All still to play for in top two divisions of football league
With only a straight final between top two sides in Division One this year, it’s cut-throat business
Cavan manager Mattie McGleenan saw his side take a surprise 1-14 to 0-15 win over Mayo at MacHale Park in Division Two on Sunday. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.
The 2017 version of the Allianz Football League is such a knotted enterprise that we will for once head into the penultimate series of games next weekend with virtually nothing decided.
Usually St Patrick’s weekend or thereabouts is when each of the divisions has more of a definitive shape put on it but if anything the picture became muddier this time around.
We presumed, for example, that in Division One Dublin and Tyrone would set about putting clear road between themselves and the peloton.
Not so. Instead, the top of the table has four teams on seven points and only separated by scoring difference.
In other years, this wouldn’t have amounted to a hill of beans – the Dubs, Tyrone, Donegal and Monaghan would have straight-forward enough passage into the semi-finals to play for over the closing two weekends. With only a straight final between the top two this time around, there’s cut-throat business on the table over the next two weekends.
Monaghan ran up a 2-17 to 1-13 win over Roscommon in Inniskeen on Sunday to all but relegate Kevin McStay’s side. Two quickfire goals from Jack McCarron and Owen Duffy in the closing quarter sealed it for Malachy O’Rourke’s side, who have games away to Donegal and home to Dublin to finish out their schedule.
Roscommon will in all likelihood fall through the trapdoor against Dublin in Croke Park this coming Saturday night.
Cavan’s surprise win over Mayo on Sunday raised the distinct possibility of the Rossies having their near neighbours for company on the way down. Mattie McGleenan’s side went to Castlebar and came away with a 1-14 to 0-15 win over the home side, who will now have to match or better Cavan’s results the rest of the way.
Cavan are home to Kerry and away to Roscommon, Mayo are away to Tyrone and home to Donegal. That end of the table has plenty of life in it yet.
In Division Two, life is even more complicated. Four points separate top and seventh, four points separate bottom and second. Kildare sit top on eight points, with Galway second on seven and Meath and Clare chasing them on five and Down, Cork and Fermanagh on four.
On the face of it, Kildare and Galway ought to be safe enough bets to go up – they both have far superior points differences in their favour as well. But at the bottom, any two of the other six can go down.
Fermanagh have themselves a lifeline with a 0-18 to 1-10 win over Clare on Sunday and Meath pulled a draw out of the fire against Cork despite having been eight points down at one stage, as well as being behind in stoppage time.
That sort of resilience will serve them well over the coming fortnight – this is a division that will have juice in it all the way to the last whistle.
Armagh, Louth and Tipperary look to have Division Three honours between them, with Kieran McGeeney’s side running up an impressive 3-15 to 0-10 over Louth in Drogheda.
In Division Four, Wexford’s footballers joined their hurlers in sealing early promotion with a 0-15 to 0-9 win over London.
At least something, somewhere is straight-forward.