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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 5 April, 2020
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Clare's massive opportunity, tired Donegal vulnerable against Rebels— qualifier draw talking points

Monday’s Round 4 football qualifier draw threw up a few interesting ties.

Massive opportunity for Clare

2016 HAS BEEN the year that keeps on giving for the Clare footballers. The Banner County have already sealed promotion to Division 2 after a league campaign that ended with that emphatic win over Kildare in the decider.

They comfortably beat Limerick in Munster, kicked 0-17 points in a respectable defeat to Kerry and put together back-to-back wins over Laois and Sligo in the back door.

Colm Collins Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

But their season isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot. This morning’s qualifier draw has presented the Banner with a fantastic opportunity to make the last eight of the All-Ireland SFC for the first time in 16 years. They’ll face a Roscommon side just six days out from the Connacht final replay defeat at the hands of Galway.

Just once has a beaten provincial finalists managed to win a qualifier game six days later. Psychologically who knows where Roscommon are at. It’s been a long year for them and this is their sixth championship game of 2016. But Clare are not exactly flying in under the radar and Monaghan’s shock reversal to Longford will ensure Roscommon will have no complacency.

This is the third straight weekend both these teams are out in action and whichever side has the legs for the final quarter should progress.

Gearoid McKiernan with Chrissy McKaigue Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Tipperary and Derry’s contrasting styles

Tipperary gave a good account of themselves in the Munster final defeat to Kerry, but they’re facing a Derry outfit who have ambushed Meath and Cavan in recent weeks.

Tipperary roll out a more expansive game plan than their opponents, but they’ve been operating in confines of Munster – easily the least defensive province. Derry have shown remarkable mental strength to send Meath packing with a thrilling fightback and beat Division 1-bound Cavan despite trailing for three-quarters of the game.

Despite the death notice Joe Brolly served up for Derry after they fell to Tyrone in Ulster, their scorching run through the qualifiers has been fueled by a never-say-die spirit. That will count for a lot against this young Tipperary group.

Neil McGee and Sean Cavanagh Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

Improving Rebels have the chance to take out tired Donegal

Donegal ran out of steam against Tyrone in the second half of the Ulster final, scoring just four points under the scorching sun in Clones. Tyrone, a younger, fitter team, outlasted the 2012 All-Ireland champions, whose slow build-up play was eventually figured out by the Red Hand.

The two week break will give Donegal’s tired bodies the chance to recover. They’ve played four extremely taxing games in Ulster against Fermanagh, Monaghan (twice) and Tyrone.

Donegal played without the same pace and dynamism they did during their pomp. Too many players are the wrong side of their peak and they are in a vulnerable position after a tricky draw.

Cork have been far from convincing in their qualifier wins over Limerick and Longford, but they’ve got a few bodies back from injury and confidence is slowly growing. The backdoor has thrown up a couple of shock results so far. Will we see another one the weekend after next?

Tom Cribbin Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Westmeath face an impossible task

After initially keeping pace with Dublin, Westmeath fell away and were scorched by the All-Ireland champions in the second-half. With morale inevitably low after a 15-point beating, the last thing Westmeath needed was to meet another powerhouse in the qualifiers.

They’ll have to do it without Ray Connellan, whose ball winning ability around the middle third really hurt Dublin in the early stages.

Westmeath found it difficult to turn things around in the qualifiers last year against Fermanagh after losing to Dublin in the Leinster final and it won’t be any easier this year.

Mayo are hitting form as the business end of the season approaches. Diarmuid O’Connor and Evan Regan are maturing into more important roles in attack, while Kevin McLouhglin is getting to grips with his sweeper role. Mayo’s first Croke Park outing of the year will narrow their focus on the big prize.

What four teams do you fancy to advance to the All-Ireland quarter-finals?

Clare v Roscommon
Derry v Tipperary
Cork v Donegal
Mayo v Westmeath

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The provincial action is done – who do you now think will win the All-Ireland title?

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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