The Championship

Irish News reporters give their Championship predictions

According to all and sundry, Jim Gavin's Dublin side will again get their mitts on Sam Maguire come September 

WITH a competitive summer ahead, the Irish News sports reporters give their predictions of where the Anglo-Celt, Sam Maguire, Liam Harvey and Liam MacCarthy cups will end up residing...

BRENDAN CROSSAN
Once again, it’s up to Ulster to keep the provincial Championship format relevant. They may face some rough terrain on their side of the draw, but Tyrone look to have the tools to win their first Ulster title since 2010.

With their defensive system bedded down, the Red Hands now have the attacking quality to realise their potential in 2016. When a game of football eventually breaks out against Derry in Celtic Park on May 22, I fancy Tyrone to come through a very testing opener.

Probably, Cavan’s greatest barrier to making the breakthrough is the prospect of facing Tyrone in the semi-finals. Armagh, though, can’t be discounted at Breffni at the end of the month, so there could be a few surprises in Ulster. Monaghan and Donegal have some good prospects coming through and look the best options on the other side of the draw, but I expect Tyrone to get their hands on the Anglo-Celt.

Tyrone could be Dublin’s closest challengers for Sam, while Clare seem to have regrouped to give the Liam MacCarthy a real lash again.

Ulster SFC: Tyrone; All-Ireland SFC: Dublin; Ulster SHC: Antrim; All-Ireland SHC: Clare

 

CAHAIR O'KANE
It’s early in the year for such predictions but, with the Ulster and Leinster champions kept apart until the All-Ireland final, I’m going to boldly call a Tyrone-Dublin final. There’s a lot of football to be played between now and then, but Mickey Harte looks to have built a side that is ready to take the next step.

The road through Ulster is perilous, as always. A first ever win in Celtic Park, fending off Cavan or Armagh and then overcoming the winners of Monaghan and Donegal is a far cry from what Dublin will face.

Tyrone to win Ulster, Dublin to cruise Leinster, Mayo to edge their way out of Connacht again and Kerry to get over the league final by putting more manners on Cork is how it looks likely to pan out at this stage.

The provincial hurling plains will feature Kilkenny, Waterford and Clare but, for me, Tipperary are tipping quietly along and still haven’t realised their potential. Antrim should still hold enough aces to win a Christy Ring and Ulster Championship double.

Ulster SFC: Tyrone; All-Ireland SFC: Dublin; Ulster SHC: Antrim; All-Ireland SHC: Tipperary

 

ANDY WATTERS
The Ulster Championship is the most competitive by a country mile, but that doesn’t mean all nine counties have realistic chances of winning it.

Let’s hope there are surprises along the way but, before the ball is thrown in, defending champions Monaghan, Donegal, Tyrone and Cavan look the four most likely to take home the Anglo-Celt Cup. Below them, Down, Armagh, Derry, Antrim and Fermanagh will be keen to force their way into the mix.

If all goes as expected, Tyrone and Monaghan should progress to the Ulster final and, though the Farney men are always a tough proposition at Clones, the Red Hands should prevail. Mickey Harte has the best panel of players in the province at his disposal and they could play their system in their sleep at this stage. Can anyone knock the Dubs off their perch? No. Tyrone, Kerry and Mayo will all give it their best shot, all the same.

In hurling, Kilkenny look set for three in-a-row, with Clare and Tipp pushing them hardest.

Ulster SFC: Tyrone; All-Ireland SFC: Dublin; Ulster SHC: Antrim; All-Ireland SHC: Kilkenny

 

KENNY ARCHER
Rather than a foreword, this could be four words (idea stolen from Alan Davies): Tyrone, Dublin, Antrim, Kilkenny.

It’s harder to make a case for anyone other than Dublin to win football’s All-Ireland than it will be for them to win Leinster for a sixth consecutive season. The Dubs are comfortably the strongest side and squad around, not only in their province but overall. Kerry and Tyrone appear to be their only serious challengers.

It’ll be much more difficult for Tyrone to win Ulster for the first time in six years, but they are the sensible choice, especially as the dominant forces since then - Donegal and champions Monaghan - are likely to meet at the semi-final stage.

In hurling, Antrim should still hold sway in Ulster. Kilkenny will have more rivals for the All-Ireland, if not for Leinster, with Munster sides Clare, Tipperary, and Waterford all looking like contenders - but the Cats remain the team to beat, which is easier typed than done.

Ulster SFC: Tyrone; All-Ireland SFC: Dublin; Ulster SHC: Antrim; All-Ireland SHC: Kilkenny

 

NEIL LOUGHRAN
Who can stop the Dubs? That’s the question on everybody’s lips and, in truth, it is very hard to make a case for anybody other than Jim Gavin’s men lifting the Sam Maguire again in September.

When you look at the other contenders most, should they lose one or two key players, would find themselves in real trouble. Dublin have two top quality teams in their panel and that strength-in-depth could prove crucial as the summer progresses.

One side who might fancy their chances against the reigning All-Ireland champions are Tyrone. Having added attacking thrust to their defensive solidity, the Red Hands appear to have Derry’s number and would be expected to beat either Armagh or Cavan in the semi-final. Donegal and Monaghan, on the other side of the draw, have shared the Anglo-Celt between them since 2011. Tyrone can end that run.

After two years in the wilderness following their Liam MacCarthy success in 2013, Clare are many observers’ fancy for All-Ireland glory after impressing in the league. Kilkenny still know this particular stretch of road better than anybody else though, and remain the team to beat.

Ulster SFC: Tyrone; All-Ireland SFC: Dublin; Ulster SHC: Antrim; All-Ireland SHC: Kilkenny

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The Championship