As a snapshot in time, the overall picture presented by the current Allianz Football League tables is a concerning one for Leinster football.
Rooted to the foot of Division One are, surprisingly, Dublin with Kildare just above them in the second relegation place. On Sunday, those two teams will collide in Newbridge and, for the loser, their ticket to Division Two may very well have just been stamped with only three games remaining.
The situation is similar in Division Two where the only two Leinster teams, Offaly and Meath, also occupy the relegation positions and are set to meet this weekend too, on Saturday in Tullamore.
You have to drop right down to Division Three to find a Leinster team, second-placed Westmeath, actually making any headway, though they’ve only played two games so far due to a postponement last weekend.
Below them in Division Three, Louth are in fourth position, Laois are fifth, Longford are sixth and Wicklow are eighth while Wexford prop up Division Four.
All in all, a depressing scenario for Leinster counties which Meath great Colm O’Rourke has labelled a provincial “crisis”. O’Rourke also outlined a doomsday scenario of potentially having no Leinster team in Division One in 2023 and noted how Meath and Offaly could quite conceivably end up playing Tailteann Cup football this summer.
"I think you have to base Colm's comments more so on what we've seen in the last 10 years, with Dublin's dominance," said Paul Curran, a six-time Leinster championship winner with Dublin.
“But I do see some progress in other counties so I would be more optimistic. Meath got very close to Dublin last year, they seem to be struggling a bit now but come championship they’ll be a different force.
"Kildare have a lot of talent and have been very competitive in Division One, albeit the results have gone against them, and Offaly are coming off winning an All-Ireland under-20. Mickey Harte is obviously over Louth who had a good win last weekend.
“So I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s in crisis just yet. It certainly looked like that when Dublin were so dominant but, for me, Leinster as a whole looks a lot better than it has. We could have an exciting Leinster championship for the first time in a long time.
“Within that, there is an element that Dublin are no longer the force they were. That in itself gives all the other teams a bit of a lift and confidence.”
Curran, in charge of Con O’Callaghan’s Cuala last season, believes that Dublin will ultimately do enough to retain their Division One status and has predicted that “we’ll be competitive when it matters most, in the summer”.
But he agrees that Dessie Farrell is overseeing a period of heavy experimentation with Michael Fitzsimons, Jonny Cooper and Cian Murphy, who all made their seasonal returns against Mayo last weekend, the 44th, 45th and 46th players to be used by Dublin in 2022.
To put that figure into context, neighbours Meath have only used 32 players so far.
Space to rebuild
Curran believes it is important to cut his 1995 All-Ireland winning team-mate Farrell some slack and to give him space to rebuild. From the former wing back's perspective, he sees Cameron McCormack – 'a bit like a mixture of John Kearns and Jim Ronayne', Lee Gannon and Ross McGarry among a group of those showing strong potential.
“All of a sudden, we’re probably down 10 players of real quality who have retired and are no longer part of the panel,” said Curran. “So we’re going through a bit of a transition which is necessary but because of that the results aren’t happening. I think it’s catching up on us now the amount of quality players we’ve lost in the last three, four or five years.”
Dublin have shown glimpses of their old selves at times in losses to Armagh, Kerry and Mayo but need to turn potential into Allianz League points, starting this weekend.
“If they lose they’re in big trouble,” said Curran. “Don’t forget three of Dublin’s remaining four games are away. Kildare are going well and probably should have got something out of the game with Tyrone last weekend but I still think Dublin will stay up, they have to.”