herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

After Dublin's expected cruise to the All-Ireland SFC last-eight, Conor McKeon looks at the other leading contenders for the Sam Maguire who are in action this weekend

WITH the shape of this year's All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals already becoming clearer, the inevitability of Dublin's Leinster title success quickly gave way to the realisation that the season is about to get very serious, very quickly.

Or, as Denis Bastick told the Herald this week, "Now we're into real Championship football.

"No back door. No mistakes. This is it. We're out on our arses if we mess up."

The level of ease with which they glided through the rest of Leinster may - or so the the story goes - ultimately work against Dublin.

Particularly given the likelihood now that one of Munster's big two will face off against them on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

But equally, for that to happen, the losers of Cork v Kerry will be playing their third match in three weeks and must first take care of a Kildare team with some genuine momentum and two wins behind them in the qualifiers.

All five of the teams ranked by bookies and pundits alike as Dublin's most credible challengers for this year's All-Ireland SFC are in action across three provincial finals this weekend, facing varying degrees of difficulty to claim a spot alongside Jim Gavin's team in the last-eight.

As expected, the 'big four' as they were styled after the League, remain. Namely Dublin, Kerry, Donegal and Mayo.

But both Cork and Monaghan have, by virtue of progressive provincial performances, joined them as All-Ireland outsiders.

The Rebels and/or the Farney Count ycould yet easily jeopardise the semi-final line-up many expected which contained the four mentioned above.

As such, Gavin's scouting network are set for the busiest weekend of the year so far while his team prepare for an All-Ireland quarter-final against as yet unknown opposition.

We assess the remaining likely contenders for this year's All-Ireland SFC title.

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