Roscommon manager Anthony Cunningham (Pic: Willie Donnellan)
The formbook made for accurate reading as the first round of the Super 8s unfolded over the weekend. The four favourites obliged, and even at this early stage, the semi-final line-up has a look of Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone and Donegal about it.
Though they were given plenty to think about for three-quarters of the match Dublin still finished with plenty to spare in their Croke Park meeting with Cork, Kerry were always in command against Mayo, but though the dividing margin at the finish was big, Donegal had reason to be concerned in their home match with Meath.
Tyrone had the least to spare, but still got the job done, winning by four points on the visit to Roscommon’s Hyde Park. Some of the losers were left to wonder, Roscommon chief among them, had Anthony Cunningham’s team been able to translate first half possession into scores, Tyrone might have had to wait longer before putting the game to bed, or maybe not be able to do it at all?
It was a brave effort by the Connacht champions. Their reward, if it can be called that? A visit to take the overwhelming All-Ireland favs on Saturday, the second of four matches taking place at Croke Park over the weekend.
Cork didn’t deserve to be beaten by so much – 13 points – nor would they have been had they not been so generous. Three of Dublin’s five goals were, let’s just say, preventable, and with 10 of the 70 minutes remaining the Leesiders were on the champions’ shoulder. They go into Saturday’s match with Tyrone in good heart.
It could be that the quick turnaround from their previous week’s win over Clare told on Meath in the end. The Royals gave Donegal their fill of it at Ballybofey before running out of steam in the final quarter. They’re still not out of it; coming up on Sunday is a renewal of one of the great rivalries of the late 1980s, Andy McEntee’s side taking on Mayo, whose confidence would have taken a hammering at Killarney on Sunday.
If successful, Meath’s concluding match with Kerry on the first weekend of August will stretch Páirc Tailteann’s capacity to the limit.