When examining the Allianz Football Leagues, it is all too easy to talk of the top-tier glamour ties that engross the GAA nation in the early part of the season.
After all, there is no guarantee that Dublin and Kerry will meet again this year, so the ‘Melee in Tralee’ might well be the one lasting memory we have of this age-old rivalry for 2019.
It’s been a league campaign to remember in many ways. Monaghan toppled Dublin in week one, Kerry look invincible, Fermanagh and Meath look to be powering towards top-tier football, while Leitrim gained promotion for the first time since 1990.
However, the real story of the league so far has been Division 3. Only three points separate the top six teams with two games to go and it is anybody’s guess as to who will make the league final.
The beauty of Division 3 is that everybody is beating everybody and week after week, the league table looks completely different.
This is a look at the table following the opening weekend back in January.
After Round One, four teams were on equal points at the top of the table following wins for Carlow, Laois, Longford and Westmeath. At this stage both Louth and Down, in particular, would have been disappointed with their start, but they know that there’s plenty of football still to be played.
Carlow remained in the top spot after week two and they were joined by Longford and Westmeath, meanwhile, Down and Louth were able to bounce back from opening day defeats.
The really interesting point to make here is that none of the teams recorded back-to-back wins in the opening two rounds of the Division 3 campaign.
Round Three of the league saw Longford go top outright following an impressive win over Carlow who had occupied the top spot in the opening two weeks.
With the division starting to take some shape, only two points separated the top six teams and had Offaly not conceded late on against Louth, the top seven could all potentially have been in the promotion race.
Longford football may have been on a high following Round Three, but they came crashing down to earth in Round Four after defeat to Down caused them to drop back into fourth.
Down leapfrogged Longford, jumping from fourth and into second, while Louth’s five-goal haul against a struggling, Sligo, sent them top of the pile in yet another change-up.
After four rounds of games, only three points separated the top seven as Offaly recorded their first win of the campaign with an unexpected victory over Carlow, whom all of a sudden looked to be in a relegation scrap after being top for two weeks.
The fifth round took place this past weekend with the league table chopping and changing once more.
Down now occupy first place heading into the penultimate round of games with Westmeath hot on their tails and only one point behind.
Wayne Kierans’ Louth side were the talk of the town after round four when they went top of the league with the highest scoring tally in the entire nation, but just like that they came back down to earth with a wallop as Carlow rose once more to knock them off their perch and end their own losing streak in the process.
Division 3 is a cauldron. There is a lot riding on this division. To drop down into the fourth tier is a disaster for most counties. Derry’s relegation last year proved that no team is ‘too good’ for the basement division.
On the flipside, promotion to the second tier of the league has the potential to not only be the season’s highlight, but it can also be a launchpad for bigger and better things. Fermanagh would be a case in point, not many expected them to gain promotion, but they did and now they stand on the brink of Division 1 football.
The stark contrast in fortunes with Division 3 arguably makes it the most interesting division in the entire Allianz Leagues.