CHRISTMAS has arrived a little early for us Gaels with this weekend’s games as the All-Ireland race will be cut down to the last four standing.
If you had picked these fixtures, you couldn’t have done a better job. When the draw was announced on Monday, I think that every GAA person in the country has been hugely excited ever since.
Before I move on to the big games, I have to take a look back and hold my hand up and admit that I got some of the games last weekend completely wrong.
I didn’t expect Mayo to travel to Salthill to get the win and neither did I have full confidence in Monaghan to do likewise, so credit to both teams.
They turned great displays last weekend and now they take their place in the quarter-final stages.
Moving on to this week, I think that the four games will be crackers but the pick of the bunch for me will be the Kerry versus Tyrone clash.
Historically, this fixture has brought out the best in Tyrone teams and Red Hand followers will be hoping that that is the same this weekend.
Personally, I think it’s a draw that would spark this Tyrone panel to life and bring out the best in them but whether they have enough artillery to fend off the Kerry attack is another matter.
People might look at Kerry and think that if you keep David Clifford quiet you’re in with a chance, but for me his brother Paudie is every bit as effective so that’s two man markers needed right away without talking about Sean O’Shea or any other Kerry forward.
The big question for me is do Tyrone have enough man markers to snuff out the threats from all over the field?
On the opposite side of things, the Canavans and McCurry will no doubt test the Kerry defence, but based on current form and panel depth it’s difficult to see anything, but a Kerry win here.
The Dublin-Mayo game should also be a cracker as Mayo just continue to do what Mayo do and upset the odds. Here they are again they are here at the business end of the season.
Dublin have been building quietly and strengthening their panel week on week, so for me they are in the ideal position going into this weekend’s game.
Mayo have suffered heavily at the hands of Dublin over the last number of years and there is no doubt that they will see this as a perfect opportunity to avenge some of those defeats, but I have a feeling that it may be easier said than done.
Much like the Kerry and Tyrone game, it’s a really tough one to call because like Kerry, Dublin always seem to drag out a massive performance from Mayo, so we could have a real classic on our hands this weekend.
For the all-Ulster clash between Armagh and Monaghan, I personally think that both camps would have been delighted with this draw because I can 100 per cent say with certainty that both will fully believe that they are capable of beating the opposition.
However, if any of them had they been drawn against a Dublin or a Kerry I’m just not sure those same feelings would exist. This is a massive opportunity for both countries to reach the last four and with both of them knowing each other inside out there will be very little to separate them.
I do however believe that Armagh are slightly ahead in terms of their development and panel depth so for me that just me see them through.
In the last of the quarter-finals I also believe that Derry will be absolutely thrilled with the draw. Granted Cork have shown great resolve this season, but Derry will see this as the perfect opportunity to get back in to another semi-final and that would have been the aim at the start of the season.
Don’t get me wrong, Cork were excellent last weekend against Roscommon, but I just feel that this Derry’s structure and system will suffocate them and Derry will punish them heavily on the counter attack.
For me looking at all the games, I think that by Sunday evening we will have Kerry, Dublin, Armagh and Derry heading into the semi-finals for 2023.