Can anyone stop the all-conquering Dubs?

champions Dublin set 2018 benchmark
17 September 2017; Dublin players celebrate following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

We look ahead to the 2018 battle for Sam and ask if anyone can stop the Dublin from making it four-in-a-row, as well as some of the key structural changes to the season

The coming year is sure to be another thrilling 12 months of Gaelic Football as all-conquering Dublin look to try and make it four All Ireland titles in a row. The task of stopping them seems an unenviable one, but try their rivals must.

Can the likes of Kerry or Tyrone mount a serious challenge, or could Mayo finally end their long wait for Sam, after losing out again last year, or will a surprise package emerge from the chasing pack to put it up to the Dubs?

It promises to be another fascinating year, with the added changes to GAA calendar providing an intriguing extra dimension to it all.

The championship season kicks off on 6 May with Leitrim’s trip to New York and the visit of Sligo to McGovern Park, Ruislip, to take on Ciaran Deely’s London side.

The fixture is sure to provoke memories of 2013 when the Exiles recorded just their second-ever Connacht Championship victory, beating Sligo, 1-12 to 0-14.

The Exiles went on to beat Leitrim in a replay and reach a historic first-ever Connacht SFC final, where they lost out to Mayo. If successful, Deely’s side will face the winners of All Ireland finalists Mayo and Galway. Holders Roscommon await the winners of New York and Leitrim.

champions Dublin set 2018 benchmark
17 September 2017; Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton lifts the Sam Maguire following the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

All Ireland champions Dublin open the defence of their Leinster and All Ireland title against the victors of Offaly and Wicklow. The Dubs will be targeting an eighth consecutive Leinster title, and will take some beating.

In Munster, Kerry begin their campaign for a sixth title in a row against the victors of Clare and Limerick. In Ulster, Mickey Harte’s Tyrone will be going for three consecutive provincial titles and open up against 2015 winners Monaghan.

The most significant change in 2018 will be the introduction of the Super 8, which will replace the current eight team quarter-final stage, with a round-robin format.

It will be fascinating to see how successful, or not, this proves to be, with teams, the media and supporters alike.

The provisional 2018 Allianz League fixtures get underway with a Dublin opening their Division 1 campaign against Kildare on 27 January in a repeat of this year’s Leinster SFC final.

Reigning Allianz Football League Division 1 champions Kerry will begin at home to Donegal on Sunday 28th January.

The Division 1 football final is set to be played on 1 April. Thereafter the month of April will be ring-fenced for club activity.

Significantly for Deely’s Exiles, all of their fixtures will be a McGovern Park this year, as they look to make an impact on Division 4.

The first visitors to Ruislip are Carlow on 27 January in a repeat of their All Ireland qualifier of 2017.

Provincial Championship Fixtures

May 6th
Connacht SFC – Leitrim v New York, Sligo v London

May 13th
Connacht SFC – Mayo v Galway

Ulster SFC – Donegal v Cavan

May 12th/13th
Leinster SFC – Laois v Wexford, Louth v Carlow, Offaly v Wicklow

May 19th Ulster SFC – Fermanagh v Armagh

Munster SFC – Clare v Limerick, Tipperary v Waterford
May 20th
Ulster SFC – Tyrone v Monaghan
May 26th Ulster SFC – Down v Antrim

Connacht SFC – Leitrim/NY v Roscommon

May 26/27th
Leinster – SFC Laois/Wexford v Westmeath, Louth/Carlow v Kildare, Offaly/Wicklow v Dublin, Longford v Meath

May 27th
Ulster SFC – Donegal/Cavan v Derry

June 2nd
Munster SFC – Clare/Limerick v Kerry, Tipperary/Waterford v Cork

June 3rd
Connacht SFC – Mayo/Galway v Sligo/London

Ulster SFC – Fermanagh/Armagh v Tyrone/Monaghan
June 10th
Ulster SFC – Donegal/Cavan/Derry v Down/Antrim

Leinster SFC – Offaly/Wicklow/Dublin v Longford/Meath, Laois/Wexford/Westmeath v Louth/Carlow/Kildare

June 17th
Connacht Football Final, 4pm

June 23rd
Munster Football Final, 7pm

June 24th
Ulster Football Final, 2pm
Leinster Football Final, 4pm

June 9th
All-Ireland Senior Football Qualifiers Round 1

June 23rd
All-Ireland Senior Football Qualifiers Round 2

June 30th
All-Ireland Senior Football Qualifiers Round 3

July 7th/8th
All-Ireland Senior Football Qualifiers Round 4

July 14th/15th
All-Ireland Senior Football Quarter Finals Phase 1 (2 Games – Páirc an Chrócaigh)

July 21st/22nd
All-Ireland Senior Football Quarter Finals Phase 2 (Group 1 & 2)

August 4th-6th
All-Ireland Senior Football Quarter-Finals Phase 3 (Group 1 & 2)

August 11th-12th
All-Ireland Senior Football Semi-Finals

Sept 2nd
All-Ireland Senior Football Final

champions Dublin set 2018 benchmark
9 April 2017; Kerry players with the cup following the Allianz Football League Division 1 Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Allianz Football League Division 1

Round 1: Saturday, Jan 27th: Dublin v Kildare; Sunday, January 28th: Galway v Tyrone, Kerry v Donegal, Monaghan v Mayo

Round 2: Saturday February 3rd: Mayo v Kerry, Tyrone v Dublin; Sunday, February 4th: Donegal v Galway, Kildare v Monaghan

Round 3: Saturday February 10th: Dublin v Donegal; Sunday February 11th: Galway v Mayo, Kildare v Tyrone, Monaghan v Kerry

Round 4: Saturday February 24th: Mayo v Dublin, Monaghan v Tyrone; Sunday February 25th: Donegal v Kildare, Kerry v Galway

