Kieran McGeeney has chance to find home comfort
Published 11/07/2013 | 01:30
The third round of the All-Ireland football qualifiers, the draw for which will be made on Monday morning, could potentially throw up even more fascinating ties than those which might emanate from the fourth round fixtures itinerary.
And there is the strong prospect that four the names of four Ulster teams could go into the bowl for the next phase of action following this weekend's game.
Three Ulster sides, Derry and Tyrone along with Fermanagh or Cavan, are assured of third round action while there is the distinct possibility that they will be joined by Armagh.
Also making up the third round field will be Galway, Laois, Louth or Kildare and Longford or Wexford.
With the eight teams due to be drawn against each other, the ingredients are there for some magnetic ties – and that's before a single name has been drawn from the bowl.
The possibility of a Cavan v Armagh repeat cannot be discounted at this stage while an even more enticing fixture would be the meeting of Armagh and Kildare, assuming that the orchard county can overcome Leitrim and the Lily Whites can see off Louth on Saturday.
Lily Whites boss Kieran McGeeney will certainly be keeping a weather eye on his home county! And wouldn't a Tyrone v Derry pairing whet the appetite of even the most lukewarm follower?
Be that as it may, the anticipated line-up for the third round suggests that it will prove a defining stage in a competition that is gathering considerable momentum. But the fourth round, the draw for which will also be made on Monday morning, could conceivably see at least a couple of teams perhaps enjoy a straightforward passage into the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
With Mayo cast-iron favourites to beat London in the Connacht championship, Donegal in pole position to land their third Ulster crown on the trot at the expense of Monaghan and Dublin likely to ensure that Meath's only consolation from their Leinster final appearance will be a place in the qualifiers, there could be teams in the fourth round who may find that this is in essence a bridge too far.
The one team that every other side which reaches the fourth round will want to avoid is Cork.
Conor Counihan's side produced a storming second-half performance in last Sunday's Munster final against Kerry who were relieved to hear the final whistle that signalled their two-point victory (1-16 to 0-17).
But even though his side was defeated, Counihan undoubtedly gleaned what could prove invaluable information about his squad.
The four winners from round four of course advance to the quarter-finals in which they will be drawn against one of the four beaten provincial finalists. Numerous permutations are the subject of intense speculation but there is no doubt that the third round of the qualifiers will come under intense scrutiny, especially in Ulster.