It’s heading into July and pulses are racing faster as the Bank of Ireland provincial football championship final season kicks in just ahead of the All-Ireland qualifiers which are certain to prove ultra-competitive this year.
The honour of launching the provincial final circuit falls to Munster and those old rivals, Kerry and Cork who clash in Killarney next Sunday.
Galway and Sligo are through to the Connacht final; Monaghan and Tyrone will contest the Ulster final while Dublin have qualified for their third successive Leinster final where they will play Laois or Wexford who meet in the last remaining provincial semi-final next Sunday.
Next Sunday’s programme is as follows:
Bank of Ireland Munster SFC Final
Kerry v Cork, Killarney, 2.00pm
Live on RTE 2
Bank of Ireland Leinster SFC semi-final
Laois v Wexford, Croke Park, 2.10pm
CORK v KERRY
Next Sunday’s Bank of Ireland Munster football final in Killarney will have a special edge as it features Kerry, the reigning All-Ireland champions against Cork, the reigning provincial champions.
Games between these great rivals are always special treats and this year will be no exception as Cork bid to win successive Munster titles for the first time since 1993-94-95 when they won the three-in-a-row while Kerry seek to regain the provincial crown, having won their last title two years ago.
Kerry hold a massive lead over Cork on the provincial honours table, having won the Munster title on no fewer than 70 occasions between 1892 and 2005. Cork have won the title on 34 occasions between 1890 and last year.
The counties met three times in last year’s championship, drawing in the Munster final in Killarney (0-10 each) before Cork won the replay by 1-12 to 0-9 in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. However, the Kingdom got revenge in the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park which they won by 0-16 to 0-10, en route to winning the title. Interestingly, it will be the sixth championship meeting in three seasons between the counties as they also met twice in 2005 with Kerry winning both the Munster final and All-Ireland semi-final.
New Kerry manager, Pat O’Shea will experience a Munster senior final for the first time while his Cork counterpart, Billy Morgan will be trying to steer Cork to a ninth Munster crown, having presided over eight previous successes in 1987-88-89-90-93-94-95-2006.
Cork beat Limerick and Tipperary to reach the final while Kerry ousted Waterford.
PATHS TO THE FINAL
Cork have scored a total of 4-32 in their two Munster championship games so far and have yet to concede a goal. Kerry hit 2-15 in their semi-final win over Waterford.
Cork 2-14 Limerick 0-7
Cork 2-18 Tipperary 0-10
Kerry 2-15 Waterford 0-4
LAST FIVE BANK OF IRELAND CHAMPIONSHIP CLASHES
2006 – Kerry 0-16 Cork 0-10 (All-Ireland semi-final)
2006 – Cork 1-12 Kerry 0-9 (Munster final replay)
2006 – Cork 0-10 Kerry 0-10 (Munster final)
2005 – Kerry 1-19 Cork 0-9 (All-Ireland semi-final)
2005 – Kerry 1-11 Cork 0-11 (Munster final)
LAOIS v WEXFORD
A Leinster final clash with Dublin on July 15 is the prize for the winners. Laois are attempting to reach the Leinster final for the fourth time in five seasons while Wexford last reached the final in 1956. Wexford will be hoping it’s fourth time lucky, having lost Leinster semi-finals in each of the last three years to Westmeath (2004), Dublin (2005) and Offaly (2006).
Laois and Wexford last clashed in the championship in 2003 when Laois won easily. Wexford’s last win over Laois in the championship was in 1953 when they won a quarter-final clash by a point.
Although the counties have met twice in the Leinster championship this decade, it’s not one of the busiest rivalries with only 16 championship games recorded between them and only six since 1950. It stands at 8-8 from those 16 meetings.
PATHS TO THE SEMI-FINAL
Laois 0-14 Longford 0-9 (Leinster quarter-final)
Wexford 0-16 Louth 2-8 (Leinster quarter-final)
Last Five Bank of Ireland Leinster SFC clashes
2003 – Laois 1-19 Wexford 0-10 (Leinster 1st round)
2001 – Laois 0-18 Wexford 0-14 (Leinster 1st round)
1968 – Laois 2-12 Wexford 1-9 (Leinster 1st round)
1953 – Wexford 1-9 Laois 0-11 (Leinster quarter-final)
1951 – Laois 1-9 Wexford 2-4 (Leinster semi-final)
BANK OF IRELAND SFC 2007 – RESULTS & FIXTURES
May 13: First round: Longford 2-13 Westmeath 1-13, Pearse Park.