Round 5: Saturday March 3rd: Dublin v Kerry, Tyrone v Donegal; Sunday March 4th: Galway v Monaghan, Kildare v Mayo

Round 6: Saturday March 17th: Mayo v Tyrone; Sun, March 18th: Galway v Dublin, Kerry v Kildare, Monaghan v Donegal

Round 7: Sunday Mar 25th: Donegal v Mayo, Dublin v Monaghan, Kildare v Galway, Tyrone v Kerry

champions Dublin set 2018 benchmark
9 April 2017; Galway players celebrate following the Allianz Football League Division 2 Final match between Kildare and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Allianz Football League Division 2

Round 1: Saturday, January 27th: Cork v Tipperary; Sunday January 28th: Clare v Cavan, Louth v Down, Roscommon v Meath

Round 2: Saturday, February 3rd: Cavan v Louth, Tipperary v Roscommon; Sunday, February 4th: Down v Cork, Meath v Clare

Round 3: Saturday, February 10: Cavan v Meath; Sunday, February 11: Clare v Tipperary, Cork v Louth, Roscommon v Down

Round 4: Sunday, February 25th: Cork v Cavan, Down v Clare, Louth v Roscommon, Tipperary v Meath

Round 5: Saturday, March 3rd: Cavan v Down; Sunday, March 4th: Clare v Roscommon, Meath v Cork, Tipperary v Louth

Round 6: Saturday, March 17th: Cork v Clare; Sunday, March 18th: Down v Tipperary, Louth v Meath, Roscommon v Cavan

Round 7: Sunday, March 25th: Cavan v Tipperary, Clare v Louth, Meath v Down, Roscommon v Cork

champions Dublin set 2018 benchmark
8 April 2017; The Tipperary players celebrate with the cup after the Allianz Football League Division 3 Final match between Louth and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Allianz Football League Division 3

Round 1: Sunday, January 28: Armagh v Sligo, Derry v Westmeath, Fermanagh v Wexford, Offaly v Longford

Round 2: Sunday, February 4: Fermanagh v Offaly, Longford v Derry, Sligo v Wexford, Westmeath v Armagh

Round 3: Sunday February 11: Armagh v Longford, Derry v Offaly, Sligo v Fermanagh, Wexford v Westmeath

Round 4: Saturday, February 24: Fermanagh v Derry; Sunday, February 25: Longford v Wexford, Offaly v Armagh, Westmeath v Sligo

Round 5: Saturday, March 3: Armagh v Derry; Sunday, March 4: Sligo v Longford, Westmeath v Fermanagh, Wexford v Offaly

Round 6: Saturday, March 17: Fermanagh v Armagh; Sunday, March 18: Derry v Wexford, Longford v Westmeath, Offaly v Sligo

Round 7: Sunday, March 25: Longford v Fermanagh, Sligo v Derry, Westmeath v Offaly, Wexford v Armagh

champions Dublin set 2018 benchmark
8 April 2017; The Westmeath team celebrate with the Division 4 trophy after the Allianz Football League Division 4 Final match between Westmeath and Wexford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Allianz Football League Division 4

Round 1: Saturday, January 27: Laois v Limerick, London v Carlow; Sunday, January 28: Antrim v Leitrim, Wicklow v Waterford

Round 2: Sunday, February 4: Leitrim v Laois, Limerick v Carlow, London v Wicklow, Waterford v Antrim

Round 3: Saturday, February 10: Laois v Waterford; Sunday, February 11: Antrim v Wicklow, Carlow v Leitrim, London v Limerick

Round 4: Sunday, February 25: Leitrim v Limerick, Waterford v Carlow, Wicklow v Laois, London v Antrim

Round 5: Saturday, March 3: Carlow v Wicklow, London v Leitrim; Sunday, March 4: Laois v Antrim, Limerick v Waterford

Round 6: Sunday, March 11: London v Laois; Sunday, March 18: Antrim v Carlow, Waterford v Leitrim, Wicklow v Limerick

Round 7: Sunday, March 25: Carlow v Laois, Leitrim v Wicklow, Limerick v Antrim, London v Waterford

champions Dublin set 2018 benchmark
London champions Fulham Irish who face Corofin on 21 January

All Ireland Club SFC Quarter-Final
Fulham Irish (London) vs Corofin (Galway)
Sunday 21st January, 1pm
McGover Park, Ruislip

Super 8
From 2018, for the next three years, the Super 8 will replace the current eight-team quarter-final stage of the All-Ireland series.

The four provincial champions and the four provincial runners-up, or the team that beats them in round four of the qualifiers, will be sorted into two groups of four.

Each team will play one home game, one away game and one game in Croke Park, with the top two teams in each group progressing to the semi-finals.

It’s the most significant change to the structure of the football championship since the introduction of the qualifier system in 2001.

Why are both Hurling and Football starting on January 28th?
The GAA’s guiding principle in developing the 2018 Master Fixtures plan was to ensure that as much of April as possible could be kept free for clubs.

To that end, there are more “double” weekends in the league than before (four in total) and the leagues are starting in the last weekend in January (normally, the football league would start on the first week in February; the hurling on the second week).

Why is the Munster Football final on a Saturday night?
The final round of the Munster Hurling Championship was scheduled for the day on which the GAA had initially planned to play the Munster Football final.

Rather than move the Munster Hurling games to a Saturday, it the GAA felt that it was a good time to experiment with a Provincial final on a Saturday night. The thought process being that it will offer a good promotional and marketing opportunity.

It will be reviewed in 2018 but this is envisioned as being part of a three-year experimental rota with Leinster and Ulster, whereby if required one of those provinces would also look at playing a Provincial Football final on a Saturday night in the coming years.


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