Draw puts Cork and Kerry on Munster final collision course

Kerry will hope to stretch their unbeaten record in Munster under Éamonn Fitzmaurice to 13 games when they face Clare or Limerick in a provincial semi-final next May.

Not since their five-point loss to Cork in the 2012 semi-final have Kerry lost in the province, their return since then reading 12 wins and one draw.

Last night’s televised 2018 championship draw, completed by Munster Council chairman Jerry O’Sullivan, means the province has been split in the same manner as last year. As Cork won through to this past season’s final, they were rewarded with a semi-final bye, where Ronan McCarthy will make his championship debut as manager against the winners of Tipperary and Waterford. It will be the fourth consecutive season Clare and Limerick will face off in the provincial championship, the third year in a row the victors will take on the Kingdom. The duration of the competition is also set to be cut to just four weeks.

For the sixth year in a row, Galway and Mayo will meet, as they were drawn at the quarter-final stage in Connacht, with Mayo set to enjoy home advantage in Elverys McHale Park. Mayo will be aiming to avoid a third straight defeat to their neighbours. Roscommon face Leitrim for a third successive season, providing they beat New York in Gaelic Park at the beginning of May. The winners of Mayo and Galway take on Sligo or London in the other semi-final.

For the fourth time this decade, Donegal must begin the Ulster SFC from the preliminary round, in which they will face Cavan in a repeat of the 2012 opener. It means both teams, regardless of that result will undertake eight or nine matches to reach an All-Ireland semi-final. The side that progresses takes on Derry in the quarter-finals, where the pick of the ties is reigning provincial champions Tyrone against Monaghan. The 2017 runners-up Down face Antrim, while Armagh clash with Fermanagh.

All-Ireland champions Dublin will meet the winners of the Offaly and Wicklow preliminary-round clash in a Leinster quarter-final. As was the case in the last two years, when they travelled to play Laois and Carlow in Nowlan Park and O’Moore Park, respectively, it’s likely that they will go outside the capital to begin their summer. Meath are on Dublin’s side of the draw, having been matched with Longford in their quarter-final.

The Munster and Connacht champions, plus the winners of the Leinster and Ulster runners-up fourth-round qualifier games, will make up Group 1 in the Super 8. Group 2 will involve the Leinster and Ulster winners, as well as the Munster and Connacht finalists or those teams that beat them in their qualifier. The top two in each group will advance to the semi-finals, which will played over the same weekend.

There will be a return to the open qualifiers in 2018 after they had previously been divided into A and B sections from 2014. Those 16 teams that don’t make their provincial semi-finals will be drawn to play one another in the first round of the qualifiers. The winners of those matches face the beaten semi-finalists in round two. There will then be four round-three games between those round-two victors, before they comprise one side of the round-four draw, the beaten provincial finalists making up the other.

The All-Ireland SFC final is set for September 2, even though there are strong indications Pope Francis will visit Ireland at the end of September. The GAA had intended keeping August 26 free for his possible Mass at Croke Park.

Munster SFC quarter-finals:

Clare v Limerick, Tipperary v Waterford. Semi-finals: Clare/Limerick v Kerry; Tipperary/Waterford v Cork.

Connacht SFC quarter-finals:

New York v Leitrim, London v Sligo, Mayo v Galway; Semi-finals: New York/Leitrim v Roscommon; Mayo/Galway v London/Sligo.

Leinster SFC preliminary round:

Laois v Wexford, Louth v Carlow, Offaly v Wicklow; Quarter-finals: Laois/Wexford v Westmeath, Louth/Carlow v Kildare; Offaly/Wicklow v Dublin, Longford v Meath; Semi-finals: Laois/Wexford/Westmeath v Louth/Carlow/Kildare; Offaly/Wicklow/Dublin v Longford/Meath.

Ulster SFC preliminary round:

Donegal v Cavan; Quarter-finals: Donegal/Cavan v Derry, Down v Antrim, Fermanagh v Armagh, Tyrone v Monaghan; Semi-finals: Donegal/Cavan/Derry v Down/Antrim; Fermanagh/Armagh v Tyrone/Monaghan.


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