlanders.
“Every team will feel they can rise to the occasion this Saturday. There will certainly be renewed intensity,” adds Harte.
Antrim boss Liam Bradley, whose team faces Carlow at Casement Park, believes the fact that both the county’s footballers and hurlers are still in the All-Ireland equation is a big boost for the county.
“Both teams are keen to move on and for our part we are very keen to get over Carlow on Saturday. We want to get in among the big boys,” states Bradley.
Down manager James McCartan, who is expected to give veteran Liam Doyle a starting place against Leitrim, is taking nothing for granted against the Connacht side which is managed by former Derry, Donegal and Sligo boss Mickey Moran.
Daniel Hughes is also expected to return to the Down line-up and McCartan will be hoping that the element of experience contained in his side can help carry them to victory.
“You can take nothing for granted these days in terms of championship football. We are hopeful of coming out on the right side against Leitrim but it will be close,” predicts McCartan.
The losers in the four provincial finals will form one side of the draw for the fourth round of the Qualifiers with the winning sides from the third round on the other side.
To date the only losing finalists through to round four are reigning All-Ireland champions Cork who fell to Kerry in last Sunday’s thrilling Munster final — the best game in the championship series to date by a distance.