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All-Ireland Championship: Big guns in qualifiers make draw absolutely crucial

When the draw is made tomorrow night for the third and fourth rounds of the All-Ireland football qualifiers, further light is expected to be thrown on just which sides are likely to be in at the death in the race to the Sam Maguire Cup.

In a bid to further streamline the competition, the GAA authorities have taken a step towards not only clarifying its format but enhancing its appeal as the championship overall gains in momentum.

The draw will be made in Croke Park and the four third-round fixtures will ensue when the names of the winners of this weekend’s eight second round ties go into a bowl to play off against each other.

The first-named side will have home advantage and the matches will take place on Saturday next with the throw-in times to be confirmed by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC).

Four Ulster teams are among those bidding to make it to this next stage from this weekend’s games which are Down v Leitrim, Armagh v Wicklow, Antrim v Carlow, Longford v Tyrone, Kildare v Laois, Galway v Meath, London v Waterford and Offaly v Limerick.

Immediately after the third round has concluded, the fourth- round draw will be conducted.

On one side of the draw will be the four winners from round three and lining up on the other side will be the four defeated provincial finalists.

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The only confirmed losing finalists to date are All-Ireland champions Cork who fell to Kerry in the Munster decider and they will be joined by Derry or Donegal, Dublin or Wexford and Roscommon or Mayo.

With the Dublin v Wexford Leinster final scheduled for tomorrow, the losers should be known by the time the draw is made while it will be an ‘either or’ scenario in relation to the losers from Derry v Donegal and Roscommon v Mayo as these matches are not due to be played until next Sunday.

Round-four matches will be played at neutral venues with the CCCC deciding on the locations and the games will take place on Saturday, July 23.

Also tomorrow night the draw will be made for the two All-Ireland Hurling Championship quarter-finals.

Losing Leinster finalists Dublin and the losers of tomorrow’s Munster decider between Waterford and Tipperary will be on one side of the draw with the winners of this weekend’s phase-three All-Ireland qualifiers on the other.

This means that Ulster champions Antrim are in with a chance of making it through to the closing stages of the race for the Liam MacCarthy Cup but they must beat Limerick at Parnell Park, Dublin tonight if they are to achieve this.

The winners of tonight’s second phase-three game between Galway and Cork will join the Saffrons or Limerick on the other side of the draw and here again the venues for the matches, which are scheduled for July 24, will be decided by the CCCC.

So it’s still all to play for.

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