May 20: First round: Louth 1-11 Wicklow 0-14; Meath 2-11 Kildare 1-8 (Both in Croke Park.
May 27: Replay: Louth 1-9 Wicklow 0-12, Parnell Park.
June 2: Quarter-final: Laois 0-14 v Longford 0-9, Tullamore.
June 3: First round 2nd replay: Louth 2-18 Wicklow 0-11, Croke Park; Quarter-final: Dublin 1-11 Meath 0-14, Croke Park.
June 10: Quarter-final: Offaly 2-19 Carlow 3-7, Portlaoise.
June 17: Quarter-finals: Wexford 0-16 Louth 2-8, Croke Park: Replay: Dublin 0-16 Meath 0-12, Croke Park.
June 24: Semi-final: Dublin 1-12 Offaly 0-10, Croke Park.
Next Sunday: Semi-final: Laois v Wexford, Croke Park.
July 15: Final: Dublin v Laois/Wexford, Croke Park.
May 13: Preliminary Round: Cavan 2-11 Down 3-8, Kingspan Breffni Park.
May 20 (Replay): Down 0-15 Cavan 0-11, Newry.
May 20: Quarter-final: Tyrone 0-13 Fermanagh 1-9, Clones.
May 27: Quarter-final: Donegal 1-9 Armagh 1-8, Ballybofey
June 3: Quarter-final: Antrim v Derry, Casement Park (postponed due to waterlogging)
June 10: Quarter-finals: Monaghan 2-15 Down 1-15, Newry; Derry 1-13 Antrim 0-10, Casement Park.
June 17: Semi-final: Tyrone 2-15 Donegal 1-7, Clones.
Next Sunday: Semi-final: Monaghan 0-14 Derry 1-9, Casement Park.
July 15: Final: Tyrone v Monaghan, Clones.
May 13: Quarter-final: Sligo 2-18 New York 1-3, Gaelic Park, New York.
May 20: Quarter-final: Galway 2-10 Mayo 0-9, Pearse Stadium.
May 27: Leitrim 1-12 London 2-5 Ruislip.
June 17: Semi-final: Sligo 0-13 Roscommon 2-5, Dr.Hyde Park.
Next Sunday: Semi-final: Galway 0-17 Leitrim 1-10, Carrick-on-Shannon.
July 8: Final: Sligo v Galway.
May 20: Quarter-finals: Waterford 1-6 Clare 0-7, Dungarvan; Cork 2-14 Limerick 0-7, Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
June 3: Semi-finals: Kerry 2-15 Waterford 0-4, Dungarvan; Cork 2-18 Tipperary 0-10, Gaelic Grounds.
Next Sunday: Kerry v Cork, Killarney.
BANK OF IRELAND SFC QUALIFIERS
Saturday, July 7 – Round 1: Limerick v Louth, Gaelic Grounds: Leitrim v Donegal, Carrick-on-Shannon; Mayo v Cavan, Castlebar; Down v Meath, Newry; Roscommon v Kildare, Dr, Hyde Park; Westmeath v Longford, Mullingar.
Sunday, July 8: Fermanagh v Laois/Wexford, Enniskillen or Clones, 2.0; Armagh v Derry, Clones, 4.0
July 14 – Round 2 (Eight Round 1 winners play off against each other)
July 21 – Round 3 (Connacht and Munster runners-up v two Round 2 winners)
July 28 – Round 3 (Leinster and Ulster runners-up v two Round 2 winners)
Aug 4: All-Ireland quarter-finals (2)
Aug 11: All-Ireland quarter-finals (2)
Aug 19: All-Ireland semi-final, Croke Park.
Aug 26: All-Ireland semi-final, Croke Park.
Sept 16: All-Ireland final, Croke Park