It would be unfair to call it the starter before the main course, as Saturday’s Allianz Football League Division 3 and 4 finals look set to be entertaining affairs.
Yes, the championship looms large on the horizon, and the four teams involved have already secured their promotion tickets, but an extra outing on Jones’ Road surely can’t do any harm ahead of the summer campaign.
The third tier decider features two sides who got this far in a canter, with Cavan pulling that bit clear after defeating Roscommon in their regulation game on 29 March.
Terry Hyland’s outfit went through the section unbeaten, but yet were the lowest scorers, with a tally of 4-89. However, the concession rate of 1-67, underlined their solidity at the back. The likes of Joe Brolly is clearly not a fan of their style, but the upward trajectory continues.
Both Gearoid McKiernan and Eugene Keating are back to full fitness and will line out at midfield and in the full-forward line respectively on Saturday evening.
For Roscommon, gaining promotion ticked an important box in John Evans’ second season in charge. Like Cavan, they are now reaping dividends of a good underage structure. Their U-21s have reached the All-Ireland final, though players from that squad will not feature against the Breffnimen.
Evans also some injury concerns to deal with. All told, Cavan would appear most equipped to make it back-to-back wins over the Rossies.
It’s a view shared by RTÉ pundit Kevin McStay.
“Roscommon qualifying for the U-21s has taken a little bit of the edge out of it. They have those injuries,” he revealed.
“ Cavan’s selection is much, much stronger – a championship selection – you would have to say.
“Cavan won the regulation game handy enough and I think they’ll win this one handy enough. Both sides are promoted, so it’s mission accomplished, but it’s Cavan to get the silverware.”
Tipperary were the highest scorers across this four divisions in this year’s league. Some concerns will point to the flurry of goals they conceded late on against Wicklow, but qualification was already assured prior to that game.
The return of the U-21 trio - Steven O'Brien, Ian Fahey and Michael Quinlvan – along with veterans Paul Fitzgerald, Andrew Morrissey and George Hannigan – is a big boost.
They now face Clare in the Division 4 decider. The Banner, after a few seasons of near misses, finally got over the line after a deserved win over Antrim the last say.
McStay expects their encounter to be a close one.
“Both teams are very well matched and should not be operating in Division 4. Tipperary have made significant changes – all for the better in my opinion. They have a strong line-up. I expect Tipp to just about edge it."