SFC provincial previews: Ulster and Connacht difficult to call

May 09, 2019

Dublin's Brian Fenton and Ciaran Kilkenny with the Sam Maguire Cup. ©INPHO/James Crombie.

The Leinster and Ulster SFCs look like foregone conclusions again, but Connacht and (especially) Ulster will be more competitive.

2019 Leinster SFC:

Impossible to look past Dublin, really. The all-conquering, history-making Dubs have won an unprecedented eight successive provincial titles and have only failed to capture the Delaney Cup once in the past 14 years. They open their campaign against either Wexford or Louth and are thereafter due to meet either Longford, Kildare or Wicklow for a place in the final. This should all prove to be a mere formality for Jim Gavin’s charges.

On the other side of the draw, Meath, Westmeath and Laois will all be jockeying to get to the final. The Royals should see off Offaly and Carlow to seal a semi-final berth at least and may prove too strong for either Westmeath or Laois at the semi-final stage.

But, regardless of who they face on June 23rd, Dublin are surely going to rule the province for a ninth season running.

Verdict: Dublin

2019 Munster SFC:

Kerry all the way. With Cork in the doldrums, the Kingdom’s monopoly down south is about to extend to a seventh successive year. The league finalists will coast past Clare (or Waterford) on June 1st and Peter Keane will almost certainly lead them to provincial glory at the first attempt – and a place in the Super 8s – when they lock horns with either Tipperary or the Rebels three weeks later.

It’s a ridiculously-easy path to the business end of the championship for Kerry. But even reaching a provincial final represents a massive prize these days as it guarantees the participants at worst a place in Round Four of the Qualifiers. Thus, the semi-final between Cork and Tipp (assuming they dispose of Limerick this weekend) is a big game in its own right, even if the Munster championship itself looks like a done deal.

Verdict: Kerry

2019 Connacht SFC:

While it’s probably patronising to say that either Roscommon, Leitrim or Sligo are making up the numbers, the reality is that it’s difficult to see a final other than Mayo V Galway on June 16th. The Rossies collected the JJ Nestor Cup as recently as 2017 and reached the inaugural Super 8s. Furthermore, having played in Division One during the Spring, they have grounds for optimism. But, in order to win the province, they’d have to beat both the big guns and that’s simply not going to happen.

The Tribesmen have had a real Indian sign over Mayo in recent years and are gunning for their third Connacht title in four years. With James Horan back at the helm, Mayo are aiming to bridge the gap back to 2015. The direct route to the All-Ireland quarter-finals – with silverware in the bag – is undoubtedly the best one and league winners Mayo look most likely to take it.

But Galway, of all teams, know how to beat them, so this is close to a 50:50 call.

Verdict: Mayo

2019 Ulster SFC:

The race for the Anglo-Celt Cup is notoriously difficult, with potential minefields and banana skins lurking at every juncture. The bookies appear to be cognisant of this as no fewer than six teams are quoted as 5/1 or smaller, with Tyrone and Monaghan both odds-on. Strangely.

However, Tyrone and Donegal are a cut above the rest and the winners of their semi-final on June 8th should prevail. The Red Hands will have to beat Derry and Antrim to get there, while Donegal face Fermanagh in a repeat of last year’s final.

Monaghan’s prospects are boosted by the fact that they are on the other side of the draw. Aside from Donegal and Tyrone, the Farney County are the only other county to have won the Ulster championship this decade. But, while they may be fancied to emerge from the easier side of the draw and reach the final, recent slip-ups against Down and Fermanagh are hard to ignore.

There’s a great opportunity for Cavan or Armagh. Indeed, the Orchard County, who are long overdue a win of any description at provincial level, could be the surprise packet up north. However, Tyrone and Donegal are the teams to beat and it’s very hard to choose between them. A hesitant vote for the Red Hands.

Verdict: Tyrone

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