THIS time next week interim Cork football manager John Cleary will be dissecting the first-round draw in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
It will be made on RTÉ Radio on Monday morning just after the 8.30 news headlines and Cork will be one of eight teams in the hat.
The qualifiers this season take on a different hue, confined to counties playing in divisions 1 and 2 in the league based on the final standings in this season’s event.
Whatever way you look at it, Cork face a huge task given the quality of opponent and on the basis half of the teams operate in the top tier.
They are led by All-Ireland champions, Tyrone, who suffered a shock defeat by the team-of-the-moment, Derry, and include beaten finalists Mayo, along with formidable Ulster duo, Monaghan and Armagh.
Munster rivals Clare, Meath, who inflicted a heavy defeat on Cork in the league in Navan, and Mickey Harte’s promoted Louth complete the roster.
The first-round games are pencilled in for June 4/5 with the winners progressing to the draw for round 2, which involves the beaten provincial finalists.
Connacht was already paired up with another meeting of Galway and Roscommon before the other regions caught up at the weekend.
Limerick’s 2-10 to 0-10 win over Tipperary in Thurles sets-up a meeting with All-Ireland favourites Kerry in Munster and sends Tipp to the Tailteann Cup, the new All-Ireland B championship.
Goals in either half by Josh Ryan and Brian Donovan did the trick for Billy Lee’s side, who will be complete no-hopers against the Kingdom, but will still be guaranteed at least one more outing after the final.
In Leinster, it’s the predictable Dublin-Kildare showdown after the Dubs, who were relegated to division 2 at the end of the league, smacked Meath by 1-27 to 1-14 in the semi-final at Croke Park.
Dublin supplied 10 different scorers, ranging from Dean Rock’s 1-8, Cormac Costello’s 0-4 and Ciaran Kilkenny’s 0-3 to John Small’s ‘mark’ in another impressive showing with the Dubs now second favourites to lift the Sam Maguire.
Kildare had their expected win over Westmeath, but the concession of 2-14 to a Tailteann Cup team in only a three-point victory doesn’t augur well for the Lillywhites, who are also in division 2 next season.
Derry’s march to the Ulster final against Donegal showed their win over Tyrone was no fluke as they dumped fancied Monaghan out of the provincial championship, winning by 3-12 to 0-17 to end an 11-year wait for their next final appointment.
What’s interesting about the composition of the four provincial finals is that six of the sides were either operating in division 2 this season or will appear in the section next year.
It reflects just how competitive the second tier has become with Derry a case in point, capable of reaching an Ulster final but not getting out of the division.
That distinction fell to Galway and Roscommon while Dublin and Kildare slipped out of the first division, leaving Kerry and Donegal as the only current division 1 counties left battling for provincial honours.
The bookies expect Kerry, Dublin, Galway and Donegal to progress to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, where they would meet the round 2 winners.
Cork are 250/1 along with Meath while Clare and Louth are 1,000/1. Despite having beaen Tyrone, Derry are 18/1 with the champions available at 14s.
Meanwhile, Ephie Fitzgerald’s Waterford enjoyed little luck in the first-ever draw in the Tailteann Cup, when handed an away preliminary round tie against relegated from division 3, Wicklow, this weekend.
And even if the Deise prevail, they would still be on the road for the first-round proper against either Wexford or Offaly.
Tipp manager, David Power, was highly critical of the decision to split the competition into two sections.
And as it turned out the Premier County head to Carlow, a team they played during their promotion run from division 4, winning by 2-16 to 0-11 in Thurles.
The Tailteann Cup draw is: (Southern Section): Preliminary Round: Wexford v Offaly and Wicklow v Waterford.
Round 1: Wexford or Offaly v Wicklow or Waterford; Carlow v Tipperary; Laois v Westmeath.
(Northern Section): Round 1: Longford v Fermanagh; Leitrim v Antrim; Sligo v London; Cavan v Down.