Dubs displace Cork as favorites after draw

DUBLIN have been made favorites to retain their All-Ireland Senior Football Championship crown after a weekend which saw Kerry, Down, Kildare and Laois qualify for the quarter-finals.

It was the quarter-final draw made following Saturday's round four qualifiers which saw the Dubs overtake Cork as the favorites. Dublin have been drawn against Laois with their three main rivals Cork, Donegal and Kerry all in the other half of the draw.

The full quarterfinal draw is: next Saturday, Aug. 4, Mayo vs. Down, 5 p.m. and Dublin vs. Laois, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 5, Cork vs. Kildare, 2 p.m. and Donegal v Kerry, 4 p.m. All games will be played at Croke Park.

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Should they overcome Laois, Dublin will face the winners of Mayo and Down. So, they will undoubtedly be favourites to make their second successive All-Ireland final.

The situaiton in the bottom half is far harder to predict with Donegal and Kerry meeing in what is bound to be an immense tussle. While Cork will start favourites in the remaining match, they cannot afford to underestimate Kildare.

Meanwhile, the only surprise from last Saturday's qualifiers was Laois's 1-15 to 1-12 success over Meath at O'Connor Park in Tullamore. Elsewhere, Kerry demolished Clare 2-22 to 1-6, Kildare trounced Sligo 0-13 to 0-4 and Down beat Tipperary 1-13 to 0-11.

In beating Tipperary, Down became only the second side since Dublin to win after a six-day turnaround. Meath could attempt to use that as an excuse for the defeat to Laois but, in truth, they would only be fooling themselves.

While the six-day turnaround obviously didn't help, the reason that Meath lost is a complete lack of consistency. They have been up and down throughout their campaign and this was one of their down days.

Credit to Laois who have made the quarter-finals for the first time in six years. They effectively made certain of victory with a fine first half performance and looked set for a comfortable victory when 1-12 to 0-5 in front after 38 minutes.

Meath did manage a rally to get within three points but their goal from Peadar Byrne in the 68th minute came too late to change the outcome. Meath look have to look back on the performance earlier in the game when, frustratingly, they gave away a silly penalty.

Ross Munnelly took full advantage to put his shot into the corner. He finished as top scorer with 1-4 in a decent Laois display.

But manager Justin McNulty is fully conscious that they will have to move up a number of gears to have any hope against Dublin. His opposite number Meath boss Seamus McEnaney confirmed that he expects to make an announcement concerning his future before the end of the week.

Having seen off Tyrone the previous week, Kerry took Clare apart at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. The only problem was that Paul Galvin stupidly got himself sent off for a second yellow card in the 49th minute and will now miss the quarter-final against Donegal.

He could have no complaints as his second offence was a dangerous head high tackle. There was absolutely no need as Kerry dominated throughout against a Clare side that never got going.

Colm Cooper (1-4) was outstanding, while Tomas O Se marked his record 82nd appearance with a useful display. But the the performance of the emerging James O'Donoghue (1-3) at corner-forward was perhaps the biggest bonus for manager Jack O'Connor.

Looking ahead to Sunday's quarter-final against Donegal, O'Connor commented: "I had a sneaking feeling we were going to get them. It will be a great challenge for us as Jim McGuinness has a fantastic system going there at the moment."

Kildare also have a tough quarter-final to look forward to against Cork. At least though, they were much more like their normal selves in beating Sligo by 0-13 to 0-4.

There had been talk during the week that the Hyde Park venue suited the Connacht side but Kildare need not have worried. Sligo were pretty dismal on the day.

Kildare, by contrast, gave a workmanlike performance, particularly when they were playing into the wind in the second half. Eoghan O'Flaherty was their top scorer with 0-4, all from frees.

McGeeney, predictably, is playing up the strength of Cork, describing them as the favorites to win the All-Ireland. "We're up against it, but that's why you compete. That's why we love it so much."

Down had to work considerably harder for their five point (1-13 to 0-11) victory over Tipperary at Mullingar but there's no doubt that they deserved their victory. The key moment arrived at the end of the first half when Benny Coulter scored the only goal of the game.

It was fortunate in the sense the ball broke well for Down after a shot from Kevin Duffin had come back off the crossbar. The goal gave the Ulster side a 1-6 to 0-4 interval lead.

That was extended to 1-11 to 0-7 before Tipperary managed a rally which brought them to within a goal six minutes from time. Down, however, regained their composure with a point from man-of-the-match Ambrose Rodgers to finish deserved winners.

Manager James McCartan was well pleased, stating: Everyone was tipping this as the shock of the weekend but we were determined that this wasn't going to be the case."