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Dublin: 18 °C Wednesday 22 August, 2018
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Who'll lift Sam? Who'll win the provinces? Who'll be the star man? - 2014's key football questions

TheScore.ie’s writers look ahead to the summer’s action.

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Steven O’Rourke

Dublin are heavy favourites for Sam, can anyone stop them?

I think they can be beaten. I think at various stages Cork and Tyrone both showed that they’re porous in defence and eventually someone will work out how to stop them being so prolific in attack.

Who might stop them, I’ve no idea. It’s unlikely to be in Leinster anyway but I think if Cork get another shot at them they won’t let it slip this time.

Call it, who’ll be the four provincial champions?

Leinster: Dublin – Meath and Kildare are the best of the rest but neither can touch Jim Gavin’s men
Munster: Cork – Injuries to key players has put paid to Kerry’s chances
Connacht: Mayo – If there’s another name on the JJ Nestor Cup I’ll have #mayo4sam tattooed on my head*
Ulster: Cavan – Probably the hardest province to call but I think Cavan’s commitment to defensive football will see them win their first Ulster title since 1997.

*no I won’t

Cavan were the new faces at the quarter-final stage in 2013. Who’ll be the surprise side this year?

Roscommon to build on their U21 success this year and make the quarter-finals.

The black card – a revolutionary system or a recipe for chaos?

I think we’ll see more and more teams testing referees. Towards the end of the league teams, Dublin in particular it has to be said, were starting to receive yellow cards for tackles that were earlier deemed to be black card offences. I think, implemented properly, it’s good for the game. As a neutral, I’d much rather see a game finish 3-14 to 2-16 than 0-10 – 0-8.

Who’ll be Footballer of the Year?

He’s going to play for Dublin that much I know. Diarmuid Connolly looks the obvious choice but I’m going to go out on a limb and say Cormac Costello for both Young Player and Player of the Year.

This summer I expect to see…

Kildare breaking my heart…again.

Kieran McGeeney talks to his players after the game Kildare exited the championship at the hands of Tyrone last summer. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Fintan O’Toole

Dublin are heavy favourites for Sam, can anyone stop them?

They can be beaten and will get at least one severe test this summer. Difficult to see their Leinster dominance being halted but a couple of Ulster sides could trip them up at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage. After that Mayo and Cork look best placed to challenge. Yet ultimately Dublin’s gameplan, squad depth, class and belief combine to make them merited favourites.

Call it, who’ll be the four provincial champions?

Leinster: Dublin, a ninth title in ten years looks to be in the offing.
Munster: Cork have coped with a major panel overhaul during the winter and closest rivals Kerry are hamstrung by injuries.
Connacht: Alan Mulholland last week labelled Mayo’s dominance as ‘embarassing’ for other counties. It’s a run that doesn’t show signs of abating but Roscommon may put up a stronger showing. James Horan’s side to win again.
Ulster: In a tightly bunched field, Derry could take the spoils if they recover in time from their Dublin league final disaster to see off Donegal first day out.

Cavan were the new faces at the quarter-final stage in 2013. Who’ll be the surprise side this year?

U21 provincial success and a Division 3 league title place Roscommon in a good position to break in to the last eight.

The black card – a revolutionary system or a recipe for chaos?

The league was largely a wave of positivity for the new system but there have been murmurings of late. The potential is for a more open, expansive game yet the higher stakes of championship could shift the complexion.

Who’ll be Footballer of the Year?

A head to head battle between Paul Flynn and Diarmuid Connolly, who both looked exceptional during the spring. An outside punt is Cork’s Brian Hurley, a terrific marksman during the league.

This summer I expect to see…

GAA pronunciations to be tricky for the Sky Sports crew. Particularly if Emmett O Conghaile makes an impact for Dublin.

Brian Hurley dejected after the game Brian Hurley has impressed this summer for Cork. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Niall Kelly

Dublin are heavy favourites for Sam, can anyone stop them?

Of course they can – Cork, Mayo and Kerry will all fancy their chances at the very least and whoever comes out on top in a ridiculously competitive Ulster has to be given a shout on their day. The Dubs are worthy favourites on the basis of their performances over the last 18 months but there were enough blips during the league campaign to give the rest hope that they’ll have an off-day (or at least an off-half).

Call it, who’ll be the four provincial champions?

Leinster: Dublin – although let’s not forget that Meath were within touching distance for the first 50 minutes or so of last year’s Leinster final. They’re the second-best team in the province for me.
Munster: Thanks to the seeded draw, we’re effectively guaranteed a Cork and Kerry final. Expect it to be a lot closer than the league blowout, and maybe even for Kerry to turn the tables.
Connacht: Mayo – but I reckon Roscommon will run them close in the semis.
Ulster: By far the most competitive province. Donegal and Derry have the “easier” side of the draw but I think the tougher games could set up Tyrone for a nice All-Ireland run.

Cavan were the new faces at the quarter-final stage in 2013. Who’ll be the surprise side this year?

The Rossies have been simmering away for a few seasons now. They were unlucky to come up against good Mayo and Tyrone sides so early last summer and if the balls fall their way in the qualifiers, a quarter-final place isn’t beyond them.

The black card – a revolutionary system or a recipe for chaos?

A bit of both. The distinction between a “pull down” (black card) and “pull back” (no black card) worries me greatly but provided it is refereed sensibly, I think it’s going to lead to a lot of open and exciting football.

Who’ll be Footballer of the Year?

On the basis of their spring form, and with the expectation that both counties will be knocking around until the end of August at least, I make it a toss-up between Diarmuid Connolly and James O’Donoghue at this stage.

This summer I expect to see…

A couple of rows about Dublin playing in Croke Park, splitting the county… the usual, you know yourself.

James O'Donoghue celebrates scoring his sides first goal James O'Donoghue caught the eye scoring two goals for Kerry against Dublin last year. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Paul Fennessy

Dublin are heavy favourites for Sam, can anyone stop them?

Dublin are the Man City of GAA – they have the most talented players at their disposal, so unless they get overly complacent, they should once again be too good for their rivals.

Call it, who’ll be the four provincial champions?

Leinster: Dublin
Munster: Cork
Ulster: Donegal
Connacht: Mayo

Cavan were the new faces at the quarter-final stage in 2013. Who’ll be the surprise side this year?

Can I say Cavan again? They were impressive in the league this year, and should benefit from and be able to build on last year’s experiences.

The black card – a revolutionary system or a recipe for chaos?

Something had to be done to stop all cynical fouling etc, so the black card is a necessary evil. Any kind of change to the rules invariably invites skepticism, but it seems to be for the greater good in this case.

Who’ll be Footballer of the Year?

Bernard Brogan didn’t quite reach his best form last year, but he should be at his peak at 30, and if he can stay injury-free, he has the talent to make a decisive impact on games.

This summer I expect to see…

Plenty of boundless optimism and imaginative variations on ‘Mayo for Sam’ from the county’s supporters. Yet unfortunately, I suspect these long-suffering fans’ extended wait for glory won’t end this year, despite the many talented players within their ranks.

Mayo and Dublin players line up Mayo players line up before last year's All-Ireland decider. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Sinead O’Carroll

Dublin are heavy favourites for Sam, can anyone stop them?

Yes. After 2011, Dublin looked unbeatable, but Donegal came through the following. And then we all thought they couldn’t be caught. But, yet again, it proved impossible to put two All-Irelands back to back.

In saying that, Jim Gavin has kept an extremely impressive side working well (and hard) and, with the resources and backroom available to them, they could be the first since Kerry in 06/07 to achieve that greatness. But I don’t think it’s a done deal. And I’d say there is a few men around Cork who agree with me.

Call it, who’ll be the four provincial champions?

Leinster: Dublin
Munster: Cork
Ulster: Derry (That league final may have been the motivation they needed to kick on hard for the summer)
Connacht: Roscommon (I had to throw something into the mix)

Cavan were the new faces at the quarter-final stage in 2013. Who’ll be the surprise side this year?

I’m going to agree with Niall here and say Roscommon.

The black card – a revolutionary system or a recipe for chaos?

A necessary evil for the moment, but I think once the problems are ironed out and decisions more clear about what deserves a yellow (and not a black), the card will be widely welcomed. Hopefully, that won’t take too long as we approach the sunny months.

At the moment, high-scoring games (which have to be more appealing to all fans rather than the dreary defensive plays we’ve had to get used to) are lacking a little bite from a lack of physicality but I can’t see that being a problem come championship. #PrayForTheRefs

Who’ll be Footballer of the Year?

Hard to look past any of the Dublin stars, even if they don’t go on to take the title. Diarmuid Connolly, Michael Darragh Macauley or Eoghan O’Gara if his form keeps going.

This summer I expect to see…

Unfortunately, maybe a Kildare team missing the point-scoring expertise of Johnny Doyle. Let’s hope not and the guys that have been called ‘young’ for too long now, make a serious mark on the Leinster Championship.

In this roundup last year, I said that Cork were ‘due one’. I think that is still true this year. They usually don’t go too long without popping up to take a championship. Wouldn’t be surprised if they wiped the smile of Niall Kelly’s face!

Diarmuid Connolly scores a penalty Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

EAMON DONOGHUE

Dublin are heavy favourites for Sam, can anyone stop them?

It looks like the same few teams as last year remain well ahead of the pack, and Dublin and Mayo are still the best of them in my eyes.

Any one of Tyrone, Donegal, Kerry and Cork are capable of pulling off a shock result against either though, especially as complacency enters the fray – but if it comes back down to Mayo against Dublin you’d have to be absolutely mad to back Mayo, especially in a final. But that’s exactly what I’m doing, Mayo for Sam!

Call it, who’ll be the four provincial champions?

Leinster: Dublin – Easy, unless the likes of MD Macauley of Cluxton picks up an injury they’ll surely cruise through Leinster again? Meath are are a distant second best.
Connacht: Mayo – This is where I’m most worried about Mayo slipping up, they can’t afford to be casual against Roscommon, Galway or Sligo.
Munster: Kerry – Kerry and Cork will be close but I think James O’Donoghue could be too hot for Cork to handle inside. Cork will probably go further in the championship though.
Ulster: Donegal – They’ve struggled with injuries since 2012 and their panel hasn’t been strong enough to cope. But with everyone fit, if they can get past their bogey team Monaghan, I expect them to win Ulster.

Cavan were the new faces at the quarter-final stage in 2013. Who’ll be the surprise side this year?

Cavan will no doubt be there again, they mightn’t be pretty to watch but they’re certainly hard to beat. But for me, this year’s surprise side, if they count, is Galway.

Albeit they haven’t won Connacht since 2008, despite their underage success and huge tradition, no one’s giving them a chance. I expect them to go on a decent run this year.

The black card – a revolutionary system or a recipe for chaos?

It’s great, but the referees are showing no consistency. If the players are clear on the rules and on what they’ll be punished for then it’s certainly positive. Although it’s only a matter of time before players start diving, and I don’t know how that can be stopped?

Who’ll be Footballer of the Year?

Cillian O’Connor – if Mayo win the All-Ireland as I predicted he’ll be the key man. Diarmuid Connolly has been the stand out performer so far this year, but Dublin’s other wing-forward Paul Flynn is only getting better and better. The most valuable player in the game and he seems to be playing an even bigger role around the middle this year.

This summer I expect to see…

Sky Sports redefining our games, with greater analysis of the summer’s matches and the players. I’m hoping to enjoy watching something different this year.

Cillian O'Connor Mayo's Cillian O'Connor. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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