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Monday 18 December 2017

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IT probably has not escaped the attention of long-term strategists in the Meath football camp but I bring it to the attention of their supporters so that there are no surprises if the provincial final pans out the way many observers view it - a landslide victory for the Dubs.

It's a cold comfort and comes in the form of the Qualifier draw and what it might mean for Meath. There are two scenarios for the underdogs to face: win the final (possible but unlikely) or lose the final (possible and likely). Lets examine the probable outcome. Because Meath are on the 'B' side of the draw, they remain there should they lose the final and play teams from that side of the draw.

The 'B' side teams that remain, and head into action the weekend after next, are Carlow/Clare, Tyrone/Monaghan/Armagh, Cavan/Roscommon and Down/Kildare. So, Meath will have it all to do if defeat is their lot but bearing in mind the run they had last year they look like a team that is planning to play ball well into August if at all possible.

The big winners in the draw are the Connacht champions, especially Mayo if they can account for Galway. Even though the nearly men of Gaelic football are on the 'B' side, will face the Round 4A winners. The teams left here are Laois, Longford, Wicklow, Limerick, Wexford, Antrim, Tipperary. Sligo and the losing Connacht and Munster finalists. Safe enough passage?

It might be the first week in July and there is plenty of road to travel until Late September, but right now the draw ordains that the smart money goes on a repeat of the 2014 September decider.

Speaking of draws I had the first time experience of witnessing a Qualifier draw live in the Morning Ireland studios a few mornings ago. I have sat in on many of the championship draws over the years, usually held live on TV each October. I mention the fact they are live events in the hope to convince you that these draws are all above board, transparent and word perfect.

The conspiracy theorists of course often mention hot balls and cold balls, placed balls and non-mixed balls and whatever other sleight of hand you can think of. But I can confirm that those theories are just fanciful and the draw adheres to the highest standard of any probability trial.

For a start, balls are not used at all, and there is not a fridge in sight! Nor an oven! No, just simple cylinders, the type used to hold a roll of film for a camera from way back in the non-digital age. Once the cap is sealed, it is impossible to tell one county from another and once stirred, shook or mixed they line up completely at random.

I get emails and queries every year complaining about the draw set-up but I am happy to confirm there is no dodgy method that ensures a particular result. Of course that did not stop a Twitter man, prior to the draw, predict that Tyrone would face Monaghan or Armagh when the draw was made. Later that morning that's exactly what happened but that folks was just the luck of the draw!

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