There are three Ulster counties in action at the weekend and if Armagh upset the odds against Kildare we could have three northern teams in the quarter finals, but make no bones about it – Ulster football is miles off where it once was.
The province is often held up as the most competitive in the country, that’s absolute nonsense. Tyrone won it at a canter this year, beating everyone in sight and go into a quarter final completely untested.
Last weekend Donegal, who were getting plenty of plaudits after their National League campaign, got an absolute pasting from a Galway side coming in off the back of a rollicking at the hands of Roscommon.
On Saturday the flag will flown by a Down side who offered nothing in the Ulster final, Monaghan who have just edged out two Division 4 sides and Armagh who scraped by a Tipp outfit who missing a few of their best players.
Right now, Mickey Harte’s men are the only northern side capable of having a tilt at the All-Ireland and it will take some time for the rest of them to catch up.
Without a shadow of a doubt they would have a harder time winning any other provincial championship and they were met with barely any resistance as they claimed the Anglo-Celt Cup.
As it stands The Red Hands are miles ahead and could dominate Ulster like Mayo did in Connacht for years to come. Their squad is so strong, with plenty of options that can make a huge difference coming off the bench.
Mickey Harte has rebuilt his side better than most teams, but had the benefit of not having to deal with a mass exodus at any stage and there’s a lot less pressure that comes with that.
Now he has a team that can definitely have a cut at Sam, something we haven’t had for a while. If I could pick an opponent for the quarters it would definitely be Armagh, but I don’t believe they’ll make it beyond Kildare.
The Orchard County have beaten Westmeath and Tipperary on their way to this stage, however the Lillywhites are a different animal altogether. I’ve been seriously impressed with them as an up and coming team. They’re so direct and I can’t see the Armagh full-back line, which lacks pace, holding their scorers.
I really fear for McGeeney’s side on Saturday, they haven’t the team to do anything against the Leinster men – even though Jamie Clarke is back firing on all cylinders. I can’t see anything other than a Kildare win.
Monaghan have a terrible record in Croker, but it shouldn’t matters. In each of their previous appearances they were the underdogs and they head into their clash with Down justifiably as favourites.
Down looked completely out of their depth against my own county and the Farney men will avenge their Ulster defeat.
It’s a huge game for Monaghan that could kick start their season, they’ve a massive point to prove having taken the Mourne Men for granted last time and a big win here could see them raise their game for the quarter-finals.