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Who'll fall at the last Super 8s hurdle, can Kildare back-up Newbridge and will Cork show up?

5 key questions ahead of the weekend’s All-Ireland football qualifier round 4 action.

Updated Jul 7th 2018, 12:00 PM

1. Who will fall at the final hurdle before the Super 8s?

NO-ONE EVER wants to fall within touching distance of the big prize. Eight teams are so close to the Super 8s they can smell it.

Only victory this weekend will guarantee a place in the festival of football coming on the horizon.

Anticipation has been growing for the Super 8s as the complexion of the groups have become clearer: the winners of Fermanagh/Kildare and Laois/Monaghan will land in Group 1 alongside Kerry and Galway, while Cork/Tyrone and Roscommon/Armagh are bidding to join Dublin and Donegal in Group 2.

After the success of the introduction of the round-robin format in the hurling provinces, football is hoping for a similar outcome.

With three high-profile games guaranteed over four weeks, the stakes have never been higher for the final round of qualifiers.

Kildare fans celebrate Source: James Crombie/INPHO

2. Can Kildare back up their big win over Mayo?

Kildare’s ‘Newbridge or Nowhere’ stand is being credited as the turning point in their season, but closer inspection will show that their away victory in Derry two weeks after losing to Carlow might have been even more important.

The victory in Owenbeg halted a losing streak that stretched back almost 12 months. That said, the victory over Mayo was easily one of Kildare’s biggest in the last 15 years. Now the trick is to back up that result against Ulster finalists Fermanagh and bring the same level of intensity they brought against Stephen Rochford’s side.

Cian O’Neill will need to have his tactics spot-on against Rory Gallagher’s team, who play a similar system to the Carlow one that ripped Kildare apart in Leinster. The Lilywhites are certainly a different prospect now, but they’ll need to be patient, avoid carrying the ball into contact and set-up to defend against the counter-attack.

Roscommon during the parade Roscommon face a stern test against Armagh Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

3. Will any beaten provincial finalist make the Super 8s?

Just one of last year’s beaten provincial finalists reached the All-Ireland quarter-final stage and the momentum of the qualifier teams means a repeat could be in store this weekend.

Roscommon are expected to beat Armagh, but the other provincial finalists Fermanagh, Cork and Laois are underdogs going into their ties against teams who played their league football in a higher division this season.

All three counties also suffered heavy provincial final beatings. Laois were thumped by 18 points against Dublin, Fermanagh lost by 16 points to Dublin and Cork suffered an embarrassing 17-point mauling by Kerry.

Monaghan and Tyrone are two powerful sides who are ranked among the best six teams in the country, while Kildare have proved in recent weeks they’re the second-best team in Leinster. It would be no surprise to see Roscommon, Monaghan, Tyrone and Kildare advance.

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Kieran McGeeney Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

4. Can McGeeney’s impressive qualifier record continue?

Kieran McGeeney record as a manager in provincial championships is poor, but his teams are a different animal in the qualifiers.

He’s failed to deliver a victory in four Ulster SFC campaigns in charge of Armagh, but they’re just one game away from reaching the All-Ireland quarter-final stage for a second straight year. It would be his seventh time to reach the last eight of the All-Ireland series in the last 10 years.

Armagh have enjoyed much success under McGeeney in the back door and it’s no surprise when you consider his qualifier record with Kildare. The Lilywhites played 15 qualifier games during his tenure, winning 14 and drawing one.

Between Kildare and Armagh, he’s won 22 of 26 qualifier games compared with seven of 17 provincial ties.

Making it to the last eight this time would be even more impressive than last season considering the absences of key men like Jamie Clarke, Stefan Campbell, James Morgan and Oisin O’Neill.

Cork's team during the national anthem Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

5. Which Cork will show up?

Like McGeeney, Tyrone are serial winners in the back door. They’ve won two of their three All-Irelands after coming through the qualifiers and of 31 games in the backdoor they’ve won 27 and lost 4.

Mickey Harte’s team also received the toughest draw against Cork – in theory at least.

The soul-destroying manner of their Munster final defeat to Kerry makes the Rebels the most difficult team in the last 12 to read.

Ronan McCarthy’s crew looked extremely impressive against Tipperary in the semi-final and then hit the Kingdom for two goals early on before they imploded on a grand scale.

They’ve undoubtedly got talent all over the field and Harte has been keen to talk up Cork in recent days. “They didn’t do themselves justice against Kerry in the final,” the Tyrone boss said. “So we have to be on our guard.”

Interestingly, Cork have won their only two previous championship meetings with Tyrone – All-Ireland semi-finals of 1973 and 2009.

All-Ireland SFC qualifiers round 4 fixtures

Fermanagh v Kildare, Pairc Tailteann, 7pm – Sky Sports
Cork v Tyrone, O’Moore Park, 5pm – Sky Sports
Armagh v Roscommon, O’Moore Park, 3pm – RTE News Now

Laois v Monaghan, Pairc Tailteann, 2pm

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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