Sport

State of Play – Previewing Round 7 of the Allianz Football League

With one round to go, save for two Division 4 games postponed because of snow, the landscape of the Allianz National Football League tables are beginning to become clear. Teams are settling into their respective positions and attempting to claw their way upwards, either to gain promotion or to avoid relegation. While many top of the table positions have been sorted out already, the bottom of the table conundrums continue to intrigue and entice. It’s a year of much change in the Allianz Leagues, and nobody’s quite sure what to make of it yet.

Division 1

The very top and bottom teams have surprised nobody, with Dublin heavily favoured to stand tall among the best the country has to offer, and Kildare making a quick exit back to Division 2.

However, few saw the rise of Galway coming. With the All – Ireland crusading Corofin contingent missing, Galway welcomed Dublin to Pearse Stadium last weekend, and rattled them, coming away with a well-earned draw against the juggernaut from the capital. The two sides will meet again in a few weeks in the league final, which will be another mouth-watering clash.

On the other end of the table, the final relegation spot currently owned by Donegal, is up for grabs this weekend when they face Mayo, the side two points ahead of them. No complicated situations involving points difference or head to head, it is simply winner stays up. Donegal will be relegated should they draw. The rest of the field (Monaghan, Tyrone, Kerry) may use this week to experiment, or perhaps even set a marker for the championship.

Predictions:
Finalists – Dublin v Galway (decided)
Relegated – Kildare, Donegal.

Division 2

An intriguing prospect here in Division 2, as a usually tight and muddled division has been separated into three sub-divisions: promotion, safe, relegation. Only Cavan, Roscommon, and Tipperary can be promoted, and all know that the formula is simple: Win and we’re in. Cavan and Tipperary play each other in Kingspan Breffni Park, and should Tipp win they would overhaul the Breffni County. Roscommon know at least point against Cork at home would be enough to go back up to Division 1.

One the other end of the spectrum, there is a similar situation to Division 1. Meath play Down at home this weekend, knowing only a win will help them avoid the drop, and Down will want to avoid falling into the trap that is Division 3 also. Louth are destined for relegation as it is, and Cork and Clare know their league campaigns will begin in Division 2 again next year.

Predictions:
Promoted – Roscommon, Tipperary.
Relegated – Louth, Down.

Division 3

Armagh have finally gained promotion to Division 3 with a slew of strong performances, as the teams around them have beaten each other up over the past couple of weeks. Despite the fact that Westmeath are only one point behind both Longford and Fermanagh, promotion is almost impossible for them, with their points difference a significant factor.

The Lake County would need to beat local rivals Offaly by 27 points, and hope for a draw between Longford and Fermanagh to have any hope of promotion, assuming that head-to-head doesn’t also come into play, having lost to Longford last week.

The divide of quality in this division is clearer than Divisions 1 and 2. Fifth place Derry have four points and may be relegated should they lose to Sligo, and Offaly defeat Westmeath. The Oak Leaf county would consider Division 4 relegation an unmitigated disaster, even having been without their Slaughtneil players for the majority of the campaign.

For Offaly, they must hope for a winner in the Sligo – Derry game, as a draw would mean they need a victory of at least six points over a much-fancied Westmeath side. Wexford are unfortunately heading back down to the bottom division immediately, and must face Armagh this weekend to top off a soul-destroying campaign.

Predictions:
Promoted – Armagh, Longford.
Relegated – Wexford, Offaly.

Division 4

This division looked pre-determined from the outset. Carlow, Laois, and Antrim simply have too much quality for the rest of this division, and it is a pity that all three sides cannot be promoted.

For Carlow, this year has been a massive success, with promotion for the first time in over 30 years. Laois are right behind them with a game in hand, knowing a win in either of their final two games would mean they join Carlow back in the Division 3 ranks.

Laois travel to Netwatch Cullen Park this weekend, with Antrim facing Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds hoping the O’Moore men are beaten. Should that happen, and Antrim beat Limerick, the two sides would play each other in a winner takes all game. Even then, Laois would know a draw would be enough.

The rest of this division is very much a ‘best of the rest’ scenario, which is led by London. It’s a wonderful sight to see London winning league games and being competitive throughout the campaign, but they will need at least one more win to strengthen that fourth place finish. They play Waterford and Leitrim with wins in both very much a possibility.
It has been an extremely disappointing campaign for Limerick and Wicklow, who fancied themselves to upset the applecart. Both sides have managed only one win between them, with both sides still to play each other.

Prediction:
Promoted – Carlow, Laois.

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