Week two of the football championship may have been low on quantity but it was high on quality with Monaghan and Tyrone serving up an Ulster championship classic while Derry also served a reminder of their provincial class with a routine win over Fermanagh on Saturday evening.
With only two games played [there will be 10 matches next weekend], the impact on the Sam Maguire race and the Tailteann Cup was fairly minimal, but it's worth looking at the lay of the land.
As always, we will start with the basics for the new All-Ireland championship format.
- 16 teams will qualify for the seeded four-team groups that comprise the All-Ireland SFC group stages.
- Eight of those places are reserved for the provincial finalists. The next eight come from the final league rankings, which take promotion/relegation and league finals into account.
- Although ranked 20th after the league, as last year’s Tailteann Cup winners, Westmeath will take one of the 16 places.
And here are the Pot breakdowns for the All-Ireland at this point (one county from each pot will enter one of the four All-Ireland SFC groups):
Connacht SFC winner
Leinster SFC winner
Munster SFC winner
Ulster SFC winner
Connacht SFC runner-up
Leinster SFC runner-up
Munster SFC runner-up
Ulster SFC runner-up
Loser of Roscommon/Galway
12th ranked team
13th ranked team
14th ranked team
15th ranked team
16th ranked team
There is some confusion that if Westmeath reached the Leinster final that would somehow open up another spot, but a place is only reserved for the Tailteann Cup winners if they haven’t already qualified. So, Westmeath will be taking the place of a higher-ranked team regardless and making the Leinster final would just mean a higher seeding for them in the group phase.
When it comes to sorting league rankings, promoted teams move above those relegated from the division above. League finals also come into play, for example Dublin move above Derry after their final win despite finishing second in Division 2.
The top 16-ranked teams from the league were: 1. Mayo, 2. Galway, 3. Roscommon, 4. Tyrone, 5. Kerry, 6. Monaghan, 7. Dublin, 8. Derry, 9. Armagh, 10. Donegal, 11. Louth, 12. Cork, 13. Kildare, 14. Meath, 15. Cavan, 16. Fermanagh.
We’ll start with the easy part, Fermanagh, despite being promoted from Division 3 this season, will return to the Tailteann Cup given that two of Clare, Limerick, Sligo or New York are guaranteed to overtake them on the rankings as they prepare for provincial semi-finals.
They join Antrim, Carlow, Leitrim, London, Longford, Waterford and Wexford as confirmed tier-two teams for now.
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Despite their respective wins, not much has changed for Monaghan and Derry - yet. The winner of their semi-final meeting will be guaranteed a spot in Pot 1 or Pot 2 for the All-Ireland draw, but the loser of that 29 April semi-final will be ranked by their league finishing position.
Tyrone’s loss has cemented their seeding though. Like Mayo after their loss to Roscommon, whatever happens, the Red Hands will be in pot 3. All of a sudden, that’s looking like a hefty looking foursome even before the final two counties are confirmed.
There is good news for Donegal as their incredibly slim hopes of playing in the Tailteann Cup have been extinguished. That would have required a Cavan v Fermanagh Ulster final and a Meath v Kildare Leinster final.
That Derry result was also good news for Kildare, although they still have Cavan [who face Armagh in Saturday’s Ulster quarter-final] and Tipperary [who face Kerry in Saturday’s Munster semi-final] to worry about should they fail to reach the Leinster final. For Meath, a provincial final date remains their path to competing for the Sam Maguire.
As for the Tailteann Cup, it’s worth remembering that a potential format change is in play should New York beat Sligo on Saturday.
The 17-team tournament (Kilkenny play in the JFC) is being played on a similar format to the Sam Maguire: four four-team groups, with the group winners advancing directly to quarter-finals. The four second-placed teams and three best third-placed teams, plus New York should they lose, will then contest preliminary quarter-finals.
However, if New York beat Sligo, then the Exiles will participate in the All-Ireland series instead and one of the Tailteann Cup groups will contain five teams, with all four third-placed teams reaching preliminary quarter-finals.
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Watch Waterford v Limerick in the Munster Hurling Championship on Sunday from 1.30pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, follow a live blog on the RTÉ News app or RTÉ.ie/Sport or listen to live commentary on Sunday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1
Watch Roscommon v Galway in the Connacht Football Championship semi-final on Sunday from 3.45pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, follow a live blog on the RTÉ News app or RTÉ.ie/Sport or listen to live commentary on Sunday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1