We're finally* into the business end of the football championship and this year the Super 8s has tossed up some really exciting fixtures.
The opening weekend has a good mix of intriguing games as well as the mammoth clash of Kerry vs Mayo. Here's how we see the opening weekend of football panning out.
Roscommon vs Tyrone
Roscommon come into this game as Connacht champions having impressed again in the provincial series. Tyrone are the complete opposite having come up short against a strong Donegal side in the semi-final. On paper then, you’d have Roscommon as the favourites going into this game.
But Championship games aren’t won on paper and Tyrone were by far the most impressive side in the qualifiers this year. Peter Harte’s return is a massive boost for Mickey Harte’s side too.
Roscommon will be looking to banish the ghosts of last year having disappointed massively when it came to the Super 8s.
The key thing to look out for in this is how Roscommon deal with Cathal McShane and how Tyrone react to it if they figure out a way to stop the forward.
Tyrone had no answer to it when Donegal blocked balls into him in the Ulster semi-final but you have to imagine Mickey Harte will have an answer this time around.
Dublin vs Cork
It’s hard to see this going any other way other than a Dublin win. For four years now people have been living off the hope that Dublin might be slow off the mark having not been tested in the Leinster Championship, and for four years everyone has been proven wrong.
However, for the first year in this drive for five, there’s a noticeable chink in the Dublin armour and it’s at full-back.
Step forward Cork. The absolute mavericks of this Championship. Cork have mixed their play up between a running game and long ball into the forwards. They destroyed Laois with this in Round four, racking up 4-20 while doing so.
Brian Hurley will definitely cause Dublin problems inside but whether their defenders can cope with Dublin is highly doubtful.
Kerry vs Mayo
Without a doubt the most anticipated game of the weekend. Memories of 2014 come flooding back when you think of Kerry vs Mayo. Had Donegal not shocked the country with their win over Dublin, the game between these two sides in Limerick might have gone down as one of the best ever.
Kerry were brilliant in the league but that cagey affair with Cork in the Munster final will cast a few doubts in the minds of the Kerry faithful.
Mayo is like the boxer from an 80’s movie that keeps getting back up, and despite being vastly outplayed manages to scrape through and win in the end.
A minute or two more and Armagh would have won in Castlebar, and Galway were all but a missed penalty away from getting the better of them last week.
Mayo could take an early lead in this game but if they switch off in the second half like they have been doing so far this year, that electric Kerry forward line will punish them.
If James Horan’s side makes this a battle (and they likely will), then we’ll see what this Kerry side are made of.
Prediction: Kerry (Just)
Donegal vs Meath
There’s a brilliant photo from 2002 of Brendan Devenney celebrating Donegal’s win over Meath in the qualifiers. Alongside him is a 12-year-old Michael Murphy.
This weekend Murphy will lead this Donegal side out onto the field as Ulster Champions for the fifth time in his career.
Donegal have been the star performers across the provincial series this year and widely lauded as the favourites to challenge Dublin going forward.
Meath are probably not receiving the credit they deserve given how far they have come under Andy McEntee this year.
Yes, they under-performed hugely in the Leinster final but that’s just a stepping stone in what is still an ongoing journey for this side.
The Super 8s is another step up for them so they’ll need to find an extra gear to step it up again.
It’s hard to see them dealing with Donegal’s forward line. Jamie Brennan - who has scored 2-11 from play this Championship - is a big threat, add an improving Paddy McBrearty to that and the pace of Eoin Ban Gallagher bursting up from defence and you’ve got one hell of a challenge on your hands.
Donegal got the better of Meath twice already this year and have pushed on even more since those games. Expect something similar in Ballybofey.