The contenders for the Keegan Cup are starting to shape up and after this weekend's action the picture will become clearer.
My predictions are as follows:
RATOATH v WOLFE TONES
Just how much can we read into Wolfe Tones’ seemingly impressive win over Summerhill that ensured their place in the quarter-finals?
If Summerhill competed at the peak of their powers in that contest then Wolfe Tones will go into Friday’s quarter-final clash with Ratoath at Ashbourne brimming with confidence and full of belief they can get the better of Terry McGuinness’s side.
However, the suspicion is that Summerhill didn’t operate at peak powers because they were already guaranteed top spot and so that dilutes Wolfe Tones’ potential. There is no doubting Tony Kearney will have his side purring at the right time and in Saran O Fionnagain they have one of the county’s most exciting young attacking threats.
However, Ratoath topped Group C with five wins and with such an abundance of individual talent available to them, and many of their key players reaching peak fitness at prime time, they should be too strong. Verdict - Ratoath.
NAVAN O’MAHONYS V NA FIANNA
There was a prevailing sense that Navan O’Mahonys are peaking at the perfect time as they produced their best performance of the year when despatching Seneschalstown in their final group game to scrape into this preliminary quarter-final.
Na Fianna also managed to edge their way into the knock-out stages despite managing just one win in their group.
That victory came in the final game against St Patrick’s, but they have proved their tenacity by notching up draws against Skryne and Dunshaughlin.
It is the losses to Ratoath and Dunboyne that suggests Na Fianna will find the going too tough in this game in Trim on Saturday (4pm), but such is their wealth of attacking threat that they cannot be discounted.
The loss of Jamie Queeney to a cruciate knee injury is a massive blow while, in contrast, Navan O’Mahonys have welcomed back hamstring-afflicted Stephen Bray and his display in the win over Seneschalstown was a throwback to some of his finest days.
The cruciate curse has forced David Bray to retire from the game and his absence is a blow, but that overwhelming sense that Navan O’Mahonys are preparing a late-season surge suggests they will get the better of Na Fianna. Verdict - Navan O’Mahonys.
MOYNALVEY v GAEIL COLMCILLE
Two of the most free-flowing attack-minded teams left in the SFC will go head-to-head in what should be a thrilling SFC quarter-final at Trim on Sunday afternoon, 2pm.
Gaeil Colmcille will look to their outstanding attacking threat with Seamus Mattimoe, Martin Barrett, Brian Hanlon likely to be well complemented by Fionn and Oisin Reilly as they bid to maintain a winning run started after their second round loss to Summerhill.
That defeat has been Gaeil Colmcille’s only setback so far, but they are likely to have their Keegan Cup credentials severely tested by Moynalvey.
Moynalvey are in the top three highest scorers of the campaign and their consistency scoring 3-14 twice and 3-15 against Navan O’Mahonys in their final three games of the group shows their obvious attacking threat.
They also managed 17 points in their win over Seneschalstown while their return of 11 points against champions Simonstown was a blot in an otherwise perfect copy book.
Defensively Moynalvey display all the hallmarks of a Darren Fay-coached side. Their intensity in the tackle and hunger to close down opponents will make life difficult for Gaeil Colmcille and their impressive summer could continue. Verdict - Moynalvey.
SIMONSTOWN GAELS v DUNBOYNE
For one of the top two in the betting in the SFC, the Keegan Cup journey will come to an end at Pairc Tailteann on Sunday (4pm), but who will make the early exit.
This is a tough one to call. Dunboyne must be fuming at slipping up against Ratoath which left them with the daunting prospect of facing the champions in the last eight.
However, to be the best you must beat the best. That will be Dunboyne’s attitude and it is also an adage they are capable of living up to.
Unlike their Keegan Cup-winning campaign of 2016 Simonstown have been impressive in the group stages and have advanced to the knock-out stages with little difficulty, so can they handle this alternative approach?
They looked uneasy at times in their win over Blackhall Gaels last time out, but with top spot already assured they didn’t have to be at their best and gave some players a deserved break.
Dunboyne were also sub-par against Ratoath and that might give them cause for concern after what had been an impressiove campaign up to then.
It is very tight to call. Dunboyne’s attacking threat is very strong and they have scored more than anyone in the group stages as they carry serious ammunition, but Simonstown have conceded less than any other team in this championship and it is that defensive strength that might just give them the edge because they also have the attacking nous to see them over the line. Verdict - Simonstown Gaels.