HomeFootballWhat are Kerry’s best and worst case scenarios in Tuesday’s Sam Maguire...

What are Kerry’s best and worst case scenarios in Tuesday’s Sam Maguire Cup draw?

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National League champions Derry is the third seed team that everyone will want to avoid in the draw for the All-Ireland Series Group Stage

With the eight provincial finalists now known, along with the other eight counties that will compete in the All-Ireland Championship, the GAA have announced the seedings for the Sam Maguire Cup

The 16 participating counties will be drawn into four groups, with teams seeded based on Championship and League performance and each group will feature a 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th seed.

The provincial champions will each be a first seed, with the provincial runners-up being second seeds. The third seeds will be the four highest-placed teams from the 2024 Allianz Leagues (who have not qualified for their provincial finals). The fourth seeds will include the next four highest-placed teams from the conclusion of this year’s Allianz Leagues.

Teams that are due to meet in a provincial final (seeds 1 and 2) cannot be in the same group. However, teams that have already played each other earlier in this year’s championships can be drawn to the same groups.

While the winner of the Connacht and Ulster finals are extremely difficult to predict, we can say with some certainty that Kerry will retain their Munster title against Clare, while Dublin will do likewise in Leinster against Louth, conferring no.1 seed status on Kerry and Dublin.

With that in mind, what would be the best and worst case scenarios for Kerry in Tuesday’s draw?

As no.1 seed Kerry will be hoping to avoid the Connacht and Ulster runners-up and instead draw Louth as the second seed team in their group. Last year Louth were a second seed team after losing the Leinster final, and Kerry were fortunate to draw them in Group 1 in 2023, and subsequently beat them comfortably by 5-24 to 0-11 in Portlaoise in the third round of the Group Stage. The no.1 and no.2 seeds face each other in the third game of the Group Stage at a neutral venue, so a rematch against Louth in Portlaoise would be very likely, and Kerry would be hot favourites to secure another comfortable win against the Wee county.

For their third seed opposition, Kerry will definitely be hoping to avoid Derry. The National League champions were somewhat surprisingly beaten by Donegal in last week’s Ulster quarter-final, but Mickey Harte’s team will certainly be the no.3 seed everyone will want to avoid. With the top seed having home advantage, Kerry wouldn’t be too perturbed about playing Tyrone or Monaghan in Killarney (notwithstanding the fact that Mayo, as third seed, beat Kerry in Fitzgerald Stadium last year). However, best case scenario for Kerry would be to draw Roscommon, a team they should have little trouble beating on their home patch in Killarney.

For their fourth seed opposition, Kerry shouldn’t be unduly concerned about any of the four teams in that pot, although given how close Cork ran them in Pairc Uí Chaoimh last year – and again in the recent Munster semi-final in Killarney – Jack O’Connor probably wouldn’t love the idea of going to Leeside again in the second round, especially if Kerry haven’t taken the win in their first game.

Cavan, Cork and Meath finished third, fourth and fifth in that order in Division 2, while Westmeath are the lowest ranked team in the All-Ireland Championship – finishing second in Division 3 and will be the fourth seed everyone will want to draw, in theory at least.

Best case scenario: Kerry, Louth, Roscommon, Westmeath

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Tuesday’s draw could set up a proper ‘Group of Death’ given the way the full seedings are likely to fall, and even though three teams will still qualify from each group, the jeopardy is that the team that finishes third will face a preliminary quarter-final at the home of their opponent. So what is the worst group Kerry could end up in for the All-Ireland Group Stage.

We will assume Dublin win Leinster and secure no.1 seed status, but Connacht and Ulster are much harder to call. Either way, Mayo or Galway, and Donegal or Armagh are going to be in pot 2, and none of those would be easy opposition, especially at a neutral, and possibly unfamiliar venue for Kerry.

Mayo or Galway were, of course, Division 1 teams this year, while Donegal and Armagh were promoted from Division 2. Needless to say, whichever of those four are second seeds means they will have lost their provincial final, and will have to recover and adjust in a relatively short space of time.

Mayo, as they showed last year, are always capable of a big knock-out performance and of beating Kerry, but Donegal are still somewhat of an unknown quantity under Jim McGuinness and probably not a team Kerry would want to be tangling with in a Group of Death.

The obvious this seed to avoid is Derry. They beat Kerry in Tralee in the first round of the League before going on to lift the Division One title. Their Ulster SFC exit against Donegal was a shock of sorts, but Mickey Harte will have steadied the Derry ship and they are probably the only third seed capable of coming to Killarney and beating Kerry.

For their fourth seed opposition, Cork – like they were last year – would be a tricky game on Leeside, but Cavan look the team to avoid. They beat Monaghan in the Ulster Championship preliminary round and then ran Tyrone to a point in the quarter-final after extra-time. Breffni Park is not a place Kerry want to be going in the second round, especially if they have been turned over in the first round.

Worst case scenario: Kerry, Donegal, Derry, Cavan

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Seedings

1st seeds: Kerry or Clare, Galway or Mayo, Dublin or Louth, Armagh or Donegal

2nd seeds: Kerry or Clare, Galway or Mayo, Dublin or Louth, Armagh or Donegal

3rd seeds: Derry, Tyrone, Roscommon, Monaghan

4th seeds: Cavan, Cork, Meath, Westmeath

All-Ireland SFC Group Stage schedule

Round 1

Saturday / Sunday, May 18 / 19

Seed 1 (Munster/Connacht champions) v Seed 3; Seed 2 (Munster/Connacht runner-up) v Seed 4

(Seed 1 & 2 will have home venue)

Saturday / Sunday, May 25 / 26

Seed 1 (Leinster/Ulster champions) v Seed 3; Seed 2 (Leinster/Ulster runner-up) v Seed 4

(Seed 1 & 2 will have home venue)

Round 2

Saturday / Sunday, June 1 / 2

Seed 3 v Seed 2; Seed 4 v Seed1

(Seed 3 & 4 will have home venue)

Round 3

Saturday / Sunday, June 15 / 16

Seed 1 v Seed 2; Seed 3 v Seed 4

(Games will be played at neutral venues)

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