There’s no more second chances, there’s no more back-door. It’s quarter-final time in the All-Ireland Football Championship and we know it’s getting serious because they’re bringing all eight teams to Croke Park.
To celebrate and show that we’re just nice people, we’re running a great Money-Back Special across all four games. If there’s a red card in any of this weekend’s quarter-finals, Paddy Power will refund all losing single First Goalscorer, Last Goalscorer, Anytime Goalscorer and First Team Goalscorer bets on thatM match.
With a place in the semi-finals up for grabs, it’s a time for cool heads and composure. But it’s the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland, so we’ve got no chance of that. We’re expecting all the passion, intensity and big hits we normally expect from the truly knockout part of the Championship, so there’s a great chance of at least one player seeing red in each of the games.
It starts with Mayo taking on Down. The Maritime County men won their province, but without the authority you’d expect from potential All-Ireland winners. Down bounced back well since getting trounced by Donegal in the Ulster Final and there’s not much to choose between the two teams in this one. With such fine margins, some-one could easily overstep the mark with the physical stuff and find themselves heading to the dressing room prematurely.
Defending champions Dublin are fancied to overcome Laois, but it’s never that simple in the quarters. The Dubs were clinging on at the end against Meath and the O’Moore County beat the same opposition in a similar fashion, so there may not be as much separating these teams as many assume. Walking red cards Diarmuid Connolly and Ger Brennan don’t start for Dublin, but there’s always a chance someone else will do something ill-advised to get dismissed.
On Sunday, Cork and Kildare are the starter at headquarters. The Munster champions will have been idle for almost a month by the time throw-in arrives and against the battle-hardened Lilywhites, that’s a concern. Again, there shouldn’t be a whole lot in-between the two and it promises to be a busy afternoon for the man in black. And that’s not a reference to Johnny Cash.
Kerry have improved markedly in recent weeks and their meeting with Donegal is the clash of the weekend. Pre-match debate has centred on the likelihood of Jim McGuiness deploying the infamous iron curtain to stop the Kingdom, but whatever happens, it should be a feisty game with all the toughness and borderline cheating we’ve come to expect from modern GAA teams.