McGeeney's presence significant but the referee could prove crucial
There are seven games on offer this weekend but only two, in my opinion, that will ultimately contribute to the national debate on where Sam will rest next September.
First up is the possibility of the game of the championship to date. We had labelled Donegal's opener versus Tyrone as a blockbuster but it never quite got to the level expected. Now, Donegal do battle in the quarter-final and this time they must travel to Armagh.
Of course, Donegal will be keen favourites to win this, but of course Armagh can turn them over. Armagh are defending their honour in their Athletic Grounds, this is Ulster and Armagh has Kieran McGeeney on the sideline to demand every last ounce from his troops.
You think that McGeeney's presence is not significant? Ask the good folk of Kildare if it matters. The former contenders were last 8/last 4 in the All-Ireland Series, and a Division 1 team annually under his management. Contenders most times they faced Dublin in Leinster. These days they are scrapping to steal a draw against Laois and find themselves in Division 3. It matters. McGeeney matters.
But McGeeney (pictured)will not be the key man on Sunday. Nor any footballer that togs out. No, the man-in-the-middle Dave Coldrick (Meath), will decide most things. Perhaps even who wins.
The investment of time and effort into the techniques required to tackle properly in the modern game remain the greatest focus for both of these teams. Donegal currently tackle better and concede less scorable frees. Armagh are a little behind in their execution of legitimate tackles and may suffer.
Discipline on and off the field will most likely be decisive. Coldrick is the top referee in the country, closely followed by Pádraig Hughes of Armagh who will whistle the Galway - Mayo game a few hours later.
A lot will be expected from both men.
Can Galway beat Mayo? Even without Willie Joe? Unlikely but nobody knows for sure. It's ten weeks since Mayo last togged out and after a dull NFL campaign and desperately disappointing end to the 2014 championship, the jury is out. Are Mayo improving, stagnant or going slightly backwards? Sunday will tell all.
But it seems to me, that just now, Galway are unable to match the deep conditioning, hardiness and strength in the tackle that Mayo, we expect, will produce. In most other areas Galway can match Mayo: certainly in midfield and attack but it the aforementioned physical power of the backline that is likely to separate the teams. But, nobody is sure about any of this. Roll on Sunday.