GAA Football

Sun starts to peek out for Monaghan

Since losing to Fermanagh, Monaghan have enjoyed the luck of the draw to return to the verge of the last eight. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

IN a way, everybody knows what their fate might be now.

The Super 8s was all ifs and buts right up until around 8.40am yesterday morning, at which point the paths were laid out for the 12 remaining teams in the All-Ireland football championship.

All eyes were on Cork and who'd they have to dance with to earn a place on the big stage. For whoever it would be would know they'd be hosting Dublin in three weeks' time.

That fate falls to Tyrone, whose motivation to make the final step out of the long road through the qualifiers will only have redoubled at the prospect of getting to throw a slap at the All-Ireland champions on their own Healy Park patch.

Then sometimes is too much is made of home advantage? Take the fact that, of the 49 games played in this championship so far, just 11 of them (22 per cent) have been won by the home team, compared to 25 (51 per cent) won by the away team.

There are reasons behind that of course, not least the fact that teams from Divisions Three and Four are given home advantage when they're paired with someone from the top two tiers, but still.

Kildare are the ones that started this whole conversation with their Newbridge or Nowhere stance, and their journey to redemption will get its next test from the beaten Ulster finalists, Fermanagh.

The whole thing bears a scary resemblance to 2008, when Fermanagh won promotion to Division Two, fisted home a late semi-final goal in Omagh to knock out a heavy favourite, lost the Ulster final and then met Kildare for a place in the last eight.

The Ernemen will be hoping that things don't go as flat as they did that sodden day in Croke Park, when they hit just 0-5 as they failed to find any kind of spark.

That was, of course, Kieran McGeeney's Kildare team. He's got a bit of an affair going on with the qualifiers, with Armagh back in the last 12 again this year.

They have benefited from a relatively kind draw but the manner of their Lazarus-esque recovery against Clare will, they hope, propel them into Roscommon at pace.

Armagh will need it, because while Tyrone pulled the glamour straw, the Orchard drew the short one.

Connacht has crept up the rails to overtake them all as the country's most competitive championship, and Kevin McStay's side were five minutes from winning it back-to-back. That said, they only had Leitrim to overcome to get to a final, so quite where they're at can only be gauged from their league form.

Having won promotion from Division Two, they displayed some serious attacking form, but their defence has enough wobbly bits to prevent them from really, really troubling the big guns.

They'll provide the curtain-raiser in Portlaoise on Saturday afternoon, throwing in at 3pm, before Mickey Harte's troops look to lower the red Rebel flag two hours later. Their date will be live on Sky Sports, as is Fermanagh's with Kildare.

It's been all very low key for Monaghan and that's how it'll continue. They will meet Laois on Sunday, and with no TV coverage, half the eyes will probably forget it's on as they settle in for the replay of the Leinster hurling final.

Having kicked off the championship with a rip-roaring win over Tyrone, they've lost to a Division Three team and beat two Division Four teams to earn a crack at, er, another Division Four team.

It's not setting pulses racing and nor is it giving any indication as to how they've recovered mentally from the Fermanagh loss. They kicked a bagful of wides in Leitrim and won by 13 points.

If they do overcome Laois, they'll get to bring Kerry to Clones, a side they have a good record against. They'd also have to go to Galway on the last day, but anyone who watched their league game down there will recall how comfortable they looked until Fintan Kelly got sent off.

And given that their opening game would be against either Fermanagh or Kildare, and that at the very worst they'll avoid their last eight nemesis Tyrone, the sun is just starting to peek out from behind the clouds for Malachy O'Rourke's side.

Round Four qualifiers

Saturday, Portlaoise, 3pm: Roscommon v Armagh

Saturday, Portlaoise, 5pm: Cork v Tyrone (Sky)

Saturday, Navan, 7pm: Fermanagh v Kildare (Sky)

Sunday, 2pm, Navan: Laois v Monaghan

Super 8 fixtures

Group One

July 14/15 (Croke Park): Kerry v Galway; Fermanagh/Kildare v Laois/Monaghan

July 21/22: Fermanagh/Kildare v Galway; Laois/ Monaghan v Kerry

August 4/5: Kerry v Fermanagh/Kildare; Galway v Laois/Monaghan

Group Two

July 14/15 (Croke Park): Dublin v Donegal; Cork/Tyrone v Roscommon/Armagh

July 21/22: Cork/Tyrone v Dublin; Roscommon/Armagh v Donegal

August 4/5: Donegal v Cork/Tyrone; Dublin v Roscommon/Armagh

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