The August Bank Holiday weekend (Monday) is when the Gaelic football championship heads into the homestretch as the All Ireland Quarter-finals signify that the third Sunday in September is but 7 weeks away. The quarter-final participants are but 2 wins away from an opportunity to bring SAM home.
Let's look into our crystal ball (Waterford of course) and make some predictions:
4th Round Qualifier Sat July 30th 4pm (11am EDT)
Tyrone v Roscommon
PREDICTION: Tyrone 1-8 Roscommon 0-13
Just a guess that Tyrone's aging halfback line will have trouble with Roscommon's pacy half-forwards and that 23 year old wonder Donie Shine will return to form after a lacklustre Connaught Final in monsoonlike conditions. Tyrone with many of the great soldiers of its' 3 AI victories ('03, '05 and '08) is an old team, such squads don't get better, they just get older.
Donegal v Kildare Sat July 30th 6pm (1pm EDT)
PREDICTION: Kildare 2-13 Donegal 1-9
I fancy Kildare to gallop to an easy win as Donegal's recent Croke Park history, particularly in the Quarter-finals, has been a bigger horror show than even Mayo's disastrous appearances (largely confined to AI Finals). Quarter-final thrashings in 2003 (Dublin in a replay) and 2009 (against Cork, a match that was over at half time) will weigh heavily on Donegal's psyche; the 2004 Ulster Final against Armagh played in Croke Park was a total blowout as well. Donegal can always be counted for at least one horrible turnover in their half of the field because of over-elaboration and too much handpassing. Even GAA rising star Michael Murphy will not be enough to overcome a Kildare panel has picked up steam on its' backdoor journey since losing to Dublin. The ageless John Doyle of Kildare would be an early favorite for Footballer of the Year honors.
Kerry v Limerick Sun July 31st 2pm (9am EDT)
PREDICTION: Kerry1-14 Limerick 1-9
A rematch of the Munster semi-final held on the June Bank holiday Saturday night in Limerick before 35,000 spectators disguised as empty seats and about 5000 people just killing time (at least I was) before the Saw Doctors' performance that evening at Dolan's Warehouse on the Limerick Dock Road. Kerry's 1-26 to 3-9 was not representative of Kerry's dominance of the contest, particularly in the second half. Two late Limerick goals were window dressing on a bad beating. That said, I look forward to Limerick pushing Kerry in a much tighter contest this time as Stephen Lucey and Mark O' Riordan have been sprung from the hurling panel. Stephen Kelly and 2 others return from injury as well.
Cork v Mayo Sun July 31st 4pm (11am EDT)
PREDICTION: Cork 1-11 Mayo 0-15
Not since 1916 has Mayo beaten Cork in the championship, Why now? Cork's dominating win over Down will do them little good in terms of sharpness; the ankle injury to Daniel Goulding will be a bigger handicap as Cork loses a reliable left-footed free taker. Mayo has always been an enigma: every time you expect a big performance from, they fizzle; when little is expected, they stand tall (Tyrone 2004 Qtr-final). I may be crazy but this youthful Mayo panel seems not to be weighed down by the ghosts of the past as evidenced by Enda Varley's fearless match-clinching point in the Connaught Final, taken without hestitation from about 25 metres out along the left sideline. Cork has the superior footballing talent but has a rapidly aging panel; Mayo has the youth and hunger. To quote John Paul II at his 1979 Galway mass for the young of Ireland, "I believe in youth".