SATURDAY 26 JUNE
Quarter-final: Sligo v Mayo, Markievicz Park, 4.30pm
SUNDAY 4 JULY
Semi-final: Roscommon v Galway, Hyde Park, 2pm
SUNDAY 11 JULY
Semi-final: Leitrim v Sligo/Mayo, Avant Money Páirc Sean Mac Diarmada/McHale Park, 2pm
SUNDAY 25 JULY
Live blogs on all games on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News app.
Sligo v Mayo, live on Sky Sports, while The Sunday Game Live on RTÉ2 will have live coverage of Roscommon v Galway, Leitriim v Sligo/Mayo and the final. Viewers outside of Ireland can watch the games on GAAGO.
The Sunday Game, RTÉ2 at 9.30pm, will have highlights of all the weekend's action.
It's hard even for the best brains in Met Éireann to know what the weather will be like beyond ten days but we hope conditions will be favourable for good football in the weeks ahead. As for the clash of Sligo v Mayo, well it looks set to dry with sunny spells, if a little cool due to a moderate northerly breeze. For more go to met.ie.
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Established trio will again have the final say
In 2001, the first year of football's 'back door', four counties from Connacht reached the last 12 of the All-Ireland series. Leitrim were the exception, but in 2000 the Ridge County fought their way to a provincial decider. The western province was a more competitive beast back then. In 2007, Sligo won what was only their third Connacht title and three years later contested a final against Roscommon, the first time that had happened since 1947.
The new decade, however, would see the 'old firm' reassert their grip on things. Yes, Sligo did make finals in 2012 and '15, but between them Mayo (5), Roscommon (3) and Galway (2) accounted for the titles won. In 2020, after a five-year 'drought' the Green and Red regained the crown, pushing them onto 47 in the roll of honour, just one ahead of Galway. The Rossies sit on 24.
With Sligo and Leitrim now languishing in Division 4 of the league, they will be looking for respectable showings in this campaign. The duo stand in the way of Mayo making the 25 July final, obstacles that James Horan's side will overcome.
More intrigue will come in the Roscommon-Galway semi on 4 July. Both counties recently lost their Division 1 status, with the Tribes suffering extra-time heartache against Monaghan in losing their top-flight status. Still that pain should have subsided in time for the Rossies clash, with Pádraic Joyce no doubt desperate to have another crack at Mayo in the decider after last year's narrow loss.
Roscommon had some good moments during the league, but were somewhat flat in their winner-takes-all clash against Armagh. A lack of penetration in their forward play was evident. Enda Smith and Ronan Daly, both had to go off at half-time at the Athletic Grounds. Having them right to face Galway will aid the Rossies cause.
RTÉ cameras will be present for what could be one of the early highlights of Championship 2021.
Cillian's absence a big blow
No doubt a point or two was added to Mayo's odds for both the Connacht and All-Ireland race after Cillian O'Connor left the field of play against Clare last Sunday week.
An Achilles tendon injury will see the championship's all-time top scorer absent from summer combat.. Speaking to the Mayo News, John Reilly an experienced chartered physio with 'Westport Physio and Acupuncture Clinic' outlined his initial fears after watching O'Connor's injury unfold on tv.
"Rupturing a tendon is as bad as rupturing an ACL and sometimes it can be worse," said Reilly.
"It obviously all depends on the exact nature of Cillian’s injury, and whether it’s a partial rupture or a full rupture of the Achilles tendon. But the fact that he has undergone a procedure suggests that it’s of a certain seriousness.
"The conservative timeframe after the re-attachment of a tendon like that is approximately 12 weeks in an airtight boot. Because the chances of it detaching are very high.
"From watching it on TV, Cillian seemed to be wrong-footed when the ball was played in and took a quick step back to correct himself. You can actually see the movement where the tendon ruptures.
"Based on what I saw on TV, and on the information released by Mayo GAA, my ‘best-case scenario’ would be a six-months-plus rehabilitation period for an injury like this."
If that is the case, the start of next year's league may come too soon for O'Connor.
For manager James Horan, it's now a case of getting on with it, happy in the knowlewdge that he has the squad that can cope. There are two championship debutants in the side to face Sligo, with Enda Hession starting in the full-back line, while Darren McHale, who starred in Knockmore's march to a county title last year, named at number 11.
Ten of the team that started last December's All-Ireland final loss to Dublin will take to the field at Markievicz Park. Overall There's a nice mix, with much focus on how the likes of Oisin Mullin, Eoghan McLaughlin, Tommy Conroy and Ryan O'Donooghue kick on from last year.
It could have been so different for Sligo if they had come out the right side of a titanic battle against Antrim in round two of the league. A last-gasp point from Paddy Cunningham settled a hugely eventful game at a chilly Corrigan Park.
The Yeatsmen did start well in their subsequent game against Louth but fell apart in the second-half, and with it any chance of promotion to Division 3. Another defeat followed in the Division 4 Shield. Not the best preparation then for a crack at their powerful neighbours.
Manager Tonry McEntee is looking on the bright side, however, stating that his young team are relishing this quarter-final clash.
He told RTÉ Sport: "The mood in the camp is actually very good. The players are in good form. Most of these players have played between two and four championship matches in their lifetime with Sligo.
"They are still relatively new to this. This weekend offers the opportunity to play Mayo, a Division 1 team, and the same team we have grown up to love, adore and support.
"Players like Lee Keegan, Paddy Durcan, Aidan O'Shea and Kevin McLaughlin in particular are part of that and now there is the opportunity to play against those players.
"That is something we are really looking forward. As someone famously once said, opportunities pass and don't pause."
Sligo were the only side to drop out of the competition last year for Covid reasons after an outbreak occurred in their camp. That's in the past now. The Yeats County could have done with having the Táilteann Cup in place this year. For a new man in like McEntee, more about what he has to work with will be learned across a full programme of fixtures that will hopefully encompass 2022.
That said, all in the squad will no doubt want to put it up to the Green and Red.
Follow all the championship matches this weekend with our live blogs on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app.
Watch Down v Donegal and Clare v Waterford live on RTÉ One (from 12.55pm) and see highlights of all the weekend's action on The Sunday Game at 9.30pm on RTÉ One.
Listen to live and exclusive national radio commentaries on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday and Sunday Sport.
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