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All Ireland Qualifiers: Ulster teams can make it a rare treble

Derry, Down and Armagh have an opportunity to strike a triple blow for Ulster football this afternoon when all three sample All Ireland qualifying action.

The draw was kind to the Oak Leaf men and they have home advantage against Kieran McGeeney’s Kildare in Celtic Park.

It’s an itriguing match in many respects. The Lily Whites ran Dublin close in last seasons’s Leinster final.

Not content with that they then put it up to Tyrone in the All Ireland quarter final.

This season though Kildare have been the Jekyll and Hyde of the championship.

McGeeney’s men were at best a shambles against Louth and then kicked 21 wides against Antrim at Newbridge in the qualifiers.

Derry, though, have been a carbon copy losing a preliminary round game to Armagh that they could just as easily have won.

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Had Gerard O’Kane converted Derry’s second half penalty it might just have been a different story.

That was then followed by qualifying victories over both Carlow andWestmeth.

With Derry and Kildare there’s no halfway house – they are either brilliant are appalling.

But in fairness to Derry boss Damian Cassidy they did what they had to do with the minimum of fuss when winning their recent qualifiers.

Cassidy won’t announce his side until shortly before the throw in as he’s keen to digest a DVD of Kildare’s victory over Leitrim.

“It’s different when you are playing an Ulster county as you have an idea just what to expect.

“But Kildare are a different proposition and any manager worth his salt likes to know as much as possible about the opposition,” Cassidy said.

Midfielder Patsy Bradley is close to full fitness and will be able to come on at some stage if required while veteran defender Sean Marty Lockhart will be on the bench as cover for the injured Michael McGoldrick.

Down manager James McCartan will travel to Tullamore with a full squad for his qualifier with Offaly.

Armagh won’t be short of motivation when they go head to head with Dublin in Croke Park.

Former Dublin boss Tommy Lyons last night described them as ‘over-rated’.

“I believe Dublin can only improve whereas Armagh have gone back,” he suggested.

Armagh will be hoping they can make him eat his words just as they did in in the 2002 All Ireland semi final and again in the 2003 All Ireland qualifier. But it won’t be easy. While Dublin aren’t the force of old, neither are Armagh. And it’s a sign of the times that of the side that faces Dublin, only captain Steven McDonnell remains from the 2002 All Ireland winning team.

Dublin struggled last time out to overcome Tipperary and all their defensive shortcomings were laid bare against Meath when they conceded five goals.

Armagh have nothing to lose — providing they stay positive.

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