Kerry v Cavan
Kerry and Cavan meet in the opener on Sunday in a clash that recalls memories of the 1947 All Ireland final in New York.
This is Cavan’s first Quarter Final appearance since the introduction of the back door. They have had plenty of underage success in recent years, winning the last 3 Under 21 Ulster titles, and are building a good senior side from these successful sides.
Kerry have an abundance of All Ireland winners in their squad and have being building under Eamonn Fitzmaurice this season to put themselves in the hunt at the business end of the year. They may have started the year poorly but they finished the league strongly and had the best defensive record in Division 1, a sign that they were building a defensive style to compete in the latter stages of the championship.
Kerry should have too much to spare for Cavan. It will be a learning experience they can build from for the future for the Breffni men but Kerry should advance with a bit to spare.
Mayo v Donegal
Mayo take on Donegal in a repeat of last year’s All Ireland final. Most had this earmarked as a semi final match up but Monaghan scuppered that by pipping Donegal to the Ulster title.
Mayo have marched to their easiest Connacht title ever with the 12 point win over Roscommon being their closest game in the championship to date. The concern is that this will not prepare them sufficiently for the stiffer challenges in Croke Park but they could only beat what was in front of them. Andy Moran and Cillian O Connor are back in the side and Mayo are getting a full squad together for the first time all year.
Donegal have not been as convincing as their 2012 run with an unconvincing win over Down and defeat to Monaghan in the Ulster final suggesting that they are struggling to replicate last year. However, it may be that they are training towards the games in Croke Park and got caught out in Ulster. Being in Croke Park may re-energize the squad as they bid to win back to back All Irelands. They did bounce back well against Laois just 6 days after their Ulster final defeat and are exactly where they want to be,in Croke Park in August.
Things have turned nasty in the media between the two with Donegal selector Rory Gallagher talking of conspiracy theories of collusion between Mayo and Monaghan, suggesting Mayo gave Monaghan advice on how to beat Donegal when the sides met in a challenge in July. Jim Mc Guiness has bemoaned the physicality in the game after Mark Mc Hugh’s injury in the Ulster final. This has all the hallmark of a campaign of trying to motivate his players through the media and create an “us against the world” feel. They may be bordering on delusion and paranoia but it may be the kick they need to kickstart a stuttering campaign.
Mayo will not want for motivation. This is a team and county driven by the goal of winning and All Ireland. The opposition doesn’t matter, that being said, the sight of the team that beat them in the All Ireland last year will be an even extra spur for the Connacht champions.
This is the most eagerly anticipated game of the weekend, whether it lives up to billing remains to be seen but it should be an intense encounter.