Dublin Senior Football Championship Draw Will Please Most

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In case you haven’t seen it, the quarter-final draw was made for the Senior Football Championship during the week and it looks like this.

St Vincent’s v St Sylvester’s

Ballymun Kickhams v St Brigid’s

 St Jude’s v Cuala

Castleknock v Kilmacud Crokes

All things considered, you’d have to assume that it’s a draw that any fair minded neutral would be happy with, not to mention, possibly, the majority of the eight teams.

The first thing to point out is that it leaves us with the possibility that we’re going to have the same four sides in the semi-finals as last year – Vincent’s, Castleknock, Ballymun and Jude’s. In fact, it would appear quite likely that we’re going to have at least three.

Considering the fact that none of last year’s semi-finalists could be accused of sneaking into the the last four, this is a scenario which will please those who want to see the best sides progress as far as possible.

Last year, Castleknock went through a Plunketts/Er side who had been beaten by a single point by All-Ireland champions the previous two years in order to reach the semis and Jude’s went through the Croke’s side who had beaten All-Ireland champions, Ballyboden.

I think nobody would argue with Vincent’s and Ballymun being top four sides!

McCarthy drove forward all night from the back and midfield

Vincent’s and Ballymun will be most people’s favourites

So, the fact that the draw has pulled out the 23 percent chance of keeping these four sides away from each other, equates to the fairest possible scenario.

If any of Brigid’s, Croke’s, Cuala or Sylvester’s are to reach the semi-finals for the first time since Croke’s beat Brigid’s at that stage in 2012, they’re going to have to earn it.

Essentially, we have two stand-out favourites in Vincent’s and Ballymun, three more knocking on the door in Castleknock, Jude’s and Croke’s and three that would be considered as outsiders in Brigid’s, Sylvester’s and Cuala.

Mind you, Brigid’s might reject that idea, but there’s no evidence from the last three years that they warrant a higher ranking than sixth.

All in all, they’ve probably got the worst draw. I don’t go along with the bookies odds that Ballymun are more likely to win the championship than Vincent’s, but I’d fancy that Brigid’s would have a better chance of beating Vincent’s than Ballymun.

Ballymun’s athleticism is probably the one thing that Brigid’s would have a serious reason to fear. Mun probably represent the tallest order for them to overcome. To draw them two years in a row in the quarters is extremely bad luck.

Philly McMahon tries to keep tabs on Dublin team-mate Paddy Andrews

Brigid’s will face Ballymun for the second year running

Vincent’s should be cocky enough not to care who they draw, but secretly, would probably prefer not to play Ballymun until they have to, and there’s no doubting that Vincents’ odds would drop if Croke’s were to draw Ballymun at some stage.

Likewise, Vincent’s are probably the only side that Ballymun would lose any sleep about drawing, so they should be happy enough with facing a side they kept at arm’s length last year.

Sylvester’s have had the misfortune to draw Vincent’s for the second time in four years. Revisionism may well tell us by the end of the championship that they’ll have drawn championship finalists three years out of four in the last sixteen or quarters. All in all, the draw this year, as well as over the last four years, has been quite cruel to them.

Jude’s will probably be dancing a jig at the draw. With Kevin McManemon and midfielder, Séamus Ryan, suspended for the quarters, they looked like they’d be as good as out if they’d faced Vincent’s or Ballymun, and to do a turnaround on Castleknock without these two, would also have been a huge ask.

Jude's get their house in order during a break in play

McManamon and Ryan were key players against Croke’s last year

McMenamon and Ryan were instrumental in no less than ten of their fourteen points against Croke’s last year. Even to take Croke’s again, without these two, would have represented a tall order. To draw the bookies’ second least fancied side, Cuala, probably feels like a gift from the Gods.

Saying that, Cuala would probably have taken this draw too, if they were offered it in advance. They’ve obviously avoided Vincent’s and Ballymun, and with McManamon and Ryan suspended, they’d probably see this as more winnable than facing Croke’s or Castleknock.

Cuala may well be dark horses with three Dublin senior footballers who played against Carlow a fortnight ago in their ranks – Con O’Callaghan, Mick Fitzimons and Mark Shcutte.

The intriguing tie of the round is undoubtedly the game between Castleknock and Croke’s. And while it definitely represents a tougher than average draw for both, each would probably have taken it if they were offered it advance.

I simply couldn’t see Castleknock beating Ballymun. They’ve definitely earned the right to be called a top four side, but the one key element is that out of what could probably be called a top seven, they’ve proven themselves against the two significantly least athletic of those seven – Plunkett’s and Jude’s. Their immense athleticism would have been a more significant advantage against these two sides than against Vincent’s, Ballymun, Ballyboden or Croke’s.

Considering that they’d at least face an athletic match in Ballymun, who would be technically superior, you have to assume that their best chance would be if, like last year, Vincent’s beat Ballymun.

They’d be slightly athletically superior to Vincent’s, something which could amount to  reasonable outside chance to turn them over.

Murphy had a passive role on the day

Castleknock ran Vincent’s reasonably close last year

So, facing Croke’s is intriguing. They’re going to face a side that you’d expect to be pretty close to being an athletic match, but who could have up to four recent All-Ireland winners in their ranks. If a second bout with Plunkett’s wasn’t the acid test, this certainly will be.

You’d have to imagine that Croke’s will be happy enough with the draw too. Since reaching the 2012 final, they’ve been plagued with draws in the last sixteen and opening round that were worthy of semi-finals.

Mannion gets s shot off

Last year was Crokes’ first win against Boden in three championship attempts

You couldn’t begrudge them getting the softest route imaginable to get this far.

Castleknock probably represents the best draw they could get. It’s not Vincent’s or Ballymun, but if they win it, there’ll be no sense that they’ve sneaked into the semi-final either, beating last year’s finalists. Secretly, they’ll probably fancy their chances.

A Croke’s win almost certainly represents the best chance of keeping one of last year’s semi-finalists from repeating their achievement.

Whatever way it runs, nobody will be able to say that we don’t have the four best sides in the county left come the semi-finals.

By Stephen O’Meara