LAST year’s beaten finalists Cavan seem the best placed team to give the Tailteann Cup a real rattle this season and they are the favourites to get their hands on some silverware. They held that tag in 2022 as well and could have won it, but Westmeath just proved that wee bit strong in last year’s final. No doubt Mickey Graham’s men have carried that hurt with them and they topped their group with three wins on the trot against Laois, London and Offaly to secure their passage through to the last eight. There’s a lot of football to be played, but Cavan certainly look the form team in the competition.
SOME would argue that Meath shouldn’t be in the Tailteann Cup, but it is what it is, and Colm O’Rourke’s men have put the heads down and got the job done so far. They saw off Tipperary and Waterford with relative ease in the opening two rounds, but their biggest test of the competition came last weekend against Down and again the Royals came through with a victory. Two points was the difference in the end as Meath book their spot in the last eight and with some momentum and confidence in the squad, no one would fancy heading to Navan for a last-eight clash.
17 WIDES didn’t help Down’s case as they finished second in the group, losing to Meath last weekend. That leaves Conor Laverty’s men in the preliminary quarter-finals, but Down remain one of the best teams in the competition. Boosted by a bunch of youngsters making the breakthrough, most notably Odhrán Murdock, the Mourne men will have a big say on where the Tailteann Cup resides this season. They take on Longford next, at home, and should come through that game unscathed.
COMFORTABLE wins over Longford and Carlow saw Limerick top their group and guarantee their place in the last eight before the final round of fixtures were played. Despite that, they will be disappointed with home their group stages ended as they suffered their first defeat of the campaign to Wicklow, who were already knocked out of the competition before the game. But Limerick remain one of the top teams in the Tailteann Cup and despite relegation in the league, the fact they featured at the higher level of Division Two should help them going forward.
ALONG with Cavan and Meath, Antrim were the only other team to top their group with a clean sweep of victories. Andy McEntee’s side beat both Wexford and Leitrim before seeing off Fermanagh in the final round with an impressive flurry at the end of the game. Late goals from substitute Oisin Doherty and full-forward Ruairi McCann guided the Saffron’s past Fermanagh with seven points to spare in the end. And goals have been key for Antrim as they hit eight in three games to book their place in the quarter-finals and home advantage in the last eight will be a big boost.
DESPITE losing to Antrim last weekend, Fermanagh will still fancy their chances of going deep into the competition. They were well in the game for long periods and led for a lot of it, but just couldn’t see the game out when it came to the crunch. Fermanagh do have a string of quality forwards however in Sean Quigley, Ultan Kelm, Ryan Lyons and Darragh McGurn, who only came on in the final quarter against Antrim. They take on Laois in the preliminary quarter-final, at home, and Kieran Donnelly’s side will fancy their chances of making it through to the next round.
OFFALY possibly got the toughest draw of all in the preliminary quarter-final as they take on Wexford, but home advantage could be key for the Faithful County. Offaly finished second in their group, just behind table-toppers Cavan and were beat by 16 points at the hands of the Breffni Blues last weekend. But they do have some quality in their ranks with some of the All-Ireland winning u-20 panel of a few years ago making the step up. If they can get past Wexford, they could beat one of the big hitters in the quarter-finals.
IF they can get past the challenge of Offaly in the next round, then Wexford could potentially have a big say in the competition. During the group stages, Wexford gathered a grand total of three points in a difficult group with Antrim, Fermanagh and Leitrim. They stole a late draw against Fermanagh on the opening day, but Antrim proved too strong in the second round. To guarantee a place in the knockout stages of the competition, Wexford battled past Leitrim in the final round and will be full of confidence as they take on Offaly in the preliminary quarter-final.