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Mayo and Galway renew fiery rivalry, momentum of qualifier teams and who'll fall at final Super 8s hurdle?

5 talking points after this morning’s intriguing All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round 4 draw.

1. The all-Connacht tie of the round

THE PICK OF the round 4 qualifier draw this morning was undoubtedly the Connacht showdown between Mayo and Galway. It’s the first time the neighbours will meet in a knock-out championship game (where defeat would spell the end of the loser’s season) since the 1999 provincial decider.

Tempers flare in the closing stages Tempers flare during a Galway-Mayo league meeting in 2018. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

There has been no love lost between Mayo and Galway in recent years. Ever since Galway ended Mayo’s five-year unbeaten run in Connacht back in 2016, the games between the counties have taken on a much harder edge. It promises to be a spiky affair, with a place in the Super 8s the prize on offer.

Mayo have been hit with serious injuries to Diarmuid O’Connor and Matthew Ruane, while Lee Keegan limped off at the weekend. Galway too have been without several key men and defeat here could spell the end of Kevin Walsh’s tenure as manager.

Both counties have operated for most of the year without their star forwards – Cillian O’Connor and Damien Comer. O’Connor may be in line to start after featuring off the bench against Armagh, while Comer has returned to club action in recent weeks and will be hoping to make the matchday 26.

The Kerry team before the game The Kerry team before their Super 8s game against Kildare in Killarney last summer. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

2. An early look at Super 8s groups

The Super 8s are now beginning to take shape. Here’s how things look as it stands:

Group 1
Donegal
Kerry
Meath/Clare
Galway/Mayo

Group 2
Dublin
Roscommon
Cavan/Tyrone
Cork/Laois

As Munster champions, Kerry will host the winners of Galway-Mayo in Killarney on the opening weekend of the Super 8s on 13/14 July. Also in round 1, Dublin will host the winners of Cork-Laois, Donegal will have home advantage against Meath or Clare, as will Roscommon against the victors of the Tyrone-Clare tie.

Group 1 is shaping up as the more difficult round-robin, with recent All-Ireland finalists Kerry (2015), Donegal (2014) and, potentially, Mayo (2017) fighting it out for the top two spots. Five-in-a-row chasing Dublin should have things a little easier in Group 2, although they’ll have a stern test in the All-Ireland semi-final, if they advance as expected.

John O'Loughlin celebrates at the final whistle John O'Loughlin celebrates their win over Offaly at the final whistle. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

3. Qualifier teams have momentum

Mayo, Tyrone, Clare and Laois arrived into round 4 on the back of two wins apiece in the backdoor system. Beaten provincial finalists don’t have the best of records in the final round of the backdoor system when they come up against the momentum of the qualifier teams.

In 2017 just one losing provincial finalist made the All-Ireland quarter-final, and in 2018 beaten Connacht finalists Roscommon were the only side to do so.

Cork gave a strong Munster final showing against Kerry, but none of the other three can be considered outright favourites to advance. The toll of the 16-point beating they shipped to Dublin may have damaged Meath’s collective psyche, while Galway were desperately poor in the second-half of their loss to Roscommon.

Mickey Graham’s Cavan scored a couple of late goals to put a gloss on their defeat against Donegal, but they face an in-form Tyrone team who are looking back to their best.

Ronan Ryan dejected Ronan Ryan watches on after Meath's heavy Leinster final defeat. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

4. Meath’s winning run against Clare 

While Meath scored just four points in over 70 minutes against the Dubs, they do have a good record against the Banner in recent years.

The teams have clashed three times in Division 2 since 2017, with Meath prevailing on each occasion by an average of 10.3 points. However, this season’s meeting – where they lost by 1-12 to 1-7 – was the closest the Banner have come to their Leinster opponents.

Colm Collins’s free-scoring side have been in fine form during the qualifiers, putting 3-17 past Leitrim before their narrow one-point win over a defensive Westmeath outfit. They’ve got talented forwards in David Turbidy, Jamie Malone and Eoin Cleary, with powerhouse Gary Brennan at centre-field.

Andy McEntee faces a difficult task to pick his team up off the floor after the Leinster final. Since 2011, no side that lost a provincial decider to Dublin won their subsequent round 4 qualifier game.

They did battle gamely for the first-half on a day where their shooting fell off a cliff. They certainly haven’t turned into a bad side overnight.

Matthew Donnelly Matthew Donnelly played a key role against Kildare. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

5. Cavan face the old Tyrone

Following their poor showing in the Ulster semi-final loss to Donegal, Tyrone returned to their familiar defensive, counter-attacking game for their qualifier run.

The Red Hand’s running game brought them to the All-Ireland final in 2018 and semi-final the year before.

The more offensive kicking style they employed for their thrilling league win over Dublin earlier in the year is still in the locker, but Cavan will come up against a Tyrone side that looks comfortable in their own skin once again.

It will be a difficult task for the Breffni men, yet after wins over Monaghan and Armagh in Ulster they’ll fancy their chances of giving Tyrone a rattle. Worryingly for Graham, the clinical manner that Mickey Harte’s team disposed of Kildare suggests they’re beginning to hit form at the right time. 

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round 4
Cork v Laois
Meath v Clare
Cavan v Tyrone
Galway v Mayo

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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