An amazing coincidence has seen the same four counties that will compete for the All-Ireland Football Championship in 2020 exactly mirror those that competed 100 years ago. Dublin, Cavan, Mayo and Dublin will contest the Semis the weekend after next, in a year that continues to defy expectations.
It's a coincidence that goes further than coincidence and passes right over into outright spooky, especially given the unusual nature of the Championship in 2020 and the 100th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre at Croke Park.
Tipperary were one of the teams playing that horrific day back in 1920, and they wore amazing tribute jerseys yesterday as they overcame the odds to defeat Cork and pick up their first Munster Football Championship since 1936. They were underdogs against the Rebel County, who themselves had reached the final thanks to an upset victory against Kerry with a last gasp goal two weeks ago.
Cavan Town going nuts. pic.twitter.com/WGlF3yW11Z- Shane Mc Caffrey (@ShaneMcCaffrey6) November 22, 2020
Cavan were even longer odds than Tipp - you could have got 1/7 on Donegal to breeze by them and pick up the Ulster Championship before yesterday's tip off at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. Yet the Breffni produced one of the biggest shocks in years to grab their first provincial title since 1997.
On top of the unlikely odds of those two games going the way that they did, you have to factor in the pandemic. It is only because of COVID-19 that two teams could win their provincial titles and advance directly to the semis, given that the structure this year was altered to get the games in more quickly. Then, factor in again that Tipp and Cavan were the two counties that had lost the most players from their panel in 2020, before COVID drew them back.
Michael Quinlivan, who played a starring role in the Munster Final, had already decided to forego the 2020 season in order to go travelling: now, he'll be lining up against Mayo in two weeks with a place in the Final on the line. Other players, like Colin O'Riordan, would have been playing Aussie Rules had the travel ban not intervened.
For all this to come together, for all these ducks to align, is amazing. Now, it will take something even more unlikely: one of those two winning the All-Ireland and beating a Dublin team that hasn't lost a single game in more than 5 years.
Yes, we know Mayo are still in the competition, but come on. 2020 has been the strangest year anyone can remember - but if Mayo win the All-Ireland we might as well give up.
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