The wheels have come off the Derry wagon since they won the Div. 1 league final at Croke Park on March 31. [Inpho/James Crombie]

Picture should become clearer after weekend's GAA games

You couldn’t say for definite that next Sunday will be “Calculator Sunday” in the GAA football championship, but by Sunday evening we should know the last 12 counties left in the Sam Maguire competition and the last eight in the second tier Tailteann Cup competition. This elongated Round Robin system for the Sam Maguire Cup is not exactly grabbing the public’s imagination with three of the four counties surviving in each group, but by Sunday evening we will know which four counties are going straight through to the quarter-finals and which eight will have to play in the preliminary quarter-finals. It was feared that many of the third series of games in the Sam Maguire Cup competition which will be played at neutral venues this weekend, would be dead rubbers, but that’s not the way it has worked out. 

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In Group One, Armagh and Galway are joint top with 4 points each and the counties meet in Markievicz Park, Sligo on Sunday, so it’s a winner takes all. It’s very surprising to see National League champions Derry with no points at the bottom of Group One and Mickey Harte’s team will need to beat Westmeath, who are also point-less in Newry on Sunday to stay in the competition. Dublin and Mayo are joint top of Group Two and they meet in Dr Hyde Park to decide who goes straight through to the quarter-finals. It will be first time that Dublin and Mayo will meet in a championship game that is not knock-out and that will mean that the capacity of 22,000 at the Roscommon venue will suffice. 

At the bottom it’s also a straight shoot-out for survival between Cavan and Roscommon in Pearse Park, Longford as both counties are without a point. After a home win over Donegal Cork are top of Group 3 and they will need to beat Tyrone on Saturday to go straight through to the quarter-finals. Donegal, who have two points, should eliminate point-less Clare when they meet in Castlebar. On Sunday Kerry, who are top of Group 4 with four points, play second placed Louth in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, but most focus will be on the Monaghan-Meath game which goes ahead at Breffni Park, Cavan on Sunday. Monaghan, who have one point will be fancied to beat a point-less Meath side and advance to preliminary quarter-finals.

At the time of writing we know only four of the counties who will compete in the Tailteann Cup quarter-finals this weekend: Down, Fermanagh, Kildare and Sligo.



A few years ago in my innocence I thought that in June 2024 I would be writing about Stephen Kenny as he leads the Irish team to the Euro 2024 finals in Germany. The European Championship finals in West Germany in 1988 bring back good memories for Irish soccer fans, but sadly this time round they will go ahead without the Boys in Green. The tournament kicks-off in Munich tonight where hosts Germany play Scotland. Most focus in Ireland will of course be on England, who begin their campaign against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday night. Gelsenkirchen was where Ireland lost to Holland in our third game in 1988. The final will be played in Berlin on Sunday July 14.


Doubts around Mickey Harte’s immediate future as Derry football manager have been put to bed ahead of their must-win All-Ireland Round Robin game with Westmeath on Saturday next. Social media was awash with all kinds of rumors last week about Harte’s reign with the Oak Leafers possibly coming to an end in the wake of their 11-point defeat to Ulster rivals Armagh 10 days ago. One former inter-county player suggested that Harte had “lost the dressing room.” Derry beat Dublin in a penalty shoot-out to win the National Football League final on the last Sunday in March. But since then the wheels have come off the Derry bandwagon spectacularly, losing to Donegal in the Ulster Championship and then suffering consecutive defeats to Galway and Armagh in the Round Robin series.



The GAA has confirmed that ticket prices for this year’s All-Ireland hurling and football finals will increase to €100. Stand tickets will be €10 more expensive than they were for the 2023 finals, while terrace tickets will raise by €5 to €55. A statement from the GAA read:  “This is the first increase to final ticket prices since 2019, and second in 14 years, and is part of a ticketing review which featured discounts during the National Leagues, has seen new “3 for 2” offers for All-Ireland series games and GAA membership discounts of €5 issued for the National  League Finals and again for the upcoming football and hurling preliminary quarter-finals. Revenue generated from our fixtures will increase our club grants for the redevelopment of pitches and club facilities from €3m in 2023 to €4.5m in 2024 and allow the Association to commit to allocating €5m for club facilities in 2025.’’ One of the big problems with GAA ticket prices for All-Ireland finals is that the best seats in the Lower Hogan and Lower Cusack stands cost the same as those in the back row of the upper tiers.


EPL clubs have voted by 19-1 in favor of keeping video assistant referees next season. Wolverhamton Wanderers triggered a vote on the use of VAR in the 2024-25 season after formally submitting a resolution to the Premier League in May. In order for VAR to be scrapped, 14 of the 20 EPL clubs need to vote in favor, But,  Wolves failed to gain any support from other clubs. The West Midlands club said they were disappointed with the outcome of the vote but welcomed the EPL’s commitment to improve VAR. The EPL has come under increasing pressure to modify VAR, which was introduced at the start of the 2019-20 season. Wolves listed nine reasons to support its proposal to ban VAR, including the impact on goal celebrations, hostility towards match officials and the length of time needed to reach decisions.



A 43-year-old Arsenal fan was last week handed a three-year football banning order after headbutting Roy Keane at a EPL game last year. Scott Law was found guilty of common assault after he and pundit Keane clashed on 3 Sept. 3 last year. The fracas began when Keane and fellow Sky Sports pundit Micah Richards were walking to do the final match analysis after Arsenal's 3-1  win over Manchester United, the trial at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court heard. The former Republic of Ireland and Manchester United captain, who was working as a pundit for Sky Sports, was headbutted through doors at the Emirates Stadium by Law. The civil engineer said he had been an Arsenal fan from birth and said his Emirates Stadium season ticket was his prized possession.  He told the court: ‘‘It’s the main part of my social circle. My wife organizes her diary around Arsenal fixtures because she knows I’ll be there.’’ As well as being barred from attending football matches, Law was ordered to complete 80 hours of unpaid work, and must pay legal costs of £650 plus a victim surcharge of £114.


The death occurred last week of former Kerry footballer Seán Og Sheehy, at age 85. From the famous John Mitchels club in Tralee, Seán Og was captain in 1962 when Kerry beat Roscommon in the All-Ireland final. Also on the Kerry team that day were his brothers Niall and Paudie. Seán Og and his father John Joe are the only father and son combination to lift the Sam Maguire Cup; John Joe was Kerry’s winning captain in 1926 and 1930. The death also occurred recently of former Kerry selector Tom O’Connor. Tom, who was born in Rathmore, spent most of his working life in Kenmare.