The winners and losers of the football and hurling championship draws

By John Fogarty

Regardless of the significant changes to next year's championships, last night’s 2018 football draw and release of the provincial hurling schedule was hardly heart-stopping stuff.

It never is when it is completed over six months before a ball has been kicked or sliotar pucked in anger.

That being said, it’s already apparent just who came out the best and worst from it.

THE WINNERS.

Football.

Kerry.

Unlike Donegal or Cavan who face as many as 10 games to reach an All-Ireland final, Kerry are best placed to get to the Super 8 in the quickest time possible.

Obviously, they need to blood new players and retaining their Allianz League title might be sacrificed for that long-term benefit, but all things going well their route to the Super 8 will be at least a game less than Dublin, Mayo and Tyrone.

Then there’s the fact Kerry have been crying out for more championship action. Both in Munster and beyond, they are blessed.

Roscommon.

Galway will be partly motivated to get to a Connacht final in the hope Roscommon do too after the revelations in the fly-on-the-wall documentary about the Rossies’ 2016 season this week.

Kevin McStay will be delighted to be on the opposite side of the provincial draw to Galway and Roscommon.

They will again be one of the last teams to start the championship but they won’t mind that one iota.

Kildare.

Another team who will be delighted to avoid the big guns until their provincial final.

Kildare will have the benefit of a Division 1 campaign by the time they face Carlow or Louth. Win that and there are no teams coming through the other Leinster quarter-final that will frighten them.

A last 12 spot looks a good call for the Lilywhites and providing Dublin don’t do them serious psychological harm a Super 8 is attainable. Getting over their Croke Park hoodoo will be key.

Down.

The Mourne men are not the greatest at putting good seasons back to back but they were presented with a gift last night.

Not only will they have home advantage against Antrim but they are on the slightly weaker side of the draw.

Hurling:

Galway.

Just how they’re going to fit a trip to Australia into their 2018 season remains to be seen, but after what will be an eight-year absence championship hurling is coming to Pearse Stadium and a venue as idiosyncratic as that should work in their favour.

Hosting Kilkenny in Salthill could be essential to them either topping the Leinster group or making the final.

Clare.

It might be argued that having to travel to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Semple Stadium militates against the Banner’s chances of reaching a second successive Munster final but one can only imagine how much of an advantage a packed Cusack Park is going to be for them.

Then there’s the fact their campaign is broken up nicely into two back-to-back weekends with a gap in between.

THE LOSERS.

Football.

Donegal and Cavan.

The longest journey to September 2 faces both teams regardless of how they fare in their Ulster preliminary clash on May 13.

Winning the province is treacherous enough, but with the introduction of the Super 8, Donegal’s hopes of emulating their 2012 success took a significant dent.

Clare.

Limerick won’t be any pushover but how Clare must have cursed their luck being drawn on the same side of the Munster SFC as Kerry for the third season in a row.

In Division 2, Cork are their equals. How they’d love to have the chance to test them like Tipperary will do presuming they beat Waterford.

Mayo.

Sure, Mayo wanted to face Galway again but preferably in a Connacht final.

Mayo have been slow starters under Stephen Rochford but they will need to be up and at Galway to ensure they avoid a third consecutive SFC defeat to their neighbours.

It’s what they hope will be the first of seven steps to an All-Ireland semi-final. Lose and the trip jumps to nine.

Offaly or Wicklow.

Having seen how Carlow flustered Dublin for long periods, both Kerry-born managers Stephen Wallace and John Evans might be enamoured with the idea of taking on the All-Ireland champions likely outside Croke Park too, but regardless they are facing propellers.

Hurling.

Tipperary and Waterford.

Offaly and Wexford also have four games in as many weekends in Leinster but it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest the Munster SHC will be more cut-throat.

Tipperary are out in the first four weekends, Waterford the last four.

The demands on each of their panels will be greater than those placed on the other three who at least will each have a fortnight’s game between matches – Cork between round 3 and 5, Clare between round 2 and 4 and Limerick between round 1 and 3.

Waterford’s home venue is still up for debate while given the familiarity each Munster county has with Thurles one wonders just how much of an advantage Semple Stadium is to Tipperary.

Offaly.

Yestersday’s draw completed in the presence of the four provincial councils did the Faithful County no favours.

Already expected to be relegated to the second tier, they will hardly be given space to breath considering they’re out over the first four weekends.

By the time they go to Dublin in round 4, they could be a quivering wreck.


